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13 March 2012

Kiyo-hime: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned

(Kiyo-hime melting the monk, Anchin, in the bell)

The tragic Japanese legend of Kiyo-hime* is one of the best illustrations of that age old saying, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". It tells of a young woman who falls in love with a monk who does not return her affection... with disastrous circumstances. The tale follows thusly:

In feudal Japan it was customary for families of wealth to provide lodging for traveling monks and priests. So it came to pass that one day, a monk ,who was traveling to the Kumano Hongu shrine was taken into the household of Shouji, the Daimyo* of a village near the Hidaka-gawa {Hidaka River} in the Kii Province. Now Shouji had a daughter named Kiyo; a blossoming fair skinned young lady. As time passed the girl fell in love with the handsome young priest, Anchin. Her affection, most unfortunately, was not returned, for Anchin was a young man of principle and was duty bound by his oath as a monk.
Kiyo begged Anchin to stay with her and was denied by the monk. But she would have no answer but the one she desired. Thinking that he was merely the victim of a girlish crush and that Kiyo would forget about him after he was gone, Anchin went on his way to the Kumano Hongu; to keep the girl calm though, he promised Kiyo-hime that he would visit her on the return journey to his own temple of Doujouji.

So Kiyo-hime waited, but Anchin never came. She began to grow worried and went into the town to ask if he had been seen. She was told by the villagers that, yes, a young monk had been seen passing through in the direction of the Doujouji shrine. Hearing this, Kiyo took off after him.
When she caught up with Anchin, she took hold of his arm and made him to turn and look at her, asking him why he never came to see her.
Displeased that Kiyo had found him out, and embarrassed that she was making such a scene, Anchin proclaimed that Kiyo had mistaken him for someone else; that he had never seen the girl before in his life. Kiyo became angry and began to hit Anchin, so he prayed to the deity of the Kumano shrine and Kiyo fell unconscious, allowing Anchin to escape.
When Kiyo-hime awoke and found that the monk had once again evaded her, she resumed the chase.

Meanwhile, Anchin was boarding a ferry which would take him across the Hidaka-gawa. While aboard the ferry, Anchin spoke to the ferryman, telling him that a beautiful came seeking to cross the river, the ferryman was not to give her passage. Anchin then explained in greater detail why this was, and the ferryman agreed. But Kiyo caught up much sooner that Anchin had anticipated and, seeing that he was escaping, Kiyo jumped into the river and began to swim across.
As she was fighting against the current of the water, Kiyo's emotional agony and fury built up until it was too much for her humanity to bear; her form exploded and she transformed into a giant serpent with the head of an oni {Demon}.
When Anchin had crossed the river he looked out to the water and, seeing the demon snake, knew at once that it was Kiyo-hime. Horrified, Anchin ran to the nearby Doujouji temple and told the other monks of the situation. Thinking him to be drunk or in some kind of shock the monks hid Anchin under a bell to humor him and left.

At the shore of the Hidaka River, the Kiyo-serpent came up onto the land and followed Anchin's scent to the temple and gong house. She smelled him beneath the bell and began to coil around it. Beating the bell with her powerful tail, the serpent then breathed fire upon it, melting the metal and setting the gong house alight with fire*. And so the poor monk Anchin died a slow and agonizing death.

Her thirst for revenge now sated, then serpent's form reverted to that of the beautiful Kiyo-hime; but the girl was so overcome with grief at her own violent actions that she took her own life, presumably throwing herself into the Hidaka-gawa.

It's a sad story of obsession and, as I said before, the wrath of a woman scorned. The original name of the tale is: "How a Monk of the Doujouji in the Province of Kii Copied the Lotus Sutra and Brought Salvation to Serpents". Needless to say, it is usually simply referred to as "The Legend of Kiyo-hime."

So, until next time, this has been Kurotsuta Murasaki-chan: Arigatou gouzaimasu! Thanks for reading! ^_^

My next post will be: "Japanese Urban Legends - The 'Red Cape' and 'Split Mouthed Woman'"

* Hime: a Japanese honourific title meaning "Princess"
*The term "Daimyo" refers to a feudal Japanese landowner
*See image at top of post

03 March 2012

Movies for the weekend

The Dutchess

A chronicle of the life of 18th century aristocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who was reviled for her extravagant political and personal life. 

Georgiana Spencer became Duchess of Devonshire on her marriage to the Duke in 1774, at the height of the Georgian period, a period of fashion, decadence, and political change. Spirited and adored by the public at large she quickly found her marriage to be a disappointment, defined by her duty to produce a male heir and the Duke's philandering and callous indifference to her. She befriends Lady Bess but finds she is once again betrayed by her husband who wields his power with the three eventually living uncomfortably together. Against this background, and with the pressures of an unfaithful husband, strict social pressures and constant public scrutiny, Georgiana falls passionately in love with Charles Grey, a rising young Whig politician. However, despite his ongoing liaison with Lady Bess, the Duke refuses to allow her to continue the affair and threatens to take her children from her. 

Marie Antoinette

The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles. 

Marie Antoinette is a 2006 film, written and directed by Sofia Coppola. It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. I personally think this is one of the best revisitation of the story of Marie Antoinette. Ironically interpreted but still serious.

The film's soundtrack contains New Wave and post-punk bands New Order, Gang of Four, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants, The Strokes, Dustin O’Halloran and The Radio Dept. Some scenes utilize period music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Antonio Vivaldi and François Couperin. The soundtrack also includes songs by electronic musicians Squarepusher and Aphex Twin.

Pride and Prejudice

Very well done film adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Starring Keira Knightley like in The Dutchess.

Pride and Prejudice is a humorous story of love and life among English gentility during the Georgian era. Mr Bennet is an English gentleman living in Hartfordshire with his overbearing wife. The Bennets 5 daughters; the beautiful Jane, the clever Elizabeth, the bookish Mary, the immature Kitty and the wild Lydia. Unfortunately for the Bennets, if Mr Bennet dies their house will be inherited by a distant cousin whom they have never met, so the family's future happiness and security is dependent on the daughters making good marriages. Life is uneventful until the arrival in the neighbourhood of the rich gentleman Mr Bingley, who rents a large house so he can spend the summer in the country. Mr Bingley brings with him his sister and the dashing (and richer) but proud Mr Darcy. Love is soon in the air for one of the Bennet sisters, while another may have jumped to a hasty prejudgment. For the Bennet sisters many trials and tribulations stand between them and their happiness, including class, gossip and scandal.

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