The waves of the sea rise and fall, spraying jetsam over the deck of a fisherman’s boat. Clouds gather in ominous deliberation as air pressure drops and the teal hue of the waves turn deep indigo. A storm is coming.
The fisherman reels in his nets and turns to the shore, a small, rocky area he can wait out the weather. The sea growls beneath the hull. The keel grates through stones as he makes land. Wind howls all around him. He ties the boat to a wedged piece of driftwood.
The fisherman surveys the area, looking for refuge from rain that has just started. The drops fall like pellets of ice, sharp and biting. A rock outcropping appears not too far off. It’ll do.
He wrings his pants and robe of water in the mouth of the cave. He starts a fire. The rain comes down in torrents now, the wind whipping the spray like magnificent curtains across the whole of the shore. And then, a figure. A woman in a white robe, struggling against the surf.
The fisherman stands, running out into the wet, rushing to the tideline to catch the woman. She holds in her hand a baby that screams in terror.
“Please! Help us!”
“I’m coming,” he assures, and wades waist-deep into the violent sea, reaching for the bundle she extends towards him.
“Please, my baby… save him.”
The fisherman darts close before the next wave can fall, grabbing the baby close to his chest. And then the wave falls, and falls, and there is nothing but wave. No, that’s not right. The wave has gone, and he is toppled, and the bundle in his arms is as heavy as a boulder. He can not move. I can not breathe. He opens his eyes in the stinging salt and looks for surface, looks for the mother. The woman is there. She is beneath the water with him, looking at him with dead, reptilian eyes, her lips slowly parting in a ear-to-ear grin. A forked tongue lolls out of her toothless mouth––and behind her, an endless, scaled tail, consuming the depths of all that he can see.
Nure Onna! Snake Woman.
She dives forward, and from the cut she inflicts, sucks down the fisherman’s blood, leaving not a drop behind, devouring him live, as the sea fills his lungs and darkness covers his eyes. And then she is gone with her bundle, like so many waves against the shore.
Nure Onna, while translated as Snake Woman, is more appropriately titled Wet Woman, and hails from the island of Kyushu in Japan. The name comes from the yokai’s appearance: a woman with sopping wet hair that sticks to her body. She is otherwise characterized by her long snake tail, which by some accounts can be several meters long. In her arms, she carries a small bundle that is often mistaken by her victims to be a baby, but is in fact nothing more than a magical lure. The lure grows heavy once taken from the Snake Woman’s arms, and prevents her victim from fleeing, much like a portable spiderweb. From there, the Nure Onna can feed on her prey alive, though nothing interests her besides the blood. The rest will be discarded without care.
While accounts of her appearance and method do change (in some accounts, she works closely with Ushi Oni, a bull-spider demon), one thing for sure can be said about Nure Onna: with the intellect of a human and the killer instinct of a snake, coming across her lair is sure to be a deadly encounter!
Other posts in this series of Japanese Monsters:
• “Rokurokubi: The Rubber-Necked Woman” for #MonsterMondays
• “Izanami-no-Mikoto: She Who Invites” for #MonsterMondays
• “Kuchisake Onna: Slit-Mouthed-Woman” for #MonsterMondays
• “Futakuchi Onna: Two-Mouthed Woman” for #MonsterMondays
• “Kitsune Onna: The Fox Woman” for #MonsterMondays