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(e) Field Fox
- (g) Good Fox
- (g) Good Kitsune
- (g) Inari Fox
- (g) Inari Kitsune
- (pl) Kitsune
- (g) Myōbu or 命婦
- (e) Ninko
- Nogitsune or 野狐 or 野狐 のぎつね
- (g, female) "Palace Lady"
- (e) Yako or 野狐
- (good) Zenko or 善狐
The Kitsune is a creature with origins in Japanese mythology, legend and folklore. And throughout, they are attributed with great spiritual and supernatural significance.
For example, in many circles, they are often closely associated with Inari (Inari Okami, Oinari), the female (or male or androgynous) deity of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry, and worldly success; the spirit is said to have many of these creatures, in vulpine form, as servants.
In fact, the deity Inari is so closely associated with foxes and Kitsune, that sometimes the deity is actually depicted as being surrounded by foxes or vulpine Kitsune, or itself as a fox or Kitsune (humanoid or vulpine).
For this and similar reasons, some venerate kitsune as themselves being deities (rather than simply the servants of deities). In such cases, entire shrines are dedicated to them.
Altars are set up for devotees who wish to give them offerings, and pray to them for favor; such shrines are often even decorated with statues of the creatures.
And interestingly enough, in Japan, the term 'Kitsune' (狐) may be used to refer to a normal fox, as well as these supernatural creatures.
Likewise, many believe that Kitsune and normal foxes may be related; some even believe that the species may very well be one and the same.
Though, it is unknown if their shared name is the cause of the belief in Japan, or the result.
A Kitsune often resembles an ordinary fox (albeit, very good looking specimens of the species), and Kitsune servants of Inari are especially handsome, and almost always white in color.
However, with age, it may be found displaying distinct physical traits that set it apart from any ordinary fox documented by science. The most apparent of these distinctions is obviously the fact that an older Kitsune may possess appearances other than the typical one-tailed fox.
An older Kitsune may resemble a handsome fox with more than one tail; it may resemble an anthropomorphic fox (with one or more tails); it may even resemble a human (with one or more fox tails). They may also be larger than a normal fox (sometimes even giant in proportions), and their fur may look especially radiant.
In vulpine form, a Kitsune may have as many as nine tails. On gaining their ninth tail, its fur turns white or gold, and they are referred to as Kyūbi no Kitsune (九尾狐 or "nine-tailed fox").
And naturally, due to the lands in which they most commonly reside, a Kitsune's humanoid mien often looks to be Japanese, and dresses in Japanese apparel (kimono, etc.). Though, Kitsune eye color may vary across the color spectrum.
Kitsune are not unique in that their moral alignments can vary. They can be good, neutral or evil in nature. They can likewise be chaotic or orderly. And the more powerful they become, the wiser and more mature they become. However, they are unique in the degree to which they may exemplify the moral alignments they take. In Japan, these dramatic differences are duly noted.
Good-aligned Kitsune are properly referred to as zenko (善狐, literally translated as "good Kitsune" or "good foxes"); and of these "good foxes", those who serve Inari may also be referred to as "Inari kitsune", "Inari foxes" or myōbu (命婦, literally translated as "palace lady"; naturally, the latter is reserved for females). Some say that these are the least common type of Kitsune; they serve to guard and protect (especially against evil-aligned or mischievous Kitsune), guide, help and reward people who cross their path.
On the contrast, bad or evil-aligned Kitsune are properly referred to as yako (野狐, literally translated as "field foxes") or nogitsune (野狐 pronounced differently, or 野狐 のぎつね; literally translated as "wild foxes"). Some say that these are the most common type of Kitsune; they serve to trick, deceive, manipulate, mislead, torment, harm and perhaps even kill people who should have the misfortune of crossing their path.
They may even use their deceptive and harmful capabilities in the service of a malevolent mage, called a kitsune-mochi (in exchange for bribes of food, care and the like), or in service of a family of malevolent mages (or "hereditary witches") called a tsukimono-suji.
One thing the two sides have in common though, is the kind of food that all Kitsune seem to be especially fond of: a fried sliced tofu called aburage. Accordingly, the foodstuff may be found in the noodle dishes kitsune udon and kitsune soba, and a rice-filled type sushi called Inari-zushi; those wishing to gain the favor (or the mercy) of a kitsune will often offer either of these dishes.
What's more, Kitsune have been known to enjoy relations with humans; though, of course, how a Kitsune goes about it is also determined by their moral alignment.
Benevolent Kitsune often show up out of nowhere, disguised as a human, and prove to be a faithful husband or wife; they will often be married during a sunshower—rainfall while the sun is out, referred to in Japan as kitsune no yomeiri (literally translated as "the kitsune's wedding"). And they will be faithful not to leave their spouse's side unless (or until) their true nature as a Kitsune is revealed.
Malevolent Kitsune, however, have less of a tendency toward long-term committed relationships. Rather, these tend to appear in the form of supernatural seducers or seductresses, simply to bewitch men or women, bed them (due to their nature, it is safe to assume that they may be straight, gay/lesbian or bisexual), and then perhaps leave them dirty, disoriented and far from home, to return home in shame.