Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.
Have you ever had a picnic next to a river, perhaps, or taken a walk by a babbling brook, and had the feeling that someone – something – was watching you? Perhaps an otherwise placid stream burbles too loud too suddenly, or the babbling brook seems to be babbling rather vicious things. You could be in the presence of a Kappa.
The Kappa is from Japanese legend, a water demon (a suijin) that looks like a short, wrinkled man with a beaked nose and a turtle shell on his back. Kappas live in rivers and eat unwary people, especially children. Don’t worry, pets, I am always thinking of your safety.
There are two ways to keep yourself safe from a Kappa. Firstly, Kappas love cucumbers, so if you carve your name into a cucumber and throw it into the river, the Kappa will find it, remember you and thus will spare you should you ever run into him. (This could be why my brother Mordecai always travels with a cucumber and a pen knife.)
Second, the Kappa’s strength comes from the water. He has a depression in the top of his head that carries water so he is never without it. If you should run into a Kappa, all you need to do is bow. He will have to bow in return, and when he does the water will spill out of the bowl in his head. He will be powerless until he can return to the river, which gives you time to run and run for your life.
Interestingly, though mostly evil, if one does capture a Kappa, it will pledge to assist with farm work or to teach its captor the arts of setting bones and making medicines and salves. I still recommend removing oneself from a Kappa’s presence as quickly as possible, though. While bone-setting and mixing salves is incredibly useful, capturing a flesh-eating Kappa seems much riskier than, say, entrance exams for medical school.
Whether you know this Suijin by a different name, perhaps Kelpie, Näkki, or Vodnik, when riverside, to be vigilant and keep your wits about you. Don’t jump into shallow water and beware the Kappa.
Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.