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The Kappa and the Mulliwonk

It is interesting how different cultures in different parts of the world share similar folklore. One such example is highlighted in my latest reading of two poems for the online kaidan series, Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai: 100 days, 100 supernatural stories.

Mark Meyer’s Under a Pale Moon is a haibun (俳文), a form of Japanese poetry combining a prose poem with haiku, about the Japanese kappa. These days, the kappa is often presented as an amusing or kawaii (cute) cucumber-loving character, but it is in reality a much darker character. Traditionally, kappa were creatures to be feared. They drowned people and animals, kidnapped children, raped women and ate human flesh.

Tim Law’s The Mulliwonk is a poem based on a folktale of the Ngarrindjeri, an Aboriginal people from the region of the Murray River in the present-day state of South Australia whose culture can be traced back to at least 8,000 B.C. Like the Japanese kappa, the mulliwonk is the stuff of nightmares – a selfish man who was turned into an aquatic monster which feeds on human flesh.

You can hear my readings of these two poems here.

You can also read the poems here.


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