Yesterday I talked about the anime Mononogatari. The subject of this anime is the complicated relationship between humans and Tsukumogami. These latter are spirits that live in the tools we treasure a lot. In this anime, these tools come to life and a lot of them turn out to be pretty good at violence. It’s up to the characters in the show to figure out a path to coexistence or deal with the ones that are problematic.
The spirits in this show are based on Japanese Folklore. Tsukumo (meaning tool) kami (meaning god) are a type of spirit that – as the name implies – live in objects. There are different meanings ascribed to the word. Some say that it pertains to foxes that have lived a very long time, thus becoming spirits. Others say it’s a tool that’s been treasured and others say it’s a tool that’s been around for over a hundred years. Either way, the interpretations seem to all agree that it’s something that’s been around or treasured for a long time. The way I’ve understood it also lines up with that, although reading about the foxes was definitely new information to me.
The word Tsukumogami apparently first appeared in a Waka poem in the 9th century. Here it referred to the white hair of an old woman (Kami can also mean hair). I suppose it had a different meaning when it started, which is not uncommon for words. Especially not if you have a language like Japanese, where it seems like kanji make up words in all sorts of ways. I’m already struggling with Hiragana, so please don’t make me try to understand how Kanji work. Maybe one day.
Now, I’m already implementing Tsukumogami in my story for The Necromancer’s Daughter. I planted the seed for this plotline in the very first few chapters and hope to pay this off far in the future. One can only dream to ever get that far in a story. I’m the kind of person that’ll have a million plans for a story and then trip over the starting line again and again. I’m pretty bad at doing anything significantly, but we’re learning.
I think the coolest way it can be done in a story though, when borrowing from the original concept, is something like Mononogatari did. Have the objects actually become humanoid in a sense and navigate the complicated way you would have to deal with these strange spirits. If you were to move this into a fantasy setting, like the kind of stories I’m writing, you could also approach it very differently. You can make these spirits a more known thing and have them improve upon the tools they possess. To give an example for this, an elven hunter that’s been using the same bow for an entire century or a dwarven blacksmith that’s been using the same anvil his entire life. Both of those tools could house a spirit if they so inclined. I like to see the tools as a snail’s shell. I don’t know anything about snails, but I assume they pick a nice shell? I hope I’m right, but if not then I at least you get what I’m saying. A tool that’s been taken care of for many decades – if not centuries – is probably much more appealing for a spirit to move into than a brand new tool that’s not been cared for. Which is different to how houses work for humans but we’re pretty weird folk.
I’m getting a little bit off track. I don’t even know how interesting this post really is since I’m mainly just rambling about my own ideas. But putting your thoughts on paper is a way for me to figure out what makes sense and what doesn’t. (I know right, a writer that likes writing, what a weirdo). What I think I’m learning from this – and this is not new – is that a lot of good ideas already exist. This might be obvious, but there’s been a lot of people and some of them tend to have good ideas from time to time. Why strain my poor underperforming brain trying to come up with the next super original plot when I can take things from the real world and adjust them for a different setting. We like things we know, after all, and I think having something real in a fantastical story can make it more grounded. Yes, I just implied these Tsukumogami are real and actually exist. I’m pretty sure there’s one in my keyboard because sometimes I write on my own and other times I feel like I’m possessed by some sort of spirit and I end up writing much more than I planned on. All I’m hoping is that this Tsukumogami isn’t going to ask me for a part of the sales once I start selling books. What would a keyboard even spend money on? New RGB lights? A better wrist rest? Perhaps it just wants to go on vacation. Either way, it probably deserves a share, seeing how much use it sees. I was thinking the other day that it’s kind of crazy that my keyboard is already showing some wear and some of the keys will give a double input. Then I looked back at how many words I wrote and it started to take a bit more sense. I’m sorry buddy, I’ll take better care of you I promise.
Thanks for reading.