SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.17 (2021)

A study of Bodylore in Legends Concerning Rocks
with a Focus on the Nihon Densetsu Taikei
and Nihon-no-Densetsu

SONG Dandan

Department of Japanese Studies, School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

Rock legends, beliefs of rocks, Bodylore, Animism, The rites of passage

This paper discusses Japanese legends concerning rocks that involve the human body with reference to the Nihon Densetsu Taikei published by Mizuumi Shobo and Nihon-no-Densetsu published by Kadokawa Shoten. The author explores the characteristics of rock legends that involve the human body, as well as the human beliefs behind them.

According to the previous research, there are a number of rock legends featuring the human body, and the author categorized them into four types by the characteristics of rocks: bleeding rocks, vocalizing rocks, rice-eating rocks, and growing rocks. In the first type, rocks are observed in a deserted place, and the rocks bleed when they are smashed or men achieve enlightenment. In addition, the legends state that the blood color of the rocks were varied and not only to red, but sometimes also included purple or black. The bleeding rock legend indicates that the rock is not just an epitome of a godly religion, but an animate being. With regard to the second type, the rocks can be further subcategorized into talking rock legends and weeping rocks. The former can express their feelings, such as wanting to return to where they used to be, or predict disaster through human language, animal voices, or the crying sound of ogres. Third are the rice-eating rock legends. These rocks may be interpreted as being alive and eating like creatures. Last, growing rocks can be divided into rocks that increase in size and child-bearing rocks. Some grow and give birth to pebbles.

Bleeding, vocalizing, rice-eating and growing are different attributes of human bodylore, but they all share something in common. First, rocks that bleed, talk or eat rice are active at night. The language of rocks that can vocalize is not only human language but also rock-specific languages that are similar to animal voices. In addition, in some legends rocks grow, but at a speed much slower than that of humans, taking 100 or 1,000 years. Nonetheless, it seems that they are born, grow and die like human beings.

The author regards that there are three reasons for the physicality of rocks. First, a rock is not just an epitome of a godly religion, but an animate being. Next, in the animistic world, people believed that like rocks, plants and all elements of nature have souls. Last, rocks were believed to be closely related to the process of life. Such rock characteristics may have been one of the factors that produced many diverse legends involving the body, even though they are inorganic.