The Abominable Snow Woman

The Yuki-onna or snow woman, in Japanese folklore is a spirit or demon inhabiting the cold regions of the country. This yokai is also known by other names such as yuki-onago, yuki-omba, and yuki-musume. Most legends describe her to appear on snowy nights as a beautiful woman with blue lips and long black hair. Often stories tell how pale the Yuki-onna’s skin is that she can easily blend into the wintry landscape. Upon encounters, the yokai is said to often wear a white kimono and despite her beauty, her glaze would cause terror.

Japanese folklore states the Yuki-onna is the spirit of a woman who died during a snow storm, wronged in life by a man or murdered with their corpse left out in the elements. The ghost became a yokai of winters and snowstorms. Legends not only uttered about her beauty, but also warn of her ruthless in slaying mortals.

In some myths, the Yuki-onna invaded homes during the winter as a gust of wind to kill everyone in their sleep. Some legends say she appeared to lost travellers in snowstorms and turns them into ice-covered corpses with her breath. There are tales where she would appear as a distressed mother with a child in hand seeking aid and anyone taking the baby would be instantly frozen in place. In a few stories, the yokai seduced men and freeze them after a kiss or sex. She was often blamed to those who died from the cold. In Japanese folklore, the Yuki-onna was an evil entity, yet by the 18th century a soft side of the spirit began to emerge.

In some stories told, instead of killing would-be victims the Yuki-onna spares them for various reasons. A few myths had the yokai fell in love with a human, had a family and disappear after the husband learned of her true identity. Even a tale of tragedy spoken of the yokai melting away in a heated bathhouse trying to stay by her lover’s side. The Yuki-onna has become a popular character in Japanese literature, manga, anime and video games.


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