(Image: “Kappa from Bakemono no e” CC BY-SA 4.0/Cropped)
The Kappa, or river child, is a Japanese water monster. Living in any body of water, these small, green monkey-like monsters pulled in those who got too close to the water. They swam using their webbed hands, and the creatures were much stronger than they looked. Kappas sometimes also came onto land, holding the water that kept them alive in a bowl-shaped indentation in their heads. Kappas were invincible while in the water because they would always have water in these head-bowls, but on land the Kappa died or was weakened if the water was tipped out. Because of this, a Kappa’s only weakness was its honor. If it was on land and a human bowed deeply to it, the kappa felt obliged to do the same, letting the water out of its bowl and making it vulnerable (Rose 203).
First of all, the Kappa may represent the strength of the water in rivers, a good reason for children to stay away from the water. The Kappa’s water bowl is a more obscure detail in the story. The bowl on top of the Kappa’s head needs to have water in it, or the Kappa will die. The bowl seems like the gills of fish, but the Kappa is interesting because it can bring water wherever it goes. This makes it more dangerous than other aquatic monsters without this special mobility.