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Kuniyoshi Utagawa, Taiba (The End), 1852, the print depicts a nue descending upon the Imperial palace in a black cloud

A nue (鵺) is a legendary creature found in Japanese folklore. It is described as having the head of a monkey, the body of a tanuki, the legs of a tiger, and a snake as a tail. According to the legend, a nue can metamorphose into a black cloud and fly. Due to its appearance, it is sometimes referred to as a Japanese chimera.[1] Nue are supposed to be bringers of misfortune and illness.[2]

According to The Tale of the Heike, Emperor Konoe, the Emperor of Japan, became ill after having terrible nightmares every night, and a dark cloud appeared at two o'clock in the morning on the roof of the palace in Kyoto during the summer of 1153. The story says that the samurai Minamoto no Yorimasa staked-out the roof one night and fired an arrow into the cloud, out of which fell a dead nue. Yorimasa then supposedly sank the body in the Sea of Japan. In a local expansion of the story, the nue's corpse floated into a certain bay, and the locals, fearing a curse, buried it. A mound near the bay which exists today is supposed to be the grave created for this nue.[3]


The word, Nue, appears in the oldest of Japanese literature. Early quotes include Kojiki (712) and Wamyō Ruijushō (c. 934). Due to the use of Man'yōgana, the historical spelling is known to have been nuye. At this early time, although, it had a different semantic meaning. It referred to a bird known as White's Thrush.

In the thirteenth century, Heike Monogatari makes reference to a creature called a nue. In addition to having the head of a monkey, the body of a tanuki, the paws of a tiger, and a snake as a tail, it has the voice of a White's Thrush.

Around 1435, Zeami Motokiyo wrote a Noh song titled Nue dealing with the events described in Heike.

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Cavallaro, Dani. (2010). Magic as Metaphor in Anime: A Critical Study. McFarland. p. 88. ISBN 0-7864-4744-3. Google Books. Retrieved on April 26, 2011.
  2. ^ Rosen, Brenda. (2009). The Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings. Sterling Pub. p. 107. ISBN 1-4027-6536-3. Google Books. Retrieved on April 26, 2011.
  3. ^ Nue; The Obakemono project,, 20 August 2006, (accessed 21 January 2007)