Legendary being of the Week – Huldufólk

This week I got a being from a part of the world that is a little closer to my own home, Scandinavia.

The Huldufólk are a type of elves that inhabit the vast, mountainy lands of Iceland. Their name quite literally mean hidden people, or people of secrecy. They live among the rocks and hills of Iceland, commonly in houses within the stones themselves. They are one of two well-known types of elves in Iceland, the other one being the álfar, which basically are the “normal” kind of elves you probably already know a thing or two about. There are a number of origination stories behind the huldufólk that are quite different from each other.

In one legend God comes to visit Eve and her children. Eve, however, is currently in the act of cleaning them, not expecting her father so soon, ashamed of her unclean children she hides them from his sight. God is not easily fooled though, as you might know, and sees all. He curses the hidden children, stating that if they shall not be seen by him, they shall not be seen by man, and thus will remain hidden forever.
One legend speaks of the huldufólk as the angels whom did not pick a side during Lucifer’s revolt in Heaven. Because of their neutrality, they were banished to live out their lives hidden.
In yet another legend they originated from the Icelandic’s feelings and their campaign against the prohibition of dancing sometime during the 12th century. Where the huldufólk assisted the Icelandic people in taking revenge upon the monk who issued the ban on dancing.
Then there are some who simply believes the huldufólk originated from an desire of not feeling alone in some of the more empty, dark and barren landscapes that you’ll find in Iceland at times. The thought of a hidden people, inhabiting the land, was comforting, presumably. The thought of a hidden people living among you could also be quite frightening, if I may say so, however, the huldufólk are supposedly friendly and mean no harm to anyone, so perhaps it isn’t that scary of a thought.

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It is said that if you stand at a crossroad at night (in some legends you need to block the road in some way) the huldufólk might bump into you and choose to show themselves, offering you gifts and treasures as long as you let them through. If you should accept their gifts, they will dissapear, as will the treasures. But if you stand your ground, and refuse to let them pass, something similar will happen, but this time you’ll get to keep the valuables. The lesson to learn from this being; act as obnoxious as you possibly can on Iceland, and you will find gifts of gold thrown at your feet.

Jokes aside, the Huldufólk are still highly regarded among the Icelandic, and I mean highly, the elves are no joke over there. A couple of years ago there was a protest against the government’s plan to build an highway right through an elven habitat, with hundreds of people standing on the elves’ side. And that wasn’t the first time either. There is even a school where you can learn about the álfr and the huldufólk, should you visit Iceland — yes, that’s right folks, an Elf School.
Many traditions takes place every year, to honor the hidden ones. One being the act of leaving out food to the elves during christmas — similar to the Swedish Tomtenisse, or the Norwegian Fjösnisse
It’s quite fascinating, how the Icelandic haven’t let go of their old beliefs. Just like in Japan, they keep to old traditions and hold their kami, and their yokai, in very high regard. I find it charming, how some cultures never really forget their traditions like so many others do.

See you next week for another exciting being, I’m sensing something from medieval European folklore!

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Legendary being of the week – The Kanbari Nyūdō

Let me begin this post with a small blog update:

My original idea with this blog was to write about practically anything, anything at all that interested me or was in my mind at the time. However, I’ve decided to focus on carefully selected subjects instead, as I realized a blog that acts basically as my journal is probably not of much interest to the world. And I don’t want you as a reader to feel like you’re wasting your time here.

As such, I’ve decided to focus on the themes I am the most passionate about such as legends, mythological creatures, art, books and writing.
I might write more posts in style with last month’s welcome post, but those kind of posts are currently on hold indefinitely.


Now, without further ado — let us move on to the Kanbari nyūdō, which will be my first legendary being in my new weekly series.


The first thing you need to know about the kanbari nyūdō is that nyūdō is actually a type of yōkai, or kami, that goes under the name of ōnyūdō. The ōnyūdō is the term for any and all giant-like beings in Japan, often depicted in the form of a monk or an old man whom for some reason are usually bald.
There are lots of ōnyūdō in Japanese folklore — and the legends surrounding a lot of them are some of Japan’s absolutely most fascinating ones — ranging from the possibly giraffe-inspired mikoshi nyūdō to the cyclops-like hitotsume nyūdō. Also, fun fact if you’re interested in anime/manga, more specifically One Piece; Wadatsumi, (that in itself is a reference to the dragon kami of the sea: Watatsumi) the giant tiger blowfish fishman, goes under the nickname ōnyūdō and to top it all off, he is also referred to as Umibozu by Usopp — another character in the series —  which in turn is yet another type of ōnyūdō.
It is a potpourri of references to spiritual beings in one character.

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Wadatsumi

As you can see, there are a lot of different kinds of onyudo, and there is unlimited variations we could explore (and perhaps will!) but let us get back to the kanbari nyūdō that I mentioned earlier.
The kanbari nyūdō is a yōkai that haunts bathrooms and toilets. Yeah, I know. For some reason the Japanese folklore is filled to the brim with toilet-haunting beings. (The Kurote, Hanako-san, the Aka Manto and the filth-licker Akaname to name a few)
The kanbari nyūdō thankfully only shows up one day of the year, on new year’s eve. Compared to the ippondatara, which shows up once a year as well and kill anyone it meets, the kanbari nyūdō is quite harmless as it’s rumored to simply cause you bad luck.
In some stories the opposite happens if you call upon the yōkai yourself, by doing this it is also possible to avoid any problems which may arise during your visits to the toilet the next year such as; unzipped pants, tripping and falling on the floor or ending up with toilet paper stuck in between your cheeks or any other commonly experienced bathroom-related incident.
Actually I have no idea what problems could be severe enough in the bathroom that it would justify summoning a giant spirit, likely malevolent and with the possibility of causing you bad luck for a whole year. But what do I know?

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The legends surrounding the kanbari nyūdō varies from prefecture to prefecture, as is customary in Japanese folklore, but the common trait shared amongst the kanbari is that it enjoy peeping on people doing their business and cursing them with bad luck in different ways. But don’t worry, there is also something in it for you as well, if you go to a secluded toilet on new year’s eve and do not encounter the kanbari, and instead chant ganbari nyūdō, there is a chance you might find a human head in the bottom of the toilet. At this point; the legends varies, but the gist of it is that you’re supposed to pick up the head and cover it in some way and you’ll be rewarded with lots of gold.

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See you next week for another legendary being!