Hojo family gathering + Yuki Onna [Snow woman]


‘Realising he was fighting a losing battle, Hojo burnt the monasteries and returned to his castle where, along with 34 family members, and two hundred and twenty retainers, he committed mass suicide.’

I’m used to medieval nobles like Vlad Dracula and Dan the 2nd dying in battle, being unafraid of death as long as their adrenaline was up, but to casually go back to your castle and gut yourself, and force the rest of your family and your servants to do the same, is pure Japan. Maybe pure Ancient Egypt too, I’m not sure.

Actually, it may have been common in many cultures for the servants to die too, but…where’s the sense in killing off your next of kin?

Even in the context of medieval Japan, it doesn’t make sense.

The reputation and continuation of your Clan was considered paramount, but it was also a matter of honour to kill yourself after losing a battle.

Contradiction: killing yourself and your family does not help you to continue your Clan. Unless you’re killing off your cousins?

But then, other warriors would surrender and join the other side in order to preserve their Clan.

I think that happened a lot in the warring period, which I’ve just found out about from a book I picked up in the library.

Most history of most countries is pretty brutal, but 1430’s – 1620’s was the time you couldn’t go anywhere in Japan without being mugged, raped or slaughtered.

Same goes for Romania.

That was all a long time ago now.

I lived in Japan and they’ve definitely mellowed since the 1400’s. And become more creative too. Look at how many weird folktales they’ve got. Look at all that manga.

Have you ever read or seen Yuki Onna [Snow woman]?

She’s a demon who comes with the blizzards, freezes you to death then sucks out your soul. The victims are usually men. There are many versions but one of the most famous ones has a romantic angle. It was from a book called ‘Gwaidan’, which was also a movie. I think it might’ve won the foreign language film Oscar.

The story…

A young man is trapped in a cabin with his dad during a snowstorm. During the night, Yuki Onna comes in and kills the Dad and is about to kill the young man, but decides against it when she sees how young and pretty he is [and how male the author of this version of the story is].

In a similar vein to turning a lesbian straight, this story tries to turn a demon into something that might feel love if the young man is pretty and earnest enough.

Yuki Onna warns the young man that if he tells anyone, she’ll come back and kill him. He nods and she leaves. A while later, the young man meets a mysterious young woman called Uki Onna and they fall in love, get married, have ten kids and generally live happily until one night, seeing his wife in the moonlight, the young man tells her the story of his encounter with Yuki Onna and how she looks a lot like her.

‘That’s because it is me,’ she says, and turns back into the demon. ‘If it weren’t for our small army of children, I’d kill you for this trivial thing. But if you don’t treat them well, I’ll come back and kill you.’

After saying this, she left, and the man was heartbroken and terrified and his ten kids grew up to be spoilt little shits who got away with everything.

Yuki Onna/his wife never returned.

This version is so popular, I think, cos it plays as a male fantasy for most of the story then suddenly twists into something a lot weirder.

Yuki Onna shows her demon nature again, and goes from changeable evil to something completely unknowable. I love this kind of story. She could spend twenty years or so married to this guy but as soon as he broke his promise, she left him.

I shouldn’t even call her a ‘She’.

That’s the whole point of the story, she’s not a she, she’s not human, she’s an It, a thing that can’t be psycho-analysed or blamed for deserting her children.

How do you get inside the head of something like this?

From what I’ve seen online, most manga with Yuki Onna tries to romanticise her into some kind of protector type, to humanise her, but I’d like to see something that goes the other way, that makes her completely inhuman.

So the sentence ‘how do you get inside the head of something like this’ becomes meaningless cos its centrepiece is the human concept of ‘head’, which implies that Yuki Onna thinks like a human.

What if Yuki Onna has no concept of time?

She comes with the snowstorms, so where is she in the interims? If there’s no continuous existence then there’s no concept of time and if you can’t feel the passing of time then how can there be the concept of love?

That means, to write Yuki Onna, you’ve got to either come up with an idea of how she exists when there are no snowstorms or just show her being odd and doing odd things to imply that her existence is not the same as ours.

And the more you make her talk, the more knowable she becomes so it’s better not to give her too many lines…

More lines means more human-like and usually more comedic…

Yeah, Buffy was a good show, but the creepiest demons they ever did were the ones who took the voices from the townspeople on the first night then cut out their hearts in silence the next two.

They were creepy because they didn’t engage with humans or pop culture, they did things on their terms without explaining a thing.

This is what Yuki Onna should do.

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