Kumiho - The Korean Nine-Tailed Fox - Sage Symbol (2023)

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Jordan Scheljaskow

Kumiho - The Korean Nine-Tailed Fox - Sage Symbol (2)

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table of contents

  • What are kumiho spirits?
  • What powers does Kumiho have?
  • Kumiho symbols and symbolism
  • Importance of kumiho in modern culture
  • Finally

Kumiho spirits in Korean mythology are fascinating and incredibly dangerous. They are also often confused withJapanese kitsune foxes with nine tailsand the chineseHuli Jing nine-tailed foxes🇧🇷 All three are quite different, and the Kumiho are unique to their cousins ​​in many ways.

So what makes these furry, shape-shifting seductresses so special?

What are kumiho spirits?

Kumiho - The Korean Nine-Tailed Fox - Sage Symbol (3)

kumiho oGumihoThe spirits in Korean mythology are magical nine-tailed foxes that can take the form of beautiful young women. In this form, these shapeshifters can talk and act like humans, but retain some of their fox characteristics, such as paws on their feet or fox ears on their heads. More importantly, their behavior, character, and malicious intent remain the same no matter what form they take.

Unlike their Chinese and Japanese counterparts, kumiho are almost always downright evil. Hypothetically, a kumiho can be morally neutral or even good, but that never seems to be the case, at least according to Korean myths that have survived to this day.

Ghosts, demons or real foxes?

Kumiho in Korean mythology is a type of spirit, albeit an evil one. While Japanese kitsune are often depicted as real foxes who grow longer tails and gain magical abilities as they age, kumiho are nine-tailed spirits through and through: there is no starting moment in the kumiho's life when they have fewer tails or are less inferior. . forces.

However, that's not to say that kumiho don't age or that they can't change over time. According to Korean mythology, if a kumiho doesn't eat human flesh for a thousand years, he can become a human. Still, this doesn't seem to happen often, as most kumiho spirits just can't go that long without seeking out human flesh.

Does the kumiho always attack those it has seduced?

The usual victim of kumiho is actually a young man whom she has seduced and lured into marriage. However, this is not always the case.

for example inEmperor Kumiho's daughter-in-lawA kumiho marries the emperor's son. However, instead of feasting on its flesh and energy, the kumiho took aim at unexpected people in the emperor's court.

Essentially, the kumiho used her marriage to the Emperor's son to gain access to not one, but several gullible men. As more and more people disappeared, the emperor tasked the hero of the story with finding and killing Kumiho, which is exactly what happened.

This video is about a myth related to a kumiho.

Are kumiho always bad?

There are some myths that portray kumiho as not just malevolent. for example there is thefamousGyuwon SahwaText🇧🇷 It was made at the beginning of the 20th century.aCentury, but is believed to be based on earlier texts from 1675.

It describes many aspects of Korean history and also mentions some myths. In some of them, the kumiho are actually depicted as benevolent forest spirits with books in their mouths. Still, Gyuwon Sahwa is more the exception to the rule than anything else.

Are Kumiho and Kitsune the same?

Really no. They might look the same at first glance, but the Korean and Japanese nine-tailed fox spirits have several key differences.

  • Kumiho are almost always evil, while kitsune are morally more ambiguous: they can be both good and evil, or neutral.
  • Kitsune's tails are said to be slightly shorter and the claws on their hands longer than those of the kumiho.
  • Ears can also be different: kitsune always have fox ears on top of their heads, even when in human form. They never have human ears. Kumiho, on the other hand, always has human ears and may or may not have fox ears.
  • Kumiho also tend to have fox paws instead of feet, while kitsune have an odd mix of fox and human feet. In general, kitsune have a wilder appearance than kumiho.
  • Kumiho spirits also often contributeyeowoo guseulMarble or pearls on the palate. This pearl is exactly what gives them their magical powers and their intelligence. Some kitsune stories also show them with such an item, but not as often as kumiho spirits.

Some believe that the Korean myth kumiho originated after the kitsune myth.Japanese invasion of Korea in the late 16th century.acentury, known aswars imjin🇧🇷 This would explain why Koreans consider kumiho spirits to be strictly evil.

but on the 16thaIn the early 20th century, the invasion only lasted 6 years, so it is more likely that the myth was passed down gradually and even before the war with the many interactions between the two countries over the years. Alternatively, it could come from Chinese influence and their mythical nine-tailed creature, Huli Jing.

Are Kumiho and Huli Jing the same?

Just like kitsune, there are some differences between Korean kumiho and Chinese huli jing.

  • A huli jing is more morally ambiguous, like a kitsune, while a kumiho is almost always evil.
  • A Huli Jing is also often depicted with human feet, while Kumihos have fox paws instead of feet.
  • Huli Jing's tails tend to be shorter than Kumiho's, but not as strong as Kitsune's.
  • Huli jing is also described as having thicker, denser fur, while kumiho and kitsune have fur that is soft and comfortable to the touch.
  • Huli jing also often has fox paws instead of hands, while kumiho has human hands. Essentially, the features of his hands and feet are reversed in most depictions.

Does Kumiho always turn into young women?

The traditional humanoid form of kumiho is that of a girl. That's because that's how they can be most effective: they make it as easy as possible to seduce their victims.

However, a kumiho can also take on other forms. for example inThe hunter and the kumihoMyth, a hunter finds a fox with nine tails that gnaws a human skull. Before he could attack the fox, the animal changed into an old woman, the same old woman whose skull he had been eating, and fled. The hunter chased after him only to catch up with him in the nearby town.

There, the Kumiho went to her victim's house and posed as an old woman in front of her children. The hunter then warned the children that this was not their mother and chased the kumiho away.

Can a kumiho be a man?

It is not explicitly stated that a kumiho cannot be a male, but it doesn't seem to happen often. The only myth we know of where a kumiho turned into a man is locatedThe Girl Who Discovered a Kumiho Through a Chinese Poem.

There, a kumiho transforms into a young man and tricks a girl into marrying him. However, we did not find any other similar stories; everywhere, the genders of the kumiho and its prey are reversed.

What powers does Kumiho have?

The most famous ability of this nine-tailed fox is the ability to transform into a beautiful young woman. In this form, the kumiho tend to seduce and trick men into doing their bidding or trying to kill them.

Kumiho loves to eat human flesh, especially human hearts and livers. It is said that Kumiho spirits even roam cemeteries to unearth fresh corpses when they fail to seduce and kill a living person.

Kumiho can also use magic skill.yeowoo guseulMarble in the mouth to absorb people's vital energy through a kind of "deep kiss".

However, if one is able to catch and swallow the kumihosyeowoo guseulMarble during this kiss, not only will the person not die, but he will gain incredible knowledge about "heaven, earth and people."

Kumiho symbols and symbolism

Kumiho spirits represent both the dangers that lurk in nature and people's fear of pretty girls who maliciously seduce them. The latter might seem a little silly in today's terms, but most ancient cultures have myths about the "evil" of beautiful women that can break up families or cause problems for young men.

Essentially, the Kumiho myth combines people's distrust of beautiful young women and their anger at the wild foxes that constantly raid their chicken coops and properties.

If the kumiho myth really came to Korea from Japan, it might explain why kumiho are always evil. In Japanese mythology, nine-tailed kitsune are often morally neutral or even benevolent.

As Koreans probably harbored great disdain for the Japanese at certain points in history, they may have twisted this Japanese myth into an evil version of it.

Importance of kumiho in modern culture

Nine-tailed foxes can be found throughout modern pop culture. Oriental manga and anime are full of these characters, as are many video games and television series. The West is also increasingly using this unique mythical creature as inspiration for various fictional characters.

However, due to the similarities between Kumiho, Kitsune, and Huli Jing, it is often difficult to determine which mythological creature a given character is based on.

Take Ahri, for example - a famous charactervideogame MOBALeague of Legends🇧🇷 She is a beautiful, magical seductress with fox ears and nine long fox tails. However, she does not appear to have fox paws on her feet or hands. Furthermore, he is often portrayed as a positive or morally ambiguous figure. This suggests that she is based on kitsune myths rather than kumiho myths. At the same time, many people in Korea insist that it is based on the kumiho spirit. So is it fair to say she's based on both?

Still, there are many other examples of characters based on Kumiho, Kitsune or Huli Jing. One of the best known is the 1994 horror film.The Nine Tails Fox, a 2020 episode of the HBO television seriesterra do lovecraft, the 2010 SBS dramamy girlfriend is a gumiho, and many others.


The nine-tailed fox spirits of Korean kumiho are as intriguing as they are complex and perplexing. They are very similar to the Japanese Kitsune and Chinese Huli Jing spirits, so much so that it is not 100% clear which myth came first.

Regardless, the kumiho are unique from their Asian counterparts in their unparalleled cruelty and seemingly never-ending hunger for human flesh. Their most famous trick is to transform themselves into beautiful women and lure innocent men to their deaths, but these magical foxes can do much more than that.


What does a nine-tailed fox symbolize? ›

Known shape shifters, foxes usually take the form of young girls, old men, but most often, that of stunningly beautiful, beguiling women. As the number of tails indicates the level of wisdom and magical prowess, the nine-tailed fox is considered especially powerful.

What does a fox symbolize in Korea? ›

In Korea, the fox is a master swindler capable of seducing and then stealing women. The Japanese, though, saw the fox as a symbol of longevity and a spirit of the rain, as well as the messenger of Inari, a god of rice.

What is the kumiho spirit? ›

The Kumiho (구미호), or Gumiho*, is a nine-tailed fox spirit. In Korean tradition foxes that have lived for a thousand years, accumulating a great deal of energy, turn into Kumiho. The Kumiho is similar to other fox creatures, such as the Japanese kitsune and Chinese huli jing.

What does a kumiho do? ›

It can freely transform, among other things, into a beautiful woman often set out to seduce boys, and eat their liver or heart (depending on the legend). There are numerous tales in which the kumiho appears, several of which can be found in the encyclopedic Compendium of Korean Oral Literature (한국 구비문학 대계/韓國口碑文學).

Is the 9 tailed fox a demon? ›

The Nine-Tails is a giant, malevolent demon fox of mass destruction. It is also intelligent, and has a sadistic and sarcastic personality.

What are the powers of a nine-tailed fox? ›

These kyūbi no kitsune (九尾の狐, 'nine-tailed foxes') gain the abilities to see and hear anything happening anywhere in the world. Other tales credit them with infinite wisdom (omniscience).

What animal is sacred in Korea? ›

The Korean peninsula was once home to a large population of majestic tigers. They freely roamed the mountains and were both feared and respected, as a dangerous wild animal but also as a guardian creature. Unfortunately, the Korean tigers are now extinct, but the tiger is still seen as the national animal of Korea.

Who is the God of Korea? ›

Mireuk: He is the major creator god among the Korean gods. Through him, the world was created, but when angered, he also caused much of the world's suffering. Seokga: A trickster god who is involved in the Korean creation myth.

What are the 13 types of kitsune? ›

There are said to be 13 different types of mythical kitsune, each corresponding to an “element”: Celestial, Darkness, Wind, Spirit, Fire, Earth, River, Ocean, Mountain, Forest, Thunder, Time and Sound.

Is kumiho a female? ›

The kumiho is typically pictured as taking a female form when transforming into a human being (as indicated in the encyclopedia entries), but the kumiho in The Maiden who Discovered a Kumiho through a Chinese Poem turns into a young man who attempts to trick the maiden into marrying him.

Are kumiho and kitsune the same? ›

The kumiho is the entity that has the largest [and stronger] tails of all three. compared with her cousins the kitsune and the Huli jīng. the great length of 6′ 6.75 “ in length [or 2 meters] stands out easily.

What does a kumiho look like? ›

“A fox with nine tails that commonly appears in the oral tales of our country. It can freely transform into, among other things, a bewitching girl that seduces men. A fox that lives a thousand years is said to turn into a kumiho.

What do you call a demon fox? ›

In the Japanese language, kitsune can mean both a regular Japanese fox, a divine fox, or a demon fox. They can be found all over Japan, and the history of the Japanese kitsune goes back to the beginning of Japan itself. Actually, there are 13 different types of kitsune.

How do you become a gumiho? ›

In other stories, a gumiho is supposed to eat the livers of 1,000 men within the period of 1,000 years to become human. Contrastingly, yet another version would say that a gumiho can become a human being if it can last 1,000 years without eating or killing anything, while also concealing its true identity to people.

Is a kumiho a yokai? ›

Backstory. The three yokai were born from the amalgamation of evil and grew stronger with wickedness and fear of living beings. One of them was the Golden Gumiho.

Is nine-tailed fox for good luck? ›

also symbolize good fortune, luck and opportunity , attract wealth. People believed that this fox is the symbol of the fox deity that can promote good love relationships and protect against the bad ones.

What are the 12 types of kitsune? ›

There are thirteen types of Kitsune in Japanese mythology.
  • Tengoku (Heaven, Celestial, Light, Prime)
  • Kukan (Void or Dark)
  • Kaze (Wind)
  • Seishin (Spirit)
  • Kasai (Fire)
  • Chikyu (Earth)
  • Kawa (River)
  • Umi (Ocean, Sea)

What is the weakest kitsune? ›

The lowest rank is the Kiko, being the weakest Kitsune. These include Kitsune descended of weak families, or once-mundane foxes who have lived long enough in magically-rich enough areas to have just achieved full awareness and some magical capability.

What weapons do kitsune use? ›

A Kitsune's primary weapon is their claws; they can extend claws from their fingertips upon demand. And, if they are feeding or attacking, their eyeballs turn yellow and foxlike while the pupils narrow. All in all they take on a very similar appearance a werewolf does.

Who is the most powerful nine-tailed fox? ›

Of all the nine Tailed Beasts, Kurama was by far the strongest. During the Fourth Great Ninja War, just half of Kurama's power was enough to overpower five Tailed Beasts at once, which just goes to show how strong it truly was.

What god do Korean worship? ›

The God of the Korean people, whom we call “Hananim” (the Supreme One), is fundamentally different from the god of the Jewish people, whom they call Jehovah.

What is the Korean symbol for love? ›

Finger Heart

It means LOVE. The Finger heart is one of the most popular hand gestures used by Koreans. It is made by putting your thumb and index finger together to form a heart shape. This gesture is used to show love or appreciation for someone.

What is a symbol of luck in Korea? ›

Bat designs has commonly been used as a decorative pattern on various places to symbolize fortune/luck, as fortune (福 fu) and bat (蝠 fu) are pronounced the same.

Do they believe in Jesus in Korea? ›

The practice of Christianity in Korea is marginal in North Korea, but significant in South Korea, where it revolves around two of its largest branches, Protestantism and Catholicism, accounting for 8.6 million and 5.8 million members, respectively.

What is the Bible called in Korean? ›

개역한글 (KRV)

What is a grim reaper in Korean? ›

In Korea the Grim Reaper is known as Joseung Saja 저승 사자 which has many meanings as Lion or Hearld or Messenger but simply means Reaper. The difference with this Grim Reaper is in appearance and his role.

What Zodiac is a kitsune? ›

astrology fairies

astrologicalaestheticss: “ The Signs As Mythical Creatures: Sagittarius - Kitsune ““Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox.

How do you attract kitsune? ›

How to Attract a Kitsune? Well, one way to attract a kitsune is by leaving some fried tofu on your doorstep. But if you want to be sure to find a kitsune, you might try going to a shrine. Inari shrines in Japan are especially popular places for fox-viewing.

Can a kitsune be evil? ›

Kitsune are often portrayed as wild, occasionally wicked foxes, who delight in mischief, pranks, or evil. They are often seen as tricksters or sometimes even powerful sorcerers who use their abilities for evil.

Who is the nine-tailed fox god? ›

In Han iconography, the nine-tailed fox is sometimes depicted at Mount Kunlun and along with Xi Wangmu in her role as the goddess of immortality.

What does a fox tattoo symbolize? ›

Foxes are known for being quick and swift, meaning that fox tattoos represent one's ability to make good decisions on the spot. Foxes are also known for their cunning nature, craftiness, and wit. A fox tattoo means that you are intelligent and are a master of deception.

Who can wear nine-tailed fox? ›

Nine-Tailed Fox Meaning in Feng Shui

If you are single and looking for love, wearing a nine-tailed fox pendant can help you attract your soulmate. You may also place a figurine of the nine-tailed fox in the relationship area of your home to bring more love into your life.

What color is the nine-tailed fox chakra? ›

The Nine-Tails Chakra Mode and its related forms coat the user's body in yellow chakra, which emanates from them reminiscent of flickering flames; in the anime, Minato Namikaze's is also surrounded by a slight dark aura.

What is the nine tailed fox real name? ›

The Nine-Tailed Demon Fox (Kyūbi no Yōko), or Kurama (The name given by the Sage of Six Paths), simply referred to as the Kyuubi in the Japanese anime and fans of the series, is the ninth and most powerful of all the tailed beasts (bijū), which are large manifestations of unlimited chakra.

Who is the strongest nine tail? ›

Of all the nine Tailed Beasts, Kurama was by far the strongest. During the Fourth Great Ninja War, just half of Kurama's power was enough to overpower five Tailed Beasts at once, which just goes to show how strong it truly was. Kurama also believed that it was the strongest Tailed Beasts due to having the most tails.

Who defeated the nine tailed fox? ›

Miuranosuke and Kazusanosuke Defeat the Nine-tailed Fox on Nasu Moor, 1858.

What does a fox mean in mythology? ›

In Celtic mythology, the fox is wise and cunning. A trickster who knows the forest better than anyone else, the fox symbolizes the need to think fast and strategically. Highly adaptable creatures, they also symbolize the need to adjust to new situations.

What is the meaning of kitsune tattoo? ›

The word “kitsune” in Japanese tattoo culture means fox, and the animal itself is an integral part of the culture and mythology of Japan. Represented as intelligent and wise beings with a penchant for shapeshifting, the kitsune retains the Native American folklore of being a trickster or illusionist.

Are foxes a symbol of good luck? ›

Seeing a single fox is regarded by some as good luck, while seeing a family of foxes (the actual number varies, but generally more than six animals) brings bad luck.


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