Japanese Mythos and Legends

Susa-no-o and the Serpent

Susa-no-o, having descended from Heaven, arrived at the river Hi, in the province of Idzumo. Here he was disturbed by a sound of weeping. It was so unusual to hear any other than himself weep that he went in search of the cause of the sorrow. He discovered an old man and an old woman. Between them was a young girl, whom they fondly caressed and gazed at with pitiful eyes, as if they were reluctantly bidding her a last farewell. When Susa-no-o asked the old couple who they were and why they lamented, the old man replied: “I am an Earthly Deity, and my name is Ashi-nadzuchi (“Foot-stroke-elder”). My wife’s name is Tenadzuchi (“Hand-stroke-elder”). This girl is our daughter, and her name is Kushi-nada-hime (“Wondrous-Inada-Princess”). The reason of our weeping is that formerly we had eight children, daughters; but they have been devoured year by year by an eight-forked serpent, and now the time approaches for this girl to be devoured. There is no means of escape for her, and therefore do we grieve exceedingly.”

The Impetuous Male listened to this painful recital with profound attention, and, perceiving that the maiden was extremely beautiful, he offered to slay the eight-forked serpent if her parents would give her to him in marriage as a fitting reward for his services. This request was readily granted.

Susa-no-o now changed Kushi-nada-hime into a many-toothed comb and stuck it in his hair. Then he bade the old couple brew a quantity of saké. When the saké was ready, he poured it into eight tubs, and awaited the coming of the dreadful monster.

Eventually the serpent came. It had eight heads, and the eyes were red, “like winter-cherry.” Moreover it had eight tails, and firs and cypress-trees grew on its back. It was in length the space of eight hills[ ] and eight valleys. Its lumbering progress was necessarily slow, but finding the saké, each head eagerly drank the tempting beverage till the serpent became extremely drunk, and fell asleep. Then Susa-no-o, having little to fear, drew his ten-span sword and chopped the great monster into little pieces. When he struck one of the tails his weapon became notched, and bending down he discovered a sword called the Murakumo-no-Tsurugi. Perceiving it to be a divine sword, he gave it to the Gods of Heaven.

Having successfully accomplished his task, Susa-no-o converted the many-toothed comb into Kushi-nada-hime again, and at length came to Suga, in the province of Idzumo, in order that he might celebrate his marriage. Here he composed the following verse:

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