Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tails Never Fails

I was recently asked about the mythological significance of multiple tails, specifically in snakes, but also in other animals.  I have written before on multiple heads (at least I thought I had, but now I can't seem to find the post for it), but I can't say I really know much about multiple tails.  So this got me to thinking.  All I could come up with off the top of my head was that Cerberus had three snakes for tails.  Outside of that, I couldn't really say.  My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to at least make an attempt.  So here it goes...

My first look into multiple tailed snakes yielded a few pictures of freaky looking snakes with two tails and I would not dare show my wife as she is already scared of snakes enough without putting that image into her head.  Then I broadened my search to other animals and found several lizards who accidentally grew back an extra tail after a bird made off with one.  Then I came across this cool picture.

I don't care for cats anyway, but that is just freaky.
There is this whole web page devoted to looking like an actual dissertation on breeding polycaudal cats. However, despite many references to this page by other lesser quality bloggers, this page is just an April Fool's joke as indicated by the last reference it gives. It's an interesting read nonetheless.
The Japanese have quite a few stories about magical foxes named kitsune who have multiple tails.  They get one tail for each 100 years they live, the most being 10 tails, belonging to the mother of all kitsune.  These creatures are tricksters who serve the rice god, Inari.  There is a pretty good article comparing them to the Native American coyote trickster figure that you can read here:

Since my questioner already knew about the kitsune, I don't want to dwell too much on them.  So I continued my search for stories. It seems that the Japanese have cornered the market on multiple-tailed creatures. Japanese vampires can take the form of cats to sneak up on you.  You can tell if a cat is a Japanese vampire, by noticing that it has two tails.

A cat can become a bakeneko, or monster cat by living over ten years, weighing a lot (like Garfield), or growing its tail so long that it splits in two.  As a result, there have been some cases where Japanese people have chopped the tails off of their cats to avoid them becoming a monster.  I don't know any Japanese people personally who have done, but the Internet said it and it couldn't be printed on the Internet if it wasn't true, right?

Now, why would an ordinary household cat wish to turn into a monster?  The power of course.  Once a cat turns into a bakeneko, it can walk on it's hind legs, fly, talk, shoot fireballs, turn corpses into zombies, and shape shift into human form.  What do they use these powers for?  Usually just to torment/eat their human owners.  The sad thing is that this isn't even just some crazy myth.  If a person owns cats and dies of natural causes while at home, the cat will start to eat the corpse of its owner.  And you wonder why I'm not a cat person?

Also in Japan, there is the Isonade, Thunderbeast, and the Orochi.  All creatures with multiple tails. The Isonade is evidently some huge shark like creature with three tails.  The biggest tail is barbed and hooked.  He uses it to sink ships and eat the sailors.  The Thunderbeast is also known as the Raiju.  I only saw one place that mentioned it had multiple tails, but this little demon can take the form of almost any animal and likes to find people sleeping outside so that it can hide in their belly button.  I kid you not.  The last on is the Orochi.  This is an eight headed and eight tailed dragon that was killed by Susanoo, a Shinto storm god, thank goodness.  This guy made standard western culture dragons look pretty wimpy.

Outside of Japan, I was running out of luck finding examples of multi-tailed animals. Like I said, Cerberus has three tails (and even up to 50 as one legend has it).  Echinda, mother of monsters in Greek mythology has a snake tail and I found one web page that claimed she had a snake tail that was split in two, but that was not a thought echoed on most sites.  Egypt also has a story about the Set Animal.  This is an animal sacred to Set (duh) and resembles a wild dog and has a stiff tail that is often forked.  Not really multi-tailed, but I'm running out of possibilities.

Of course, Sonic the Hedgehog's friend, Miles "Tails" Prower lets us know that having two tails is mainly for twirling them like a helicopter and saving your friends when they get into a bind.

So Thomas, I'm afraid I have failed you.  It's at this point that I'm giving up on finding more myths about multiple tailed beasts.  There just isn't that many out there.  I'm calling on all of Bubo's Blog fan base (both of you) to volunteer any information that you have about this.

****************** Post Update

Anj made me aware of a story that I did not know about the hero Bruncvik.  He wandered around doing great deeds and came across a two tailed lion fighting it out with a nine headed dragon.  He helped the lion out and they became BFFs.   He even finds a super cool sword that chops everyone's heads off when he says, "Blade!  Heads off!"  The story is a big Czech legend and the lion has become a part of the national emblem.  Go here to read the whole story.  It's not long and it is worth the read.
Thanks, Anj!


Anj said...

The Czech national emblem is a two-tailed lion. Legend has it that the lion helped the hero Bruncvik defeat a nine-headed beast.

Official history of the two-tailed lion as an emblem:

A lightly-snarky English-language telling of the Bruncvik's tale:

Lord Alford said...

That's great! I never heard of this story. Thanks for sharing. I wonder why the lion had two tails? Maybe just to show us that he was different from the the rest of the lions.

"Blade! Heads off!" That's cool!

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