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 (大天狗 dai tengu) are the "management types". 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 (烏天狗 karasu-tengu), the "nimble information corps", are similar to anthropomorphic crows with a humanoid body structure.
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" lets them do so without going outside.
White Wolf Tengu
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 Great Tengu Shogi can last for days. The white wolf tengu are likely based on either the Chinese tiangou (from whom tengu derive their name), or a type of doglike tengu known as a guhin (狗賓).
Yamabushi Tengu (山伏天狗, "Shugendo monk tengu"; literally "mountain-dwelling tengu") are "the printers."
Characters under this Bestiary
- Aya Shameimaru, crow tengu.
- Momiji Inubashiri, white wolf tengu.
- Hatate Himekaidou, crow tengu.
- Tenma, boss of the tengu.
Books and articles
- Wikipedia entry for Tengu