A tale of horror from Old Japan
|The vampire cat attacks the lady O Toyo.|
This woodblock appeared in the 1871 book Tales of Old Japan.
Today we bring you the story of a prince, a woman, and a cat. This story comes from Japan and was introduced to the West in 1871 with the publication of a book called Tales of Old Japan by Algernon Freeman-Mitford. Here is the highly abridged version:
Once upon a time, the Nabéshima clan had a prince who had a favorite and most beautiful lady named O Toyo. One day they were walking in the garden, not noticing the large cat that stalked them from the shadows. That night, as O Toyo slept, the cat crept into her room and crouched over her, watching. When the lady started awake and screamed at finding the cat there, the beast gripped her delicate neck in its fearsome jaws and killed her. It dragged her limp body to a shallow grave it had already dug, and buried her there, but…
The cat transformed itself into a creature that looked exactly like O Toyo and yet was not O Toyo at all.
The prince of course knew nothing of his lady’s demise or the horrible creature that had taken her place. Their days went on much as before, but the nights were greatly changed. For at night, the creature O Toyo visited the prince as he slept and drained his blood-life. He became weaker and weaker as he suffered from horrible nightmares, and no treatment could cure him. A hundred guards were posted to watch him at night, but at exactly the same time each night they were all overtaken by an irresistible sleepiness. After the guards were all asleep, the O Toyo creature entered the prince’s chamber and continued to slowly take his life.
Then a new guard came. His name was Itô Sôda, and when the drowsiness began to overcome him the first night he watched over the prince, he stuck his knife into his leg and twisted it around to keep himself awake. Thus he was able to see the creature O Toyo coming to harm the prince, which she would not do under the gaze of the faithful guard. Thus over many days, and restful nights, the prince began to recover.
A decision was made that Itô Sôda would kill the creature O Toyo. So one night he went to her room and drew his dagger to stab her, but she was fierce and fought back with a halberd. When Sôda began to get the upper hand, the creature O Toyo threw aside her weapon, transformed before his eyes back into a cat, and fled outside and into the mountains. As the prince recovered, he ordered a hunt, in which the great cat was found and killed.
And that was the end for the vampire cat.
If you'd like to read the whole, unabridged story, you can find the book online (and free) at Project Gutenberg. Amazon also has several versions of Tales of Old Japan, both in print and for Kindle.
If you'd like to know a little more about the folklore of cats and vampires, see the post "Vampires and Corpses and Cats--Oh My!"