“Holo Strokes Her Beloved Tail”

This popular anime adapted a light novel series by Isuma Hasekura. It begins with an extended quote from Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough (in Japanese translation) and shows the traveling merchant Kraft Lawrence visiting a small town that is celebrating a fertility rite in honor of Holo, the goddess of the wheat harvest. In fact, he learns, the village no longer believes in this myth, but has adopted more modern methods of agriculture. But during his visit he learns that the goddess Holo, who has the ears and tail of a wolf, in fact exists, and has accepted her fate as a now-obsolete superstition. So she asks the merchant to give her a lift so she can begin her trip back to the land of the gods.

The two soon develop affection for each other, and while Lawrence respects and fears the goddess’s magical powers, Holo on her side learns to admire the merchant’s cleverness and the logic of the capitalist system that is replacing the agrarian subsistence lifestyle that she reigned over. And while she understands that she needs to masquerade as a human, keeping her wolfish identity secret, when the two are alone she enjoys stroking the long silky wolf tail that holds her identity. (One notes its similarity to the long hair of the sheafs of grain that are the center of the village’s now playful festival.)

Here she is disagreeing politely with the practical philosophy of the merchant, who has repeated the proverb “Time is money,” adding, “I expect the villagers who worshiped you kept close track of time.” They never thought in terms of “time,” Holo counters, but simply sensed the natural cycles of the day and the seasons. They see buds breaking, watch crops growing, give thanks for harvest, and then wait for spring again. “They had no need for ‘time,’” she concludes, “and neither do I.”

For more on the Japanese folklore and popular culture of animal/human romances (particularly involving wolves), see Murai’s From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl, Wayne State, 2015).

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