Ever since I starting researching into folklore, I discovered that many myths across the planet shared some common elements. Wherever you go in the world, similar imaginary legends could be found such as dragons, vampires, ghost and gods. One dark tale to exist within most societies involves a solitary person or a hermit out in the middle of the woods that turns into a monster, a witch or some cannibal luring lost travellers into their home to consume. In Japan, folklore warns of yokai called the yamauba or mountain hag.
As some legends goes, a family falls upon hard times and would not be able to fed everyone during the winter. Out of desperation, they took the senile mother out deep into the forest and left her alone to die. Starving and cold the elderly woman became enraged by such betray that upon dying she transformed into a yamauba. In other myths, when women forced to runaway or become exiled they in the woods alone for so many years their hatred consumes them and are reborn as this yokai. Another story says the yamauba is a witch that became corrupted by the use of black magic resulting in her being a demon. Despite variations in the creature origins, she is a monster craving human flesh.
In Japanese folklore, the yamauba appears as an elderly woman living alone in a make-shift hut off in the woods, on the edge of town or in the middle of an abandoned road. Lost or wondering travellers would be welcomed by her, like a loving grandmother, offering them food and shelter. Those who took up such generosity and spent the night discovered the true nature of woman when she transformed into the yamauba. The yokai’s appearance been described a hideous demonic hag armed with fangs and claws. She will then attack and kill her guests to feast upon their bodies. In a few myths, yamauba can use spells to either subdue her prey or hide herself when confronted with danger.
The few to escape the yamauba share their experiences with others warning them of the danger within the woods. Often when they return with help to defeat the yokai she is no where around as only the bones of past victims were found. Some tales have the yamauba going into villages at night to snatch away babies to feed up which parents tell their naughty children before bedtime.