The Fox Barber

In Japanese folklore there is a tale known as The Fox Barber. In a village in Tottori Prefecture there lived a fox named Oton who loved to bewitch people and shave their heads. The leader of the village called a meeting and offered a reward to anyone who was willing to try and defeat the mischievous fox once and for all. Two young men volunteered and despite many warnings not to attempt such a task, they set out towards the Tamichi Pass.

Shoson Ohara, 1930

They saw a large golden fox ahead and watched in amazement as it put a leaf on its head and transformed into a beautiful woman. Next the fox woman picked up a stone Jizo statue and after stroking its head it transformed into a baby. The two men followed and saw the fox woman knock on a door and be welcomed inside by an elderly couple. Outraged they wait nearby wondering what to do. When the old lady came outside they told her what they had seen but she didn’t believe them.

Shoson Ohara, ca. 1910s

The old man also came out and was outraged by their suggestion. They persisted and suggested the old man throw the baby into a pot to learn the truth. The old woman was horrified but the man agreed. He went inside and tossed the baby into the pot. It did not turn back into a statue and the old man was furious that they has caused him to kill his own grandchild. The men were terrified and very confused. The old man said he would turn the men over to the authorities to be killed but just then a priest arrived.
Horiuchi Tenrei
He suggested to the old man that the two young men become priests so they could spend their life praying for the baby’s salvation. Everyone agreed so the two men followed the priest back to the temple where he shaved their heads and made them priests. Next thing they heard someone calling their names and they realised dawn had come and they were in a field in the middle of nowhere. When they saw each other’s shaved heads they were enraged and realised at once they had been tricked by the fox Oton. 

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1886