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Filth Licker v. Slash-mouth Woman October 31, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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We like our holidays here on Toulouse Street. My wife’s favorite is Christmas (and the decorations will be popping up around the house as soon as this weekend, I fear). Mine, however, is Halloween as the flood of short videos, etc. you’re about to suffer will testify.

Halloween has so many attractive aspects, not least of which is the Oddity of it all, American-style. None of this cowering around the hearth while the Wild Host passes noisily overhead. Instead we dress up our children in often ghoulish costumes, and send them out into the dark to collect candy from strangers. I will have no truck with people who think children should go out in daylight to be “safe”. Halloween is not about being safe, but rather the opposite. It is about handling our fear of the Other.

We’ve brought over most of our Others from the Old Country, where ever that may be. Ghosts, vampires, zombies, mummies: all of these as we recognize them have some root in the old fears of our ancestors. The Celts have a large part to do with this as Samhain, the original pagan holiday on this date, is a Celtic holiday absorbed into Roman (as in legions) Catholic culture, giving us Jack O’Lanterns and enough ghost stories to last us until dawn of All Saints. And as you might have noticed, we are also Eirephiles here on Toulouse Street.

It is fun to find some new ghoulies to think on come All Hallow’s Eve, and I have a new one now. The Filth Licker. The Japanese have swallowed Halloween whole like so much of American and European culture, but they’ve given in their own twist.

Monsters…are a more serious matter. They are indigenous [in Japan] and reputed to be everywhere. One is called Akaname, the Filth Licker, and he haunts dirty bathrooms. Using his long, lascivious tongue, he eats bathtub scum.

The Halloween season, then, is an opportunity to shine a festive light on the Filth Licker and his creepy kin. There are thousands of them, and collectively they are known as yokai, a word that is formed from the Japanese characters for “otherworldly” and “weird.”

I like these yokai. The Filth Licker is an easy headline grabber, but I also like the tales of Kuchisake Onna, the Slash-Mouth Woman. “This yokai is a shapely and well-dressed but violently insecure young woman who wears a mask over her monstrously disfigured mouth, which reaches from ear to ear and is bursting with teeth. First, she asks her victims if she is pretty. They, regardless of the answer, she slashes her young-girl victim’s mouth.

There there is the kappa: a short, green, flatulent monster with a tortoise shell on his back and a cup of water on his head, from which he draws his terrible powers. He likes to eat human entrails. Kappa are said to live in rivers, lakes, swamps and wetlands. To keep their offspring from playing in these dangerous places, parents over the years have told chilling tales of what an angry kappa can do. One can escape the kappa because they are unfailingly polite. If you bow to them, they will bow back and spill the cup of water than gives them there powers.

This is a fabulous bit of folklore, offering your basic Boogie Man warning about playing around water, and tossing in a lesson to be polite to boot. Strange how all of us kids behaved better with an appropriate dollop of fear in our lives. I’m not sure what message the Slash-Mouth woman is supposed to mpart, but she reputedly likes candy. If you run into one tonight the appropriate response is to toss a handful of candy as far as you can, and run like Hell.

Or she will Get You.

Happy Halloween. .

Comments»

1. KamaAina - October 31, 2008

Needless to say, Japanese folklore enjoys quite a bit of currency here in the land where our senior Senator bears the surname “Inouye”. I had not, however, encountered the Filth Licker before. The only horrific creatures who have harassed me regarding my housekeeping habits have been landlords.

Oddly enough, the chief purveyor of Japanese obake (ghost) stories hereabouts was for many years a haole (white dude) named Glen Grant. I was regularly part of the studio audience for his Sunday night radio show. His passing at 53 was, in some ways, even more devastating than that of our mutual friend Ashley: at least AshMo’s fan club has other places to go, like here, for instance. All that I can find of Glen’s legacy is this page:

http://www.geocities.com/area51/hollow/6166/

Either the page has not been updated since 2003, or Glen has somehow finagled email access from the beyond! Note, too, that a more familiar name turns up alongside Glen’s: that of Lafcadio Hearn.

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2. KamaAina - October 31, 2008

In the land where our senior Senator bears the surname “Inouye”, Japanese folklore enjoys some currency. However, I had not heard of the “Filth Licker”. The only horrific monsters that have harassed me over my housekeeping habits have been landlords.

Oddly, the chief purveyor of obake (ghost) stories hereabouts was for many years a haole (white dude) named Glen Grant. Glen’s death at 53 had a similar impact, in many ways, to that of our mutual friend Ashley earlier this year. Since he just missed the Age of Blogging, all that I can find of his legacy is this page:

http://www.geocities.com/area51/hollow/6166

Note that a more familiar name appears alongside Glen’s: that of Lafcadio Hearn.

Like

3. KamaAina - October 31, 2008

In the land where our senior Senator bears the surname “Inouye”, Japanese folklore enjoys some currency. However, I had not heard of the “Filth Licker”. The only horrific monsters that have harassed me over my housekeeping habits have been landlords.

Oddly, the chief purveyor of obake (ghost) stories hereabouts was for many years a haole (white dude) named Glen Grant. Glen’s death at 53 had a similar impact, in many ways, to that of our mutual friend Ashley earlier this year.

Since he just missed the Age of Blogging, all that I can find of his legacy is an old GeoCities page. (When I tried to post the link, the blog software ate the entire comment. Twice.) On that page, a more familiar name appears alongside Glen’s: that of Lafcadio Hearn.

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4. Wet Bank Guy - October 31, 2008

Send me the link. I would love to see that.

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5. NOLA YURP - October 31, 2008

hi! We, like you, are writing from NOLA — we’ve got a New York Times blogger doing some guest blogs about living here in the city and would love to spread the word. Check us out and we’ll be in touch…

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