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A tengu (天狗, literally "heaven dog") is a form of youkai common in Japanese mythology. In general, tengu are analogous to the Western idea of goblins.

Two main subspecies of tengu exist. The crow tengu (烏天狗 karasu-tengu), are similar to anthropomorphic crows with a humanoid body structure, whilst the yamabushi tengu (山伏天狗) resemble yamabushi monks with red skin and very long noses.

Tengu are said to be mischievous and sometimes malicious, with a propensity for playing pranks on humans, but stories also exist of them acting as mentors. Although they disdain the proud and arrogant, they are often guilty of those same flaws. They are also associated with the arts of war and politics.

Objects often associated with the tengu include the shakujo, a ring-tipped staff used for magic or physical combat; the tokin, a strangely-shaped hat which can also be used as a divining cup; and the hauchiwa fan, which can be made from the leaves of the Japanese Aralia or from feathers, and is said to have the power to create gale-force winds. Tengu are also commonly depicted wearing tengu geta, a type of geta sandals with one tall slat rather than two shorter ones, making it extremely difficult for a human wearer to keep their balance. The majority of these items are derived from traditional yamabushi garb.

Tengu in Touhou

The tengu of Gensokyo are known for their love of gossip and writing newspapers. Tengu reside in Youkai Mountain and seem territorial of humans and other youkai trespassing within their home. According to Aya Shameimaru, they are great drinkers, only rivaled by Oni. The tengu once had a written language of their own, but no one remains who can read it.

Types of Tengu

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Akyuu in Perfect Memento in Strict Sense describes the classifications of the tengu as follows:

Tenma, Boss of the Tengu

Tenma (Tengu no BOSU) (天魔(天狗のボス), Tenma (Boss of the Tengu)) is said to have made a deal with the Mountain God (presumably Kanako).

Great Tengu

Great Tengu (大天狗 dai tengu) are the "management types", and correspond to middle-ranked bosses. They can give orders to regular tengu, and their command in this regard is absolute. They might even give orders to other youkai living on the mountain, but in this case, there is no guarantee that said youkai will obey them. Megumu Iizunamaru's character title in Unconnected Marketeers, "Chief of the Crow Tengu", might imply that different kinds of Tengu are subject to a different chief that commands them.[1]
Hatate's spell card comments about Yuugi and Suika in Double Spoiler states she suspects that they are either trying to hide something or are trying to prevent the tengu from getting too close with the Oni. She also believes that they're simply trying to use Suwako and Kanako for their own ends (and they the same regarding the tengu), and wishes everyone would just lighten up.

Crow Tengu

Crow tengu as seen in Curiosities of Lotus Asia

Crow Tengu (烏天狗 karasu-tengu), the "nimble information corps", are similar to anthropomorphic crows with a humanoid body structure. Since they're responsible for writing and distributing newspapers, they're the only type of tengu that ventures to the foothills.[2]

Long-nose Tengu

Long-nose Tengu (鼻高天狗 hanataka tengu, "high nose tengu") "specialize in business work" and are rarely seen by outsiders. While map-making is one of their duties, nowadays their "Gottsui Positioning System" (GPS) lets them do so without going outside.[2]

White Wolf Tengu

White Wolf Tengu at Youkai Mountain

White Wolf Tengu (白狼天狗 hakurou tengu) are the "mountain's defense force", responsible for keeping out intruders. They're known as avid players of shogi, particularly various forms of their own "Great Tengu Shogi"; with dozens of extra pieces and rules, a single game of which can last for days.[3] The white wolf tengu are likely based on either the Chinese tiangou (whom tengu derive their name from), or a type of doglike tengu known as a guhin (狗賓).

Yamabushi Tengu

Yamabushi Tengu (山伏天狗, "Shugendo monk tengu"; literally "mountain-dwelling tengu") are "the printers."

Characters under this Bestiary

Books and articles

See Also

  • Wikipedia entry for Tengu