Friday, May 25, 2012

Folklore Friday: Know Your Legend: Kappa

The inaugural article discussing mythological creatures and origins. First off The noble/slow Kappa.

I am heading out of town for Memorial Day weekend but have a series of posts that are scheduled for this weekend including information on the Economics of a Manor Lord and the next in line of the classic Lazy DM'ing series on minions.  I am taking the weekend off to spend it among my fellows and enjoy my first time away from home since a pretty severe head injury.  I'm hoping to enjoy a little respite from the daily grind of my disability and get to spend time among friends.

In acknowledgement of those who I will be spending time with this weekend I decided to start the Know Your Folklore series of articles with a bit of a bang.  KYF will focus on a series of creatures and their interpretations in popular culture (focusing on roleplaying games of note) along with a little knowledge of where we have come from.  I decided to go with a little homage to the people I will be spending my weekend with and go with the noble Kappa as our first guest star.

The Kappa (河童,川太郎, (river-child or river-boy respectively) is an interesting beast.  One of the 水神 (suijin, water-god) of the Shinto religion, the Kappa finds itself as one of the older Eastern creatures of the Dungeons and Dragons bestiary, coming into the lexicon as part of first edition's Oriental Adventures handbook.  Within the various editions Kappa have been settled on as small creatures standing about 2 feet tall and weighing about ten kilos.  Kappa have hard shells that cover their backs and scaly skins in dark grteen, blue, or yellow.  They also have pounchy bellies, and a marsupial-like pouch on their abdomen.

Pictured: A shell so smooth it can glide for days
Kappa have definitely been handled in many different media. While in some settings they are seen as easily punted targets for portly plumbers, their mythological forms are quite entertaining.  The kappa of legend know their drugs and are renowned as skilled medicinal healers.  Though some legends claim that the Kappa drown those who interfere with their specific river charges, more cases of Kappa sightings detail a randy, gluttonous folk who enjoy a good joke, are quite polite, and not above getting a laugh out of the occasional bout of flatus or sneaking a peek up a beautiful woman's kimono.

In this way the turtle-folk are misunderstood.  Fierce yet friendly, unassuming yet powerful, the river children keep an open mind and a hard shell on their back.  Kappa keep their oaths and have a detailed protocol that they follow that may seem alien to others.  A love of cucumbers and other delicious watery delights is also a common trait... When one handles all of those drugs it is unsurprising that the river folk may get the munchies.

In short the Kappa is a mostly gentle spirit, but a powerful ally.  In many stories these licentious, partying, crude, yet decorous creatures are a delight to hang around.  So I am happy to say that I am about to go visit with my own personal group of turtle folk and wish all of my American readers a happy, safe, and reflective Memorial Day weekend.

And if you happen across a turtle on a river be nice; they probably have all the best jokes and drugs.

As Always,

Good Gaming.