(Firstly – This post is damn long so you only get one or two pictures. Thanks for your understanding but my hands are sore from researching and typing this stuff up for ya! Hahaha.)
Anyone that’s familiar with the Anime “Naruto” will undoubtedly know about Jiraiya. The big, bushy haired toad hermit who can’t deny himself a quick peak up a girl’s skirt or down their top, if ever the chance arose.
But, did you know that this character was based on an already existing Jiraiya? And that there’s been quite a lot of mythology behind him? No? Well, you’re in luck because ol’ uncle Ryuu is gonna lay things out for ya!
Jiraiya, the character was conceived in 1806 in the story “Jiraiya Setsuwa” (児雷世説話 – “The tale of Jiraiya”) written by Onitake Kanwatei which became popular and developed into a series of 43 books referred to as “Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari” (児雷也豪傑物語 – “The stories of the great hero Jiraiya”) written by a great many authors over a period of 29 years. But those were just the original stories, his legend continues even through to this day!
Spelt with the kanji “児雷世”, Jiraiya which means something along the lines of “World’s Thunder-Child”, or popularly “Young Thunder” and if you’re wondering what that’s got to do with Ninja, Toads or anything like that, keep reading, it’ll all be explained in time.
Born into the powerful Ogata clan in Kyushu he was expected to accomplish a great many things in his family’s name. But when the family fell into ruin because of another clan led by a guy called Sarashina he moved to Echigo Province, modern-day Niigata Prefecture (around 300Km north of Tokyo) and joined a local band of robbers where he eventually rose to become their chief!
Now, at this point in time is where the original Jiraiya story kicks in.
There’s a big drama for one family where a young woman’s husband is thrown into a debtor’s prison because he couldn’t pay enough taxes so the girl goes into prostitution in order to bring home the bacon for her child. She leaves her kid home with the father-in-law while she goes out to work but things really get turned upside down when the father-in-law is jumped, robbed and killed by a guy called Gundayu who even tries to throw the child into a gorge!
Steps in Jiraiya who happened to be walking by at the time, jumps in and rescues the boy from certain death.
Several years later along his travels, Jiraiya comes across a huge toad that was being attacked by a huge-ass snake deep in the forests of Mount Myoko. Instead of running for dear life thinking “Aint worth it” like any normal person, he pulls out his flint-lock rifle and slams it into the snake basically saying “You want a piece of this? No? Then beat it.”
The big toad actually turns out to be an immortal, skilled in toad magic (蝦蟇の妖術 – “Gama no Yōjutsu”) and in gratitude, teaches Jiraiya what he knows. Around this time, Gundayu has become the right-hand man of the local Daimyo (Japanese fuedal Lord) living the lap of luxury in a castle.
You know the kid who almost got thrown over the edge? Well at this point, his mother and father (now out of prison) decide to get a little payback and try sneaking into the castle to exact revenge (Go team!) but get taken down and killed easily (……)
Jiraiya hears about this and thinks “Oh hell no!” so he storms in using his toad magic and various other skills and strikes down Gundayu (Coudln’t have made it a little sooner, no?) so in the end, almost everyone dies, child abuse, prostitution, magic and guns- sounds like something Shakespeare would write! Which is why it spawned those extra 43 books later on.
If you want to know what happens to Jiraiya afterwards, I’ll include the rest of the story at the end of this post.
Now, as I mentioned earlier- Jiraiya, name spelt with 児雷也 meaning “Young Thunder”, what the hell has this got to do with Ninja, Toads or anything else for that matter? And the answer is! …Nothing. Actually, not a damn thing. BUT We all know how creative Japanese can get with kanji if they sound the same, don’t we?
The character Jiraiya was actually based on a chinese folk story of a real-life thief and jailbreaker from either the Song or Tang dynasty of China called “Garaiya”. The reason he was called “Garaiya” is because after he burgled someone he would carve a signiature “我来也” (“Garaiya”) into their walls (talk about adding insult to injury). “我来也” translates as “I came” …NO! Not in that way, you dirty minded perve! It was basically an old chinese way of writing “I woz ere” like you see on the door of every single toilet cubicle. When translated into Japanese, “Garaiya” reads as “Jiraiya”, and using kanji with the same reading you get 児雷也！
So there you have it! That’s how the loveable perve in the Naruto anime came to be. If you want to read where Tsunade and Orochimaru come into this story, just continue reading, but for the rest of you- the train stops here.
Just as perverted, not as hairy,
Okay! So if you’re still reading, then that means I’m awesome and you want to give me all your money. Sweet. But in return, I’ll continue the story.
After taking down Gundayu, Jiraiya continues on his trails. But armed with his newfound Poliwog Powers he decides to try and take on the guy who ruined his family; Sarashina Tsumorinosuke, but apparently he still wasn’t used to them because he failed at beating him, so retreated with his tail between his legs.
But that didn’t stop him from his other adventures! Over time, he gained many followers and whilst travelling through Shinano province (Modern Nagano Prefecture) including a girl skilled in snail magic; Tsunade! (綱手).
Tsunade learnt Snail magic while she was in the forest collecting brush-wood for fuel, which she usually does to help her family. While she was in the forest, an old man came up to her and said that she shouldn’t be afraid, because he is really an immortal snail in human form and that he has lived in the mountains for hundreds of years and he’s decided to teach her what he knows.
Tsunade jumps at the chance and studies with the man, learning as much as she can. One day he says that he has taught her all that he can and that she must join with Jiraiya as his wife, instead of asking “Why?” she agrees to it and by chance they find each other, to marry.
Now there’s another guy by the name of Yashagoro (夜叉五郎), and his backstory is a matter of debate.
There are two theories;
One was that he was once a follower of Jiraiya but was lured and overcome by the same snake Jiraiya fought off earlier and became infatuated with snake magic after which he took the name 大蛇丸 (“Orochimaru”) meaning “Great/Monstrous Snake”.
The other seems a little more plausible, given his name. The name Yashagoro means that he is the 5th son of a Buddhist deity. His mother was that of a great snake so he was endowed with Snake magic. “Orochimaru” is a name he took to strike fear into his enemies.
Here’s what’s a little odd; Snakes are stronger than Toads, Toads are stronger than Snails… but Snails are somehow stronger than Snakes? How the hell does that work out?!
But anyway, that’s how you get an old-fashioned Rock, Paper, Scissors in this piece of Japanese storytelling.
Around this time war broke out between two clans; The Tsukikage and The Inukage. The Tsukikage sought out the help of Jiraiya and Tsunade while The Inukage enlisted help from Orochimaru.
During one of their battles, Jiraiya went to rest in a monastary with some of his most trusted followers. At this monastary there was also a princess names Tagoto there too because she was hiding from Orochimaru who wanted her for a wife.
Orochimaru somehow heard about where Jiraiya was, and that Tagoto was there too so he turned himself into a snake and slid in through the cracks and crannies of the building. When it turned night, he slid up to Jiraiya and Tsunade and poisoned them with some of his toxic venom. Afterwards, he turned back into a man and kidnapped Tagoto!
The priests at the monastary recognized the symptoms and said that both Jiraiya and Tsunade would be dead within 30 hours if they didn’t get the elixir. The only problem was that the Elixir is only found in India from the mountain spirits.
Luckily, there was Rikimatsu who was just 14 years old, but endebted to Jiraiya for saving his and his father’s life. Rikimatsu was also skilled in Tengu magic (basically, Bird magic) and said that he would fly to India and back to get the medicine.
He rode for one day and one night straight with no sleep, no food, no nothing and made it back just in the nick of time. He administered the elixir to Jiraiya and Tsunade and they woke up feeling right as rain.
They got up, and went straight for Orochimaru and after a long and arduous battle they left victorious. Orochimaru was killed, princess Tagoto was saved and the battle was won in favour of the Tsukikage.
In appreciation, Jiraiya was made Daimyo of Izu Province, now a part of Shizuoka. There he lived out a happy life, looking after his family, reading many books and la-de-da-di-dah, same old happy ending.
…Damn this was long. Took me a damn long time to research about it too, you’d best be happy!
Hands are hurting and not from fapping,
“Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws” – Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt.
“Japanese fairy world. Stories from the wonder-lore of Japan” – William Ellior Griffic (1880 – Read it here! )