Two Tales From the Konjaku Monogatari

Konjaku Monogatari

Translated and Adapted from Konjaku Monogatari – Tales of Times Now Past

How Tosuke Ki’s Meeting with a Ghost-Woman in Mino Province Ended in His Death

Tosuke Ki was traveling to his estate in Mino province. While crossing the Seta Bridge, he encountered a woman in a kimono, who asked him to deliver a small box to a lady who sat at the bridge in Kara-village.

Tosuke agreed, and was warned not to open the box. On his trip, Tosuke forgot about the box, and instead brought it home to Mino and placed it in his storeroom.

His wife, jealous in nature, thought it was a gift from a lover, and opened the box secretly. The box was full of gouged-out eyes and penises. Tosuke, being alerted by his wife to the nature of the box, immediately went to Kara-village to deliver it.

When he met the Lady on the bridge, she was outraged that the box had been looked into, and Tosuke died as soon as he got home

So they say.

How a Man’s Wife Became a Vengeful Spirit and How Her Malignity was diverted by a Master of Divination

A man had abandoned his wife of many years for no particular reason. Perhaps he had simply gotten bored of her. In any case, he left his house to go adventuring, leaving the poor woman to waste away and die in their former home.

In death, however, the stubborn woman refused to leave, and her bones stayed together, and her long black hair only grew longer. At night, strange lights and sounds would come from the house, prompting neighbors to summon a Master of Divination, to help them. The Master told the villagers that she was waiting for her husband’s return, and that he must come and break her will.

As soon as possible, the husband was brought back to the village, and during the day, the husband entered the house and sits astride his wife’s body like a horse, and held onto her hair like reigns. At nightfall, the body came to life, and tried to buck the man off, but he held on tightly and they flew out the window and roughshod over the entire countryside. When dawn finally came, the husband still clung tightly, and the wife’s will was overthrown, and her bones disintegrated to dust, leaving the husband undamaged.

So they say.

Translator’s Note:

A couple of new stories for everyone. As you noticed, I haven’t posted anything new since my snow yōkai series of December. The reason for that is I have my edited manuscript for my book Yurei: The Japanese Ghost back from my publisher, and I have been busy getting those edits made and doing final adjustments to the book. If all goes well, I will be able to announce a publication date soon! And don’t forget, you can still get copies of my limited edition chapbook The Ghost of Oyuki.

I am also busy making final edits to the next volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s  Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan. Drawn and Quarterly posted a preview recently, so take a look!

Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan

In the meantime, here are a couple of tales from the Konjaku Monogatari to tide you over. I’m especially fond of the first one, as it showed up in an issue of Mike Mignola’s brilliant Hellboy comic, which all lovers of the folklore and weird tales should have in their library!

So they say.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gen
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 16:55:43

    Good stories! Thank you!


  2. lady39jane
    Jan 16, 2014 @ 18:43:04

    I feel sorry for the wife in the second story. Considering she was the injured party, the husband should of died. Goes to show the sexism in many stories like these.


  3. nzumel
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 09:54:39

    Was that first story in a fairly recent Hellboy/B.P.R.D ? I read them all quite faithfully for a while, but I slacked off after Hellboy died (well, actually, before that). I don’t remember the box of eyes and penises one…

    And I’m dying to know who those two ladies were, passing that box to each other. There’s a story waiting to be told right there.


    • Zack Davisson
      Jan 24, 2014 @ 00:50:50

      A very old issue. It appeared in the short story “Heads” from back in 2000. Mike Mignola admits he doesn’t know much about Japanese folklore, so it rarely appears in his comics. “Heads” was the one exception.


      • nzumel
        Jan 24, 2014 @ 08:49:18

        “Heads” … that’s the one where he retold Lafcadio Hearn’s “Rokuro-kubi”. I have read it, but I don’t remember the part about the box. I think I still have the TBP that collected the story, I’ll have to dig it up and re-read it. Thanks!

      • Zack Davisson
        Jan 24, 2014 @ 14:00:07

        It’s a brief scene … not actually illustrated. Basically, one of them tells the story to Hellboy.

  4. Trackback: Konjaku Monogatari selections | gaikokumaniakku

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Copyright notification

All translations and other writing on this website were created by Zack Davisson and are copyright to him.

Copyright notification

In accessing these web pages, you agree that any downloading of content is for personal, non-commercial reference only.

No part of this web site may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of Zack Davisson.

Copyright notification

For rights clearance please contact Zack at:

zack.davisson (at)

Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: