Artist: Utamaro KitagawaTitle: Yamauba and KintaroPublisher: Goyo and KiyokataDate: 1916Medium: Japanese Woodblock PrintSize: 7.25 x 11.4 inches
UTAMARO KITAGAWA designed nearly fifty prints of the mountain woman Yamamba and her son Kintaro in various settings and formats. Yamauba inhabits the deep forests of the mountains of Japan. Various regions claim her as a native, including Sabana where she is supposed to have once lived in a cave at the base of Mt. Nabekura, the Tohoku Region (northern Honshu), and the Ashigara Mountains. Most stories say that she lives in a hut. Yamauba preys on travelers who have become lost in her wooded lair. Her exact tactics vary from story to story. Sometimes, she changes her appearance to that of a beautiful woman or possibly one of her victim's loved ones. Other times, she retains her hag-like form and plays the part of a helpless old woman. Once she has gained her quarry's trust, she often closes and eats them then and there.
Despite her predatory nature, Yamauba has a benevolent side. For example, she raised the orphan hero Kintaro, who became the famous warrior Sakata no Kintoki, a relationship that forms the basis for the noh drama Yama-uba. In this story, Yama-uba is portrayed as a loving mother, which has influenced some more modern tales to depict her as a matronly figure. Some even make her a representation of love. Other storytellers hold that she is simply a solitary wanderer who represents harmony with nature.
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