Kids' Animal Station

For kids who love animals by a kid who loves animals

Anatomy of A Monster: The Baku

This week’s mythological monster was a favorite of mine as a child because of the Baku-inspired Pokemon from the Nintendo series. Emerging from both Chinese and Japanese legends, the Baku is an often benevolent dream eater who devours the nightmares torturing hapless sleepers. Evil spirits are thought to flee at the sight of the Baku, a champion of health and good luck. In particular, the Baku is thought to help ensure that one’s first dream of the New Year (called Hatsu Yume in Japanese) foretells good fortune and charity in the dreamer’s next 365 days. Alongside the lion and the dragon, the Baku is a popular decorative element of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Pictures of the Baku were once hung up in Japanese households, prayers written on family members’ pillows, and even the more modern use of the Baku Makura (Baku Pillow), a pillow manufactured in the shape of the hybrid creature. The Baku still often appears today in Japanese popular culture, whether it be manga, comic books and cartoons.

A Real Life Baku?!

According to traditional Japanese myth, the trunk and tusks of the Baku are elephant-like, with the eyes of a rhinoceros, the tail of a cow, and the paws of a tiger. It’s quite refreshing to see a benevolent legendary creature with an incredible amount of power that doesn’t go towards tearing up innocent people. In the Sankai Ibutsu (Mythical Creatures of the Mountains and Seas), it is a mountain dwelling creature with a yellow and black body, apparently eating only copper and iron. Many scholars of Japanese legendary beasts have pointed out the Baku’s striking resemblance to the tapir, a black-and-white, short-snouted pachyderm native to South America and a rainforest-dwelling herbivore.


This entry was posted on March 25, 2023 by in Animal Facts, Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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