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It describes, both chronologically and thematically, the metamorphosis of the spook-beast Tanuki from a bad guy to good guy, from feared to beloved.
It also debunks widespread misinformation about Tanuki.
Nonetheless, for decades, Western scholars have mistranslated Tanuki as “badger” or “racoon-dog.” This is clearly wrong, but can be forgiven -- the Tanuki does, in fact, look badger-like, racoon-like, and fox-like.
Furthermore, such mistranslations are compounded by the Japanese themselves, who have likewise confused these animals in their folklore and artwork.
Yet the Japanese are equally adept at creating their own lore, as exemplified by their homespun Tanuki legends.
The fox-like Tanuki appear often in Japanese folklore as shape-shifters with supernatural powers and mischievous tendencies.
16, 2011) I spoke with a representative of a cat-lovers group from Yokohama, one helping to find homes for stray cats, and she said many tanuki now inhabit the area, many steal the food set out for the cats, and many suffer from mange.
To help the suffering tanuki, they inject a sweet bread with medicine (a bread the cats will not eat) and mix it together with food for the cats. The Tanuki is reportedly native to Japan, southeastern Siberia, and Manchuria.
In Tochigi Prefecture, for example, the Tanuki is called “Mujina.” In 1924, in the so-called Tanuki-Mujina Incident , Tochigi authorities prohibited the hunting of Tanuki and promptly arrested one hunter -- who claimed he was out hunting mujina.
The man was taken to trial, but eventually acquitted (on 9 June 1925).
Some were introduced to western parts of the Soviet Union for fur farming in the 1950s, and have since spread into Scandinavia and as far south as France.
either the badger nor the racoon (raccoon) figure prominently in Chinese or Japanese folklore or artwork.
More surprisingly, most of these attributes were created in very modern times (in the last three centuries; see Tanuki in Modern Times).