all artwork and story © by matthew aaron ficken 2012
In the small village Izumo near Mount Fuji, there is a legend about Amaterasu, her brother Susano-o, and the demon Orochi.
Amaterasu and her brother lived high above the clouds in Heaven. Though everything around them was peaceful, their relationship with each other was not. Almost every day they would fight and argue with each other. Susano-o was proud of his strength and arrogant about his skill in battle, so he could not understand his sister who valued her beauty and the mirror Tsukuyomi gave her to see it. One day their fight went terribly awry, ending when Susano-o threw his sister’s precious mirror as hard as he could down from heaven. Inconsolable and furious, Amaterasu fled from home in search of her mirror.
She fell clumsily from Heaven to Izumo, the small village in the west of Japan. Here she first meets a humble farmer, Ashi, and his family, who tell her that the Shogun has discovered a ‘gift from heaven’. Only one of their children dare lead her to it, since the Shogun Orochi is as cruel as he is greedy. Amaterasu is discovered before she can reach the mirror and uses some of her heavenly power to escape. Her brilliant golden locks fade to a somber orange, which depresses her further.
Susano-o, enraged that his vain sister has run away, thunders down to Izumo in order to find her. By now the missing sun has begun to affect the land and all growing things have started to wilt. Susano-o meets Ashi in his fields as he tries to tend to the dying crop in the bitter cold. He also learns of the mirror and makes his own attempt to retrieve it. When he fails, he returns to the fields and vows not to rest until he is strong enough to succeed.
Meanwhile, Orochi has taken keen interest in the would-be thieves. He quickly learns that they themselves came from heaven and hatches a plot to catch them. If he can take their power for his own, he will be able to ascend to Heaven and rule the cosmos! Using the mirror as bait, he announces a festival in honor of the sun in order to bring the two heavenly being out of hiding. His constituents revel at the idea of the festival, hoping that their prayers would indeed bring the sun back into the sky.
Yet there is a drawback to the celebration. Amaterasu learns that a maiden is chosen for Orochi to leave their lives behind, never to see their families again. The youngest and kindest of Ashi’s eight daughters is chosen to fulfill this role. Amaterasu spends a great deal of time with her as she prepares for the festival, realizing more and more with each moment spent together where true beauty comes from. When the event finally comes, she takes her friends place and is presented to Orochi.
Orochi’s trap is sprung when Susano-o makes another attempt to get the mirror. In the ensuing chaos, Amaterasu reveals herself to Orochi in order to keep the townspeople and her brother from harm. She is taken back to his castle as a prize to be stripped of its remaining glory so that Orochi may complete his plot to ascend to Heaven.
Disheartened, Susano-o nearly gives up entirely. That is, until Ashi and his family gather the entire village to rescue Amaterasu. He realizes that true strength does not come from the power of his arm, but from his reason to be strong. Suddenly his purpose is clear: he must keep his sister safe, no matter the cost. Unwilling to risk the lives of his new friends, he decides to storm the castle alone. This doesn’t stop them from helping, of course, and together they fight through the castle guards. Susano-o finally recovers his sister’s mirror and continues to fight onward to Orochi’s inner sanctum. He slays Orochi in single combat, only to learn that the armor-clad Shogun was merely an empty marionette and that the true Orochi is a venomous snake demon. After a long and vicious battle Susano-o finally strikes down the last of Orochi’s eight heads, but only after being bitten with a poisonous set of fangs. He carries Amaterasu out of the castle keep and falls to the ground unconscious. Amaterasu gathers her strength as the villagers come to their aid and uses what remaining will power she has to save her brother from the poison.
It takes only a fraction of time for the siblings to recover under the watchful care of their brother Tsukuyomi, Ashi, and his family. They lovingly reunite, each exchanging a gift: Susano-o gives his sister Orochi’s sword Kusanagi to recognize her strength, and Amaterasu gives her brother a rainbow robe as a promise. They might not always get along (that’s why there are still thunder storms you see), but now they will always reconcile with each other before things get out of hand.
Now our village passes this legend down from generation to generation in honor of Amaterasu and Susano-o who saved us from Orochi’s cruel rule.