A little introduction

The Karasu-Tengu is an old Japanese myth. This maybe first kind of Tengu has feathers, wings and a beak. In some paintings they look like monsters with sharp teeth and claws, like died out predatory dinosaur and in other paintings it looks like they are out of a comic. It says they have a lot of magical skills.

In the shintoistical religion they have a special part, so there are many paintings and statues of the Tengu in the temples and cabinets.
In myths and legends they are shown as ascetics and priests, who live in the mountains, or as monks with the typical headgear.
They live disassociated in the mountains in good- hided nests, hatch out of gigantic eggs and meet in high-growing trees.
They show themselves to the humans just through thoughts and dreams. It also says they can disappear and appear on another place from one second to the other.
Sometimes vain and arrogant people were kidnapped and send in the forest, where they stray around, just because the Tengu likes to confuse and make people anxious. On the other hand they reward modesty and people, who are ready to help.
Often they are called in prayers by desperate people to help their children to find the way back home.

The social environment of the Tengu is ordered very hieratical. In many paintings the Tengu-head Sojobo is shown sitting in a big nest with his subjects the Karasu-Tengu.
In the Tengu-portrayals Sojobo is mostly represented with a red face, a long nose and a feather fan in his hand.
One of the most important characteristic features is their great way to battle and to teach their knowledge about this art how to battle. It says they are masters of weapons. The Karasu-Tengu knows how to fight with swords and the long-nosed Tengu knows to control the bars. Every Tengu can fight perfectly without any weapons and it uses its many magical tricks.

Many Ninjas, so they referred, got their magical power from the Tengus. The most famous hero is Minamoto Yoshitsune, who also learned its fighting with the sword from the Tengu.

...but finally now the stories will follow... (look also at the pictures)...

How a Tengu learns the martial art    

Tengus are not immortal. It says that people, who were arrogant, become a Tengu in their next life.

In the first thousand years in the life of a Tengu he was taught how to battle by an older Tengu. He was taught the original art, which is based on skilfulness, fluently movements and immediately reactions. They also learn to make themselves invisible and to transform their figure into another. Just their own shadow gives their real figure away, because it doesn't transform with them. Furthermore they learn tactical principles out of the knowledge of the processes in the universe.

After they learned everything they disassociate themselves and in loneliness they train the art they were taught and they become an ascetic to train humility. The humans just see them as monks or lonely ascetics. The Tengus play tricks or coarse lessons on arrogant and bad people, but sometimes they also teach the art how to battle to others.

After further thousands of years they are going to die and be reborn as a human, when they've lived their Tengu-life in totally humility and with lots of good actions.

Ushiwaka-Maru on the mountain Kurama    

Minamoto Yoshitsune, whose name was Ushigawa-Maru as a little boy, was the youngest son of Minamoto Yoshitomo, who was killed cowardly by the order of the leader from the Taira-clan. Most adherents of Minamoto were killed cruelly while Taira-Kiyomori took the land over.
Yoshitsune or Ushigawa was arrested together with his mother and two brothers, but the kids were given into a monastery to grow up to harmless monks.

The young, adventoures and active Yoshitsune grew up in the temple of Kuruma, where he heard the story of his origin one day. Since then he yearned for revenge on the Tairas.

In the forest of Kurama he met a horrible and old man one day, who had white hair, a very long nose and was red as a beet. This man was nobody else than Sojobo the Tengu-king who was happy that the boy wasn't afraid of him. He noticed that Yoshitsune had the heart of a great fighter, so he taught him the art to battle and his famous skills to handle different kinds of weapons.

In the age of 14 he escaped from the temple.
During his long hike, he met the famous monk Saito Musashibo Benkei at the Goyo-bridge.
Benkei, who lets nobody cross the bridge easily, was very wondered when Yoshitsune demand him to fight, because the boy seemed very slight and not as an equal opponent to him. When he attacked Yoshitsune with a lance, the boy moved easily away and blocked every hit with his sword and fan.
After hours of fighting Benkei, who was totally exhausted and unable to fight more, was beaten.

It says that the Tengu-king Sojobo leaded Yoshitsune in this fight; otherwise the fast moves to avoid hits and the high jumps, higher then the head of Benkei, are not to explain.

The Tengus rescue Tametomo    

Tametomo, who was one of the most famous warriors, was with his troops on the way to the Taira-clan to have war. He also had his wife and his only child with him.

During the cross over to Kyoto, their ships were surprised by a gigantic typhoon, and so they were threatened to sink.
To calm the god of the sea Tametomos wife sacrificed herself and jumped in the furious waves.

The typhoon didn't stopp. The ships broke and their destroyed parts drifted in the sea. Tametomo lost nearly everyone of his troops and his only child, what made him so upset, that he wanted to kill himself.
Suddenly some Karasu-Tengu appeared. Some grabbed him and prevented that he killed himself. The others held the boat calm, which he was on, so it wasn't threatened to sink through the waves.

And soon one of the leaders saw Tametomo's child drifting in the sea. He jumped in the water to safe the child, but an immense shark appeared out of the deep of the sea. He attacked the two of them and it was very close that they were killed by him, but the ghosts of Tametomo's dead warriors appeared and attacked the shark, so the two of them escaped.

Like a miracle their lives were rescued.

The not appreciating student    

A long, long time ago a student of the art how to battle walked in forests and hopes to find one of the famous Tengu to win him as his teacher.
One day he really met a walker with a long nose and how it turned out it was nobody else than Sojobo. After endless asking and begging Sojobo agreed and taught him the art of the Tengu.
Already within a short time the student knew how to control the sword and even to use the magical formulas, which make invisible or let someone dive in water for hours or even run as fast as a horse.
However he just learned, what he thought was important for him, because deep in his heart he was arrogant and vain, and that's why he left the forest to early in the thought to know everything and even without thanking his Tengu-teacher.

It didn't take long that he abused his power to enrich himself. He made himself invisible and stole from people, attacked walker and he even killed his victims.
One day on a lonely way in the mountain he met an old and decrepit man, who could just move forward very slowly with the support of a stick.
The wayward student didn't know any scruples anymore and because he couldn't pass the old man on the narrow way, he drew his sword and hit the old man at his neck.
However the sword missed its object. Starteld he noticed that the blade was still in the sheath... the sword broke and he had just the handle in his hand.
As he looked up again the old man was gone, but laughing made him to look up in the crown of a tree. There sat the old man on a branch and made fun of him. It was nobody else than the Tengu-king Sojobo.

Right away all his skills and the magic of the art how to battle vanished and soon he was captured and got his justified punishment as robber and murderer.

The magical coat    

An old Japanese saying conveys, that you should never try to deceive a Tengu, because it will harm you and not the Tengu. The next story is about that saying.

One day a boy heard the old legend of the Tengus, and that they were able to become invisible with the help of their magical coats.
He thought it must be great to have one of those coats and that's why he thought about how to make a Tengu give his coat to him. Soon he had an idea. He sat down on a clearing in the forest, took a bamboo cane and behaved as the cane were binoculars to watch the sky.
Some Tengus appeared soon and watched him curiously. When the boy cried "Aahh" and "Oohh", he was asked by the most curious Tengu what was going on with the bamboo cane. The boy responded that he could see what just happened on the moon. "I want to see I, too!" said the curious Tengu.
"That's not possible but you can have it when I get something from you, too." responded the boy.
The Tengu offered his shoes and his cap but the boy rejected.
"Take my coat than!" said the Tengu and that was what the boy was waiting for. He dropped the bamboo cane, took the magical coat and put it on. In this moment he became invisible for everybody and he ran as fast as he could through the forest back to his village.

When he arrived there he started immediatly to make nonsense.
First he frightened the chickens, goats and horses, than he stole fruits out of the baskets from people passing by or he pulled on their clothes or their sunshade, so they ran frightened away. He also moved things around that the people thought it's flying through the air. Everyone in the village believed it haunted and bad ghost drive their misfortune.

After this nonsense the boy decided finally to go home. He sneaked in the house where his mother was standing at the stove and prepared the meal.
Quickly he took off the coat and frightened his mother a lot when he stood in front of her suddenly. "I haven't heard you coming!" she cried. "However the meal is done."
He hang the coat next to the front door and sat than on the table. After he ate he became tired and went to bed right away.
The mother noticed the matted and dirty coat next to the door later and was wondered. Vain she tried to shake the dirt off and clean it.
The coat stayed as matted and dirty as before."Such a horrible thing. I will burn it before the boy awakes. Tomorrow morning he won't remember anything of it!" she thought and threw the coat into the fire.

When the boy awaked in the morning, he ran to the door right away to get his magical coat and to make more nonsense.
He was very frightened when he couldn't find the coat.
"Where is my coat?" asked the boy. "I threw this horrible thing in the fire!" the mother responded.
"Whaaat?" shouted the boy and ran to the fire place but there was only ash left. He hoped that the magical effect of the coat was now in the ash and so he collected it in a container. He started than to rub the ash in…and really, one part after the other of his body became invisible.

After that he went in the village again and played his tricks in a pub house. There in a corner stood a big barrel and he layed under it and opened the bung. A wonderful refreshing Drink streamed in his mouth and he drank and drank… The guests heard just the swallowing and belching but they didn’t see anything.
Yet a little dog ran to the barrel and licked the drops from the lips of the invisible boy, so the two lips appeared suddenly. The more the licked the more from the boys face became visible.
The people frightened when they saw that strange sight. When the boy noticed he was noticed he began to sweat. Soon the ash on his body began to disappear because of his sweat and the dog did the rest to let him appear.
"A thief!" the people cried after they noticed a trick were played on them.
They grabbed him and with a shower out of a bucket filled with water he appeared totally. There he stood like a watered poodle and he was ashamed in front of all the people.
Happy not to get a beating he told the still angry people his story with the magical coat of the Tengus.
"Hopefully this was a lesson for you and that you will never try to deceive a Tengu again!" said the oldest and the rest started to laugh at him.

The boy never tried again to deceive other people or to play a trick on them and also he tried never to see a Tengu again.

    Translation by Kerstin Speer

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