Japanese Mythology and Folklore – Baku

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Originally from China, this fantastic creature is said to be composed of the parts of different animals. The most common description being the body of a bear, an elephant’s trunk, the eyes of a rhinoceros, the tail of a cow, strong legs like those of a tiger, and a spotted skin.

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He baku is famous for its ability to devour animals, and can be invoked by man while he is having a nightmare. The creature then consumes the vision and the bad luck that the dream contains. In other words, it is a dream eater. It also serves to drive away the spirits of diseases and pests.

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The image of this mythological being is usually kept at the bedside as a talisman against nightmares and evil spirits, and supposedly if a bed with fur baku, it will keep the disease away from the person. During the Edo period pillows with the inscription baku or an illustration of this creature, and they were well sold.

It is said that when a dream is bad, this creature can be invoked from the dream, saying “Baku, devour this dream!”. Other stories describe the baku like a troublesome creature that devours all dreams without distinguishing good and bad, leaving people unable to sleep.

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Finally and as an additional note, the kanji for baku is 獏, which is also used to name the tapir.