The First Day of Kitsune – a folk tale

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series Twelve Days of Kitsune

For the First Day of Kitsune, I’d like to share one of the oldest and most common folk stories about a kitsune. It’s a tale of a fox wife, similar to Western stories of fairy brides, and it features many of the key points in the kitsune legend.

Fox women (kitsune in human form). Woodcut by Bertha Boynton Lum, 1908. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fox women (kitsune in human form). Woodcut by Bertha Boynton Lum, 1908. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s also a story the village girl Murame hears in Kitsune-Mochi, which prompts her to do some deep thinking….

Kitsune, Come and Sleep

Once there was a man who married a beautiful woman. She had no family, but she was lovely of mien and manner, and he brought her to his home. In time, she bore him children, and they were very happy.

One day, a dog ran into their house, and it ran at the woman, barking. The woman was very frightened, and as the dog rushed at her, she transformed into a fox and fled.

The man was stunned to learn he had wed a shape-shifting fox — but he loved his wife. He followed her and said, “You are a fox, but you are my wife and the mother of my children. I love you. Please return with me.”

And so, every night, the fox returned and stayed with the man, and tended her children. And though he knew she was a fox, he loved her, and they were very happy.

This is a pleasant variation on the common theme of fox as trickster, or other stories in which the deceived man awakes to find himself homeless, penniless, or otherwise abused. This is my own writing of the tale, a conglomerate of many versions; you can find another version on a nice Asian fox folklore page here.

(You might also sometimes find an assertion that this story provides the etymology of the word kitsune, related to the words for “come,” “sleep,” and “always,” but I have not been able to determine how likely this is to be true.)

What do you think? Do you prefer a romantic fox tale, or a tale of fox trickery?


Ran is Kurosawa’s epic and iconic retelling of King Lear in shogunate Japan. The scene in which a character uses the kitsune legend to rebuke an exalted personage he cannot rebuke is one of my favorites.
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  1. Nice, I think it’s very romantic. Generally speaking, these types of animal bride/bridegroom stories end tragically for both the human and animal spirit so it’s great to read one with a happy ending.

    • I know, it’s an uncommon outcome — there’s a lot of folklore with unhappy romantic endings, regardless of the participants — and it’s kind of cool to find an exception even for a cross-species marriage. And thanks for commenting!

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