Exceptions: Fluid Genders

Tamamizu catches sight of the beautiful, noble lady and falls in love at first sight.
Illustration from the Otogi Zoshi from the The Tale of Tamamizu, 2001. Illustrator unknown.

In the many Animal Bride and Bridegroom fairy tales and folktales, there are some stories that go against the usual pattern of fairy tales. For example, in The Tale of Tamamizu, it is the Animal Bride who falls for the human and changes into a human form for them. As a twist, the human is a young lady from a noble family. Kitsune are usually depicted as spiIn the many Animal Bride and Bridegroom fairy tales and folktales, there are some stories that go against the standard formula. In The Tale of Tamamizu, it is the Animal Bride who falls for the human and changes into a human form for them. As a twist, the human is a young lady from a noble family. Kitsune are usually depicted as spirits with the ability to shift into both female and male forms, making their gender fluid and dependent on who they choose. “The fox turns his appearance into that of a girl and visits a devout couple,” the text reads as the story transitions to the kitsune’s life as a human girl (Kyoto University Rare Materials Digital Archives). After the kitsune takes female form, the story refers to Tamamizu as a “she,” even after she resumes an animal form and leaves both the mortal world and her love.

Voyant Reader Visualization

(Note: Please type in the search term “fox” to see the shift of pronouns attached to Tamamizu’s character.)

Voyant Links Visualization

Seen above, the search term “tama*,” which includes all forms of Tamamizu’s name, is connected to feminine terms. “Fox*,” which also references Tamamizu, is connected to the terms “form,” “appearance,” and “transformation,” signaling Tamamizu’s choice to shift into a female identity when taking the human form.

The maiden takes off one of the many dresses that she wears, asking her Lindworm husband to do the same with his own skin. At her feet is the skin that he's already shed.
Taken from Andrew Lang’s Pink Fairy Book, 1897. Illustrated by Henry Ford.

This ambiguity and fluidity of gender also appears in the Norwegian version of the fairy tale Prince Lindworm. While not as obvious as The Tale of Tamamizu, the barren queen was told by a witch that, “If you eat the red rose, a little boy will be born to you: if you eat the white rose, a little girl will be sent” (Asbjørnsen and Moe). The queen ate both, resulting in the birth of a healthy son and a monstrous Lindworm, heavily implying that it was the child who was supposed to be the daughter who turned into the creature. While the beginning of thThis ambiguity and fluidity of gender also appears in the Norwegian version of the fairy tale Prince Lindworm. While not as obvious as The Tale of Tamamizu, the barren queen was told by a witch that, “If you eat the red rose, a little boy will be born to you: if you eat the white rose, a little girl will be sent” (Asbjørnsen and Moe). The queen ate both, resulting in the birth of a healthy son and a monstrous Lindworm, implying that it was the potential daughter who became the creature. While the beginnings of these tales diverge from the usual patterns of their respective archetype, the kitsune returns to nature with a female identity while the Lindworm turns into a Prince after his curse is broken.

css.php