Monday, January 2, 2012

Kumohime Revisted

Spider woman by IanLIR
The kumohime may not be particularly well known outside of Japan, but it is a classic Japanese monster (for earlier treatments on this blog, see here, where I treat this yokai -- more specifically, obake or bakemono -- in relation to the Lolth, D&D's demon queen of spiders and goddess of the drow).  As I mentioned before, it is also known under the name jorogumo.  It is under this latter name that it is getting lots of love in recent releases of the Pathfinder RPG: it appears in both the Bestiary 3 and the Dragon Empires Gazetteer.  If you are playing PF or a 3.5OGL compatible game, and do not yet have the B3, then you may get the same basic concept by using another OGL monster -- this is in fact what happens in a volume of the Pathfinder Adventure Path (I will say no more, to keep spoilers to a minimum) where the volume employs an aranea.  Here is the d20 version and here is the PF update.  I love the idea that there is a small country ruled by a jorogumo.  The Pathfinder designer whose idea that was needs to comment over here so I can lavish my fanboy praise upon them.  Dare I guess that it came from the mind of Dave Gross?

Any monster that puts to use the two classic fears of arachnophobia and Oh-my-God-that-beautiful-woman-is-not-what-she-appears-to-be has to be bi-winning in a way that puts Charlie Sheen to even more shame than he normally puts himself.  (Hey, 2011 references die hard.)  For more info on the appearances of the spider-woman (and sometimes, man) of many names in popular culture, take a look at the TVTropes entry on Youkai, then scroll down and click on "Tsuchigumo and Jorogumo Examples." (I had completely forgotten about Akira Kurosawa's hinting in Throne of Blood.)  And if you really want to blow an afternoon, do searches for "spider" and for "beautiful tropes" while you are over there.

A special thanks to the two artists featured in today's Mythopoeic Monday.  They got back to me with their permissions too late to be included in the earlier posting, but they gave me an excuse to revisit the creature and update the resources I found online.  Please repay their generosity by giving their DeviantArt pages a visit and maybe even a comment.

In parting, I offer you a thematically appropriate magical relic: Bat's Banner of the Spider God.  The banner could be used by a warrior in service of the Spider God -- perhaps the champion of a powerful kumohime.

KumoHime by WittA


  1. Nice article, despite the name itself is pretty ambiguous (it can be translated both as Spider Princess and Cloud Princess).

    Talking about the Jorogumo, she's litterally more the lolthish version of Sune (i.e. a slut with webs) so such character IMHO fits better as a concubine controlling a powerful man (like fox-demons do usually) than as a direct villain.

  2. Much as I enjoy being lavished, I can't take credit for this cool idea.

  3. Dave: I can tell from your tone that you are unconcerned that I will find another occasion for said lavishment. What I can't tell is whether you know who deserves the credit in this case.

  4. Thanks, Hamel. In this case, I just took the names as I found them. The link to the previous article gives a more complete list of names.

    Depending on how the creature(s) is stated in a given game system, they may fill different villain roles better, but concept-wise, I can see the figure of the spider-woman oni easily filling more than one roll: seductive predator, master-manipulator of an individual or an entire web or individuals, and so on. Changes in the power balance between her and her prey would determine the approach she uses. I suspect that whether she appears in an abandoned home or as the power behind an entire nation reflects more a shift in assumptions from Kaidan (weird tales) to high fantasy.

  5. Theodric, I don't know. There were many hands involved in that book. The person to ask will be James Jacobs.

  6. Thanks, Dave. I was going to update this with a comment yesterday and forgot: James Jacobs is the mad mind behind this great idea. He was my second guess. :-)