Guest Post: Fox Shifters in Japanese Folklore and Mythology by Cara Wylde
illustration courtesy of white nine-tailed fox is by Isis Masshiro on Deviant Art
Illustration courtesy of Isis Masshiro on

There are many reasons why being an author is one of the most awesome jobs in the world! Today, I’m going to tell you about one of my favorites: taking inspiration from the myths and legends I love, borrowing a couple of elements, and giving them new, exciting twists. And because I grew up with manga and anime, and I’ve always been fascinated by the Japanese folklore, of course I had to look into it and see what shapeshifters it had to offer. That’s how I learned about the kitsune and knew I had to write fox shifters, even though they’re not particularly popular in the genre.


Kitsune – Abilities and Classification

Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox. They are seen as intelligent beings whose abilities increase with their age and wisdom. Most myths say that they learn how to shift into men or women only after they have lived 100 years. That’s when they also start growing more tails, each additional tail showing increased wisdom and magical abilities. The more tails a kitsune has, the older, wiser, and more powerful it is. The maximum number of tails a kitsune can have is nine. Other supernatural abilities attributed to foxes are: possession, mouths or tails that generate fire or lightening, flight, invisibility.

In Japanese folklore, foxes can be classified as follows:

– Inari foxes, also called zenko foxes. These are good foxes, who protect and help humans. They are strongly connected to Inari Ōkami, which is the kami of foxes, and the Shinto deity of rice. A kami is a spirit that is worshipped in the religion of Shinto, so we can say they are similar to gods.

– Yako foxes, which are usually mischievous and malicious. They are known as tricksters.

– Ninko foxes, which are invisible fox spirits. Humans can only perceive Ninkos when they are possessed by them.

– Kyūbi no kitsune, which is a nine-tailed fox. When a kitsune gains nine tails, it turns white or gold, and it can see and hear anything happening anywhere in the world. They are the most powerful foxes.


Kitsune as Beautiful, Dangerous Women

In Japanese folk tales, foxes are usually known for shifting into beautiful women. A common belief in medieval Japan was that any woman encountered alone, especially at dusk or night, could be a fox.

Kitsune are often portrayed as lovers, especially in tales involving a young human man and a fox who takes the form of a human woman to be with him. Usually, the unknowing man marries a fox, who proves to be a good wife and mother. When he discovers the truth, the fox is forced to leave him and their children. As a paranormal romance author, I say there’s enough conflict and drama here to write a solid book.

One way of exposing a kitsune in human form is through their natural fear of dogs. They are so afraid of dogs, and the dogs actually feel them, that the kitsune might even shift back into fox form and flee.


Shannon Valentine on DeviantArt
Illustration courtesy of Shannon Valentine on

Kitsune as Tricksters

Kitsune are often presented as tricksters, with motives that vary from mischief to malevolence. Stories tell kitsune may play tricks on overly proud samurai, greedy merchants, and boastful commoners. They usually confuse their targets with illusions and visions. They may steal food, seduce, or humiliate people who deserve it.

So, apparently, they’re not evil just for the sake of being evil, but if they are provoked, wronged, or they believe certain humans need to learn a lesson.


The Hidden Alpha, or how to adapt a myth to the world of paranormal romance

When I started writing Sold to the Alpha, the first book in my 4-book series about shifter brides, I wanted to introduce five shapeshifter factions. The wolves, bears, and dragons were a no-brainer, then I went with eagles because I wanted a second faction of shifters that had the ability to fly. I added the foxes because I knew I’d find more than enough inspiration in Japanese folklore.

The Hidden Alpha is the next book after Sold to the Alpha, and while writing it I realized I couldn’t use the same terminology I used for the wolves when it came to rankings. This is where the classification of the kitsune saved me. The Alpha became an Inari, the Beta was an Yako (minus the mischievous inclinations), and the Delta became a Ninko.

My fox shifters can grow more tails if they study their ancient texts hard, but a nine-tailed fox can only be born. I kept the name Kyubi for the nine-tailed foxes, and I gave my characters something to figure out: the secret of giving birth to a nine-tailed fox. In the universe of The Hidden Alpha, fox shifters have kind of lost their magical abilities and they’re struggling to get them back.

I could talk about The Hidden Alpha forever, but I don’t want to bore you, nor spoil the world-building for you in case you want to read it. I’m going to say one more thing, though: I took the trickster foxes who like playing tricks on humans who deserve it, and turned them into an assassins’ guild. But, don’t worry, my characters know exactly how to deal with them!

Shifter brides series


About The Author

Cara Wylde loves to write about strong, feisty women and their hot Alphas who will do anything to make them happy. Her books are filled with romance and just a dash of mystery, suspense, and that eerie atmosphere she fell in love with reading too many gothic novels. With a master’s degree in Comparative Literature, she can’t help but play with tropes and themes from various genres, trying to come up with fresh perspectives on the paranormal characters her readers love so much. Vampires, shape-shifters, demons, witches… Cara will always make sure they get their own twists.

When she’s not writing, Cara is reading, planning her next story, or daydreaming. Her idea of pure heaven is a day filled with nothing but her laptop, a huge coffee pot, relaxing music, and a new, exciting project.

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