The Sazae-oni was first formally described by Toriyama Sekien in his first volume on “The Illustrated Horde of Haunted Housewares”. He gives it a philosophical origin, stating that if sparrows become shells and moles become quails, surely it was possible for a sazae – a horned turban shell – to become an oni. So he dreamed.
Reference is made to the 72 Seasons, namely a mid-October season where “sparrows become clams” and a mid-April season where “moles emerge as quails”. The former is based on an old wives’ tale that sparrows become clams to hibernate in winter, while the latter is a poetic description of animals coming out of hibernation.
Sekien’s illustration shows a sinuous sluglike creature with humanoid arms emerging from a large horned turban shell. The head is a spiky shell with protruding eyeballs, and seaweed is draped around the neck.
Sekien, T.; Alt, M. and Yoda, H. eds. (2017) Japandemonium Illustrated: The Yokai Encyclopedias of Toriyama Sekien. Dover Publications, New York.
Erumía is a
gigantic jellyfish associated with the Papuan village of Mawata. She lives on
the reef Tére-múba-mádja offshore of the Gésovamúba point. The édeéde, or normal jellyfish, are her
children, and they are abundant on that reef. She is also the patron of all the
fish. Her long, slimy, stringy tentacles can sting a man to death, and any
swimmer who sees them stretching in their direction knows to flee for their
lives. The tentacles can be seen floating around the mouth of the Bina River.
patron ororárora or spirit of Mawata,
Erumía is associated with the people of the village, the “Erumía people”. She
appears in dreams as a good omen and grants “lucky things” for fishing.
G. (1917) The Folk-tales of the Kiwai
Papuans. Acta Societatis Scientiarium Fennicae, t. XLVII, Helsingfors.
G. (1927) The Kiwai Papuans of British
New Guinea. MacMillan and Co. Limited, London.
of the Circhos is one fraught with misunderstandings, mistranslations, and
general confusion. It should serve as a morality tale on the importance of
accurate information transmission.
describes the habits of hermit crabs in detail. The carcinium (“small crab”) is soft-bodied after the thorax,
resembling a spider, with two red horns and forward-pointing eyes. The mouth
has hair-like appendages and two divided feet that it uses to catch prey. There
are two additional smaller pairs of feet beside them.
hermit crabs, the kind that lives in the nerita
or brita shell is unusual because its
right divided foot is small while the left one is large. It walks more on the
left foot than the right. The nerita
itself, Aristotle adds, has a large, smooth, rounded shell, and a red
hepatopancreas, as opposed to the ceryx
and its black hepatopancreas. During a storm the crabs hide under a rock, and
the gastropods attach themselves to the rock and close their opercula.
All of the
preceding information is stated consecutively. Michael Scot’s translation of
Aristotle gives the name of kiroket
to the nerita shell. Thomas de Cantimpré takes Scot’s kiroket
and his descriptions of the hermit crab and gastropod, but omits connecting
names and details to combine them into a single confused account. It is likely
that Scot’s jargon and neologisms threw Thomas off.
Thomas de Cantimpré’s
cricos (corrupted from kiroket) now has two fissures at the end of its
feet, giving it three fingers and three nails on each foot (Thomas’
“common-sense” addition). Its left foot is big and its right foot is small, and
it carries its weight on its left foot. The comparison of hepatopancreas colors
becomes the shell of the cricos, colored black and red. In good weather, the
cricos moves around; in bad weather, it attaches itself to rocks and doesn’t
Albertus Magnus takes
up Thomas’ account, but drops the confusing details of the feet. The Ortus Sanitatis,
on the other hand, creates some additional features out of whole cloth. The
circhos or crichos has the head of a man and the body of a sea-dog (i.e. a
dogfish or shark); it is healthy in good weather, but weakens and turns ill in
Olaus Magnus borrows
the circhos of the Ortus Sanitatis to populate his Scandinavian sea. The
physical description of a human-headed fish is wisely redacted. Whether it was
meant to represent an actual Scandinavian animal, or is merely plagiarism,
It is Olaus Magnus’
account that is best known today. Concept drift in modern retellings have led
to fabrications such as a limping gait that forces the circhos to move only in
fine weather and cling to rocks during storms, and even a “humanoid” appearance.
Aristotle, Cresswell, R.
trans. (1862) Aristotle’s History of
Animals. Henry G. Bohn, London.
and Riches, A. (1971) A Dictionary of Fabulous Beasts. The Boydell
de Cantimpré, T. (1280)
Liber de natura rerum. Bibliothèque municipale de Valenciennes.
Cuba, J. (1539) Le iardin de santé. Philippe le Noir,
Jacquemard, C.; and Lucas-Avenel, M. (2013) L’auctoritas
de Thomas de Cantimpré en matière
ichtyologique (Vincent de Beauvais, Albert le Grand, l’Hortus sanitatis).
Kentron, 29, pp. 69-108.
(1920) De Animalibus Libri XXVI.
Aschendorffschen Verlagbuchhandlung, Münster.
(1555) Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus. Giovanni M. Viotto, Rome.
(1561) Histoire des pays septentrionaus. Christophle Plantin, Antwerp.
(1658) A compendious history of the
Goths, Swedes, and Vandals, and other Northern nations. J. Streater,
Rose, C. (2000) Giants, Monsters, and Dragons. W. W. Norton and Co., New York. Unknown. (1538) Ortus Sanitatis. Joannes de Cereto de Tridino.