Japanese Folklore: The Ring

Ringu: The cursed tape

Photo credits: Movieweb.com

The Ring is the fortunate American horror movie with Naomi Watson in the role of the protagonist that in 2002 haunted cinemas all around the world. Earning more than $250 million dollars at the box-office it revived a suffering genre giving the bravest spectators shivers. The movie had a sequel, The Ring 2 out in 2005, and The Ring 3 recently came out, fifteen years after the original movie.

Samara Morgan is a little girl with long raven hair and snow-white skin, and from this description she might appear like a pure Snow White. But reality is quite different. With her famous words “You will die in seven days” she is a ghost that brings to death all those who watch her cursed tape thanks to an infinite ring.

Nowadays, Samara is among the ultimate ‘villains’ of the American horror genre (together with Jason from Friday the 13th, or Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street with his supernatural and demoniac nature). And we might as well say she is one of the many possible Halloween masks.

Photo credits: flickr.com

However her birth is not American but Japanese, as she was born from the pen of the writer Koji Suzuki author of the novel of the same title Ring ( リング Ringu). Suzuki is also the author of Spiral, one of the sequels of The Ring, and Dark Water which gained a movie and an American remake. Here the protagonist is Jennifer Connelly and it’s undoubtedly a terrifying movie, yet unable to reach the fame of The Ring.

The American Remake of The Ring in not so different from the original subject (This is true at least for the first movies). In both films the protagonist is a journalist that is trying to solve the mystery behind the inexplicable deaths caused by the viewing of a cursed videotape. The woman will end up involving her family in this spiral, in a desperate run for their lives. But the ghost is not that of a disturbing child now, but that of a young woman.

Sadako 貞子

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Sadako is the ghost of a nineteenth years old girls with long hair that cover her face completely and that coming out of the television brings the unfortunate person to a violent death.

This ghost is in reality a very complex creature, like all Japanese ghosts, as their cruelty is driven by nothing but revenge. Unfortunately, when the mission of seeking vengeance from those who had hurt them in their human life is accomplished, hatred has already taken over. Every possibility of redemption gone.

Sadako Yamamura was her human name and in each movie we have an insight into her story discovering something about her character. But it’s in the prequel of the first story-line, The Ringu 0:Birthday, that we have a complete vision of her human life.

Photo credits: anythinghorror.wordpress.com

Before she became the restless ghost that characterizes the whole story, Sadako was born from a forbidden intercourse. Her father unknown, he was said to be a demon, her mother was a priestess devoted to dark arts. Since her childhood she was harassed by voices saying that being close to her brought misfortune and death because of her enormous but dark powers. She could have had a little light of hope in a tormented life when she moves to Tokyo with professor Ikuma. The professor, her mother’s ex-lover, treats Sadako as his own daughter and reached adulthood she joins a theater company. Here, due to a series of tragic events she becomes leading actress, but this also led to the rise of her evil part.

In fact, we will find out that there are two entities inside her, the human part that is good, and the demoniac part with the appearance of a child. The abuses she suffers and the death of her good part by the hands of her colleagues will bring out her demoniac side, with the consequent series of tragic events.

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Ikuma will try to kill the evil Sadako too, trowing her in a well and sealing it, but the entity survives the fall even if it is now imprisoned. Inside the well the demon will grow stronger and stronger until its hatred takes concrete form in the cursed video tape that in seven days leads to death whoever watches it.

But in spite of all this we can’t help but pity here, miserable soul. In her last moment of human lucidity, before her demoniac side takes over, she remembers of Toyama the only man she had ever loved.

The movies have a substantial differences from Koji Suzuki’s books regarding the story of this character as the young girl has an even more tormented and complicated life, ending with her fatal death.

Banchō Sarayashiki 番町皿屋敷

Photo credits: Wikipedia

The character created by Koji Suzuki, like many other of the Japanese modern horror genre, takes a cue from an old legend.

We are speaking about the story of Okiku and the nine plates. The Kabuki theater has often used this legend for its representations and there are many versions of it.

The protagonist is always Okiku a young and beautiful servant that works for the family of a samurai, Aoyama Tessan, that is in love with her. Countless times the girl refuses the samurai’s approaches, so to induce her in temptation he makes her believe she had lost a precious porcelain plate part of a set of ten. The poor girl desperately cries because she knows that the punishment will be severe, but the samurai comforts her saying that in exchange for her love she won’t be punished. Okiku still refuses him and the samurai blinded by rage pushes the girl into a well killing her.

Okiku comes back as a ghost to torment her assassin and keeps counting to nine and then start crying. Only a monk and exorcist is able to purify her spirit during one of her appearance. After he had her count to 9 the monk screams TEN!,in this way the spirit is free and ready to go to heaven.

Photo credits: Wikipedia

As we said, there are many variations to this story, more or less similar to each other. In one of them the story takes place in the Himeji castle where Okiku dies because of a conspiracy within the court, or because the shogun, her lover, kills her because she voluntarily breaks the tenth plate.

Anyway, in every version we are brought to pity this character, surely obscure but tormented at the same time.