Mythical Bad Girls: The Corpse, the Crone, and the Snake

  • Rebecca Copeland

Abstract

“Faster,” the woman thought to herself as she raced up the mountain path. The lights of the village winked in the distance. She could hear the temple bell tolling as night enveloped the valley. “Faster.” The mountain path was steep. Here and there massive roots leapt out of the darkness. She had to be careful not to trip. Branches tore at her arms and legs and tangled her hair. “Faster.” Her breath came out in short gasps, disappearing into a white mist behind her. Her heart pounded, her temples throbbed. One step more, two steps, and then it happened. Beneath her feet the roots began to undulate in gentle submission, carrying her upward. The branches brushing softly against her skin, buoyed her forward. The ache in her arms and legs melted into the night air; the tangle of hair cascaded down her back in a stream of silken threads. And then she felt it. First it rumbled in her stomach like thunder and as it made its way up through her chest and inside her throat, her body grew warm. She threw her head back, squeezed her eyes shut, and opened her mouth to let it out. A long exhilarating laugh. Running wildly through the mountains, arms outstretched, mouth pulled wide in laughter, she was ecstatic. As she slipped through the trees into a clearing on the ridge, she met the moon head on. Someone was watching. Call it a sixth sense, call it an acute sense of smell, but she knew there was a man on the other ridge. She could smell his fear as he crouched behind a rock watching. Call it a sixth sense, call it an acute sense of hearing, but she could hear what he thought. What an evil woman, running alone in the mountains.

Keywords

Toll Dispatch Lost Serpentine Metaphor 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Enchi Fumiko, Masks, trans. Juliet Winters Carpenter (New York: Random House, 1983), 57.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Robert Borgen and Marian Ury, “Readable Japanese Mythology: Selections from Nihon shoki and Kojiki,” Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 24, no. 1 (April 1991): 67.Google Scholar
  3. See also Ryūsaku Tsunoda et al. Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Nel Noddings discusses the invention of taboo as a way to protect men from the dichotomous nature of women—who are at once beneficent and evil. See Nel Noddings, Women and Evil (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Carmen Blacker, citing the work of Saigō Nobutsuna, suggests that the image depicted in this myth sequence is not of Amaterasu herself but of a shaman, or miko, in the state of possession by the goddess. See, Blacker, The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan (London: Allen & Unwin, 1975), 105.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    For more on the positive imagery associated with powerful mythic women, see Michiko Yuasa, “Women in Shinto: Images Remembered,” in Religion and Women, ed. Arvind Sharma (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994), 93–119.Google Scholar
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    For more on the way Buddhism disenfranchised women, see Junko Minamoto, “Buddhist Attitudes: A Woman’s Perspective,” in Studies on the Impact of Religious Teachings on Women, ed. Jeann Becher (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1991)Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    Elizabeth Wilson, “The Female Body as a Source of Horror and Insight in Post-Ashokan Indian Buddhism,” in Religious Reflections on the Human Body, ed. Jane Marie Law (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 78.Google Scholar
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    Michiko Y. Aoki, “Empress Jingū: The Shamaness Ruler,” in Heroic with Grace: Legendary Women of Japan, ed. Chieko Irie Mulhern (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1991), 24.Google Scholar
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    Hayao Kawai, The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan. Translated by Hayao Kawai and Sachiko Reece (Woodstock, CT: Spring Publications, Inc., 1996).Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Meera Viswanathan, “In Pursuit of Yamamba: The Question of Female Resistance,” in The Woman’s Hand: Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, ed. Paul Gordon Schalow and Janet A. Walker (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 242–243.Google Scholar
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    Sarah Appleton Aguiar, The Bitch is Back: Wicked Women in Literature (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001), 17.Google Scholar
  13. 26.
    Much of the information for this tale was drawn from Marian Ury, trans. Tales of Times Now Past: Sixty-Two Stories from a Medieval Japanese Collection (Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, 1979), 93–96. The portions in quotations are direct citations. Another source for the Dōjōji tale is the later Noh play by that name. A translation by Donald Keene is available in Twenty Plays of the Noh Theater, ed. Donald Keene (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 238–263.Google Scholar
  14. For more on the textual tradition of the Dōjōji legend, see Susan Klein, “Woman as Serpent: The Demonic Feminine in the Noh Play Dōjōji,” in Religious Reflections on the Human Body, ed. Jane Marie Law (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 100–136.Google Scholar
  15. 32.
    For more on Hiratsuka Raichō and this inaugural issue of Seitō, refer to Jan Bardsley, The Bluestockings of Japan: New Women Fiction and Essays from Seitō, 1911–1916 (Ann Arbor, MI: Center for Japanese Studies, 2005).Google Scholar
  16. For more on Yosano Akiko (1878–1942), refer to Janine Beichman, Embracing the Firebird: Yosano Akiko and the Rebirth of the Female Voice in Modern Japanese Poetry (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Copeland

There are no affiliations available

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