Traditional Japanese Tengu Stories


"The Tengu's Magic Cloak" (天狗の隠れみの Tengu no Kakuremino): A boy looks through an ordinary piece of bamboo and pretends he can see distant places. A tengu, overwhelmed by curiosity, offers to trade it for a magic straw cloak that renders the wearer invisible. Having duped the tengu, the boy continues his mischief while wearing the cloak


  "The Tengu's Fan" (天狗の羽団扇 Tengu no Hauchiwa) A scoundrel obtains a tengu's magic fan, which can shrink or grow noses. He secretly uses this item to grotesquely extend the nose of a rich man's daughter, and then shrinks it again in exchange for her hand in marriage. Later he accidentally fans himself while he dozes, and his nose grows so long it reaches heaven, resulting in painful misfortune for him.


"The Tengu's Gourd" (天狗の瓢箪 "Tengu no Hyōtan"): A gambler meets a tengu, who asks him what he is most frightened of. The gambler lies, claiming that he is terrified of gold or mochi. The tengu answers truthfully that he is frightened of a kind of plant or some other mundane item. The tengu, thinking he is playing a cruel trick, then causes money or rice cakes to rain down on the gambler. The gambler is of course delighted and proceeds to scare the tengu away with the thing he fears most. The gambler then obtains the tengu's magic gourd (or another treasured item) that was left behind.


"The Old Man's Lump Removed" (瘤取り爺さん Kobu-tori Jiisan): An old man has a lump or tumor on his face. In the mountains he encounters a band of tengu making merry and joins their dancing. He pleases them so much that they take the lump off his face, thinking that he will want it back and join them the next night. An unpleasant neighbor, who also has a lump, hears of the old man's good fortune and attempts to repeat it. The tengu, however, simply give him the first lump in addition to his own, either to keep their bargain, or because they are disgusted by his bad dancing. (This story is also often told with oni, a sort of ogre, instead of tengu.


(the above are from

Takara no geta or Precious Geta (宝の下駄) 

Once upon a time, a mother and son who were very poor lived at a certain place. Once the mother was sick and had fallen asleep. They didn't have money to buy medicine so the son was going to borrow money from an uncle. The uncle's name was Gonzo and he was a very greedy and mean person. He told his poor nephew, "I don't have any money for you or your mother." So the boy couldn't borrow money from his uncle. 

The boy was very sad and on his way home he met a Tengu, which is a long-nosed goblin, with a very white beard. The Tengu has supernatural powers and can fly freely high up in the sky. He lives high in mountain caves. The Tengu asked the boy, "What's wrong with you? Why do you look so serious?" The boy explained his worries to him. The Tengu laughed loudly, "Ha, ha, ha!" and then gave his Ipponba-geta, or one tooth geta, to the boy. He told the boy, "These geta are precious geta. If you wear these and fall down, a koban (an ancient Japanese oval gold coin) will appear. But too much falling down will make you become short. So, don't fall down unless you really need money." After the Tengu told the boy about this, he laughed loudly again, "Ha, ha, ha!" He then made a strong gale of wind with a feather fan in his hand, and in no time at all he flew up and over the mountain. 

The boy was amazed and dumbstruck for a short while. Gradually he came to himself and put on the geta and promptly tried falling down. Fall - plump! A koban appeared as the Tengu said it would. He fell down two times and two koban appeared. The boy was very excited and happy but he remembered what the Tengu had warned him of and he didn't fall down any more. He took his geta and gold coins home carefully. 

As soon as his Uncle Gonzo heard about the boy's good luck and his Tengu geta he asked the boy, " You have koban that came from precious geta, haven't you? Let me use them." 

The boy started to give his uncle the warning, "Uncle, there is a special way how to use these geta." 

"Shut up." said the uncle, "I know how to use them, just fall down." The uncle wouldn't listen to him and took the geta from him by force and went home. After the uncle got home, he closed all the doors and windows then he lay a large cloth wrapper on the floor to catch the coins. He put on the geta and began falling down, fall - plump. Then as he watched, koban appeared very noisily. 

After a while the boy went to see how his uncle Gonzo was doing. As soon as he opened the door, koban coins were overflowing everywhere but he couldn't see his uncle. "Uncle, where are you?" he called. Looking for his geta, he pushed the mountain of koban coins that had come from the geta. "Here they are!" he yelled. As he looked at the geta he could see a little bug stuck to them. The boy grabbed the bug and threw it away. 

The truth is that the bug was his uncle. He had wanted too many koban coins and had fallen down so much that he became smaller and smaller and finally looked like a little bug. The boy took home the mountain of koban coins and his geta and lived happily with his mother. Today in Japan we have a bug called "Gonzo-mushi" which means "Gonzo-bug". This name comes from this greedy uncle from this story.


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