Foxes are considered to be magical creatures in many different cultures. Across European, Scandinavian, and Celtic folklore, the fox is often depicted as a cunning trickster who may possess supernatural powers. East Asia has historically viewed the fox with similar traits. The Japanese kitsune has become notorious as an otherworldly trickster spirit. Powerful, flighty, and alluring, the kitsune blurs the line between divine and demonic. This complicated yokai has an equally complicated legend behind it.
The word ‘kitsune’ simply translates to ‘fox.’ This is because the kitsune isn’t seen as separate from other foxes—according to traditional belief, all foxes have supernatural abilities. These abilities grow stronger with age. Some tales say that a kitsune grows a new tail for each century of life. Truly ancient kitsune with nine tails might be able to rival powerful kami, while young kitsune with a single tail are hardly more than garden-variety animals.
Kitsune possess a variety of supernatural powers. They are most famous for their ability to shapeshift into humans, especially beautiful women, old men, and young boys. Supposedly, many kitsune had trouble hiding their tails or feet, and they sometimes retained a fox’s shadow. However, kitsune were also credited with the power to create fire and lightning, possess people, spread disease and bad luck, drive people mad or feed on their life force, craft elaborate illusions, and even bend the fabric of reality.
There are two main types of kitsune: zenko, or inari foxes, and nogitsune, or wild foxes. Zenko are the sacred messenger and servants of Inari Okami, the kami of foxes, agriculture, industry, and worldly success. Nogitsune are rogue, low-ranking spirits who enjoy tormenting unwary, cruel, and foolish humans. Both types of kitsune like to play tricks on people, but nogitsune are more likely to be malicious and zenko are more likely to be righting injustices.
All kitsune are inclined to remember and pay back people who have helped them… and people who have caused them harm. In Tale of Ronin, players may well encounter people who believe in the stories of kitsune and live accordingly. Certain choices may even lead gamers to meet mysterious figures who don’t seem quite human and will certainly remember if they’re wronged.