Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Creature Corner - The Tengu and The Leshi

If you're ever looking for inspiration, you need only look to the many shape shifters and monsters out there in mythology and folk lore. Today I'm going to talk about two different types of shifters. The Tengu and the Leshi.

The Tengu(a group of high-flying demons) are found in the mountainous areas of Japan, often dwelling in cedar or pine trees. There are two tiers of the Tengu: Higher Tengu and Inferior Tengu. The Higher Tengus wear red bishop-like robes and a small crown. They take human form and are often seen with white hair, red faces, and holding a feather-made fan. They travel as independents, rather than in a flock as the Inferior Tengu does.

The lesser tier of Tengu is described as having small wings and sharp claws on their toes and fingers. Often their clothes are made of leaves and wear black hats on top of their heads. Both types of Tengu have long beaklike noses. It is expected of the Inferior Tengu to carry out the nasty orders and demands of the Higher Tengu.

These shifter demons are known to be the spirits of the unforgiving dead. They have a fondness for playing malicious and practical jokes on innocent travelers. The Tengu most enjoy taunting Buddhist monks. In fact they will lead a monk astray, bind them to a treetop and offer them food that isn’t food at all, but excrement. How appetizing!

They are also not beneath stealing children and hiding them from their parents. When the children are returned, they rarely regain their senses.

Awareness and adhering to the rules of the Tengu will greatly increase your chance of travel without incidence. It should be understood that the Tengu own all the trees in the mountains, and are to be propitiated for any wood taken. Woodcutters offer rice cakes if they chop down a tree. A lack of respect could cause the Tengu to start avalanches or worse.

I guess a good rule of thumb would be to start packing rice cakes if I’m out walking the mountains and forests of Japan. And here I thought a water bottle and trail mix would be a better choice.


The Leshi (Leshii) is a guardian species found in Russian forests. These shifters are known to be mischievous and tricksters. They’ve been seen in many forms – the most common a tall man covered in unkempt black hair. The Leshi have also been seen with cloven-hoofed feet, a tail, devil-like horns, and carrying a whip to signify he is master of the forest and all animals within it. This cunning shifter can also take the form of a large tree or a small blade of grass, or as any number of animals including a hare, bear, raven or wolf.

The Leshi likes to mess with the heads of people, and will call out to travelers who pass through the forests in a friendly voice, leading the unsuspecting folks in circles until they’re lost. Those most likely to fall prey to the Leshi’s antics are woodsman and hunters. Depending on the Leshi, they may only play tricks on the victim, or they may tickle the victim to death, or cause them to become ill.

While many of the tales about the Leshi make the shifter seem tame compared to many other types of shifters, there are stories where a woman is taken captive, later returned mute and moss-covered.

If one should run into the Leshi, it’s suggested to turn clothing inside out, put the right shoe on the left foot and the left shoe on the right foot. Fire will also work as the Leshi fears fire.

Since I’m terrible with directions, I’m afraid I’d definitely get tricked by a Leshi and get hopelessly lost. Being tickled to death may not be the worst way to go, but it’s not ideal either. Actually, I think it’s kind of twisted, lol. I think I’ll stick to the forests nearby where I’m much more comfortable.

Next Tuesday I'll be sharing two more shifters. Hope you'll stop by :)

~Ann Cory

5 comments:

Romantic Heretic said...

Interesting. I knew of the Tengu but the Leshi are a new one on me.

Here's one I never heard of before last night: the xana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xana

Savannah Chase said...

Very cool...I love learning about new creatures..I have this great mythology dictionary and it is the best for getting inspired to write about new myths and creatures..Thank you for posting this Ann..

Ann Cory said...

Oh wow - the Xana - so freaking cool! Thanks for stopping by and extra big thank you for sharing the xana with me :)

Hope you're having a fantastic day!

Ann Cory said...

Thank you Savannah, so glad you could stop by :) Squee :) They're very inspiring - conjures up all kinds of exciting ways to tell a story with them.

*hugs*

Liv said...

"...stories of a woman who was taken captive, and later returned mute and moss-covered."
Now, as far as I'm concerned, "roughing it" means staying in a Holiday Inn, but this kind of thing will REALLY keep me out of the forest.
;)