Before I ever put pen to paper, so to speak, in writing the Dragon Saga, I had been a long time fan of Japanese culture, and particularly their mythology. As I was writing the first book in the Dragon Saga, the Priestess and the Dragon, I started digging deeper into the mythology of japan and it’s deep roots in the shinto religion and it’s modern day mingling with buddism and how it influences day to day lives of the Japanese people.
When I first conceptualizing the series, I had wanted to feature a powerful immortal creature. Japanese mythology & history was my jumping off point, and the actual books are influenced by certain time in Japanese history that I will go more into when I talk about Suzume in part two.
That being said, I’ve taken a lot of liberties with the history of Japan to fit my story and changed a lot of the legends as well. That is why I call the world my characters reside in Akatsuki or translated into English: Sunrise, as a nod to the Land of the Rising Sun.
In celebration of the second book in the Dragon Saga, I would like to share some of the research I did into the mythology of Japan, along with the inspiration behind the characters. In addition to that, I am sharing some gorgeous original illustrations done by my wonderfully talented cover artist Nadica Boshkovska. This week, I’m talking about Kaito.
Part One: Kaito
I was first introduce to the idea of a Japanese dragon in the movie Spirited Away. Being born in the united states, my idea of dragons was the western version: large winged fire breathing creatures. I had a vague idea of China’s version of dragon, but didn’t know much about it. If you’re not familiar with Spirited Away in it a young girl gets trapped in a magical bath house, and meets a dragon whose affinity is water. I loved this idea and it stuck with me for years to come.
And when I was forming my characters for the Priestess and the Dragon, it seemed quite natural than my immortal male protagonist would be a water dragon. But to do the creature justice I did a little digging.
Dragons as they are in Japanese mythology are thought to derive from Chinese Dragons and Korean Dragons who are similar in appearance. (All have long serpentine bodies.) Japanese dragons typically have more serpentine bodies and historically are related to bodies of water.
There are many stories of Dragons through out Japanese mythology, but for creating Kaito in the Dragon saga, and his abilities I modeled him based on two from mythology. Namely: Ryūjin and Sui-Riu.
Ryujin is a legend from the Shinto religion (the traditional religion of Japan) is the god of the Sea. He ruled over the ocean and controlled the tides with a magical set of jewels. He’s sometimes referred to as the King of Dragons in Japanese Mythology. He had a dragon form and a human form.
Some interesting facts about him:
He had turtles as messengers and lived in a palace made of corral. His favor was said to have won wars, and his temper was legendary. In one tale, Ryujin needs a monkey’s liver to cure his rash, and he sends the jelly fish to fetch it for him. The monkey tricks the jelly fish by telling them his liver is in a pot in the forest, and escapes leaving the jelly fish to give the bad news to his master who then beat him until all his bones broke which is why jelly fish no longer have bones. (If you’ve read the Priestess and the Dragon you’ll see how this relates to Kaito’s temper, though not to this extreme.) He had several beautiful daughters. The one who most commonly is seen in stories is named Otohime. She was said to marry a warrior named Hoori and legend says her son became the first emperor of Japan.
I could not find as much about this dragon, other than a few lines which described him as a the Dragon King of Rain. Often in Japanese Mythology the creatures are related to natural weather phenominon, and that is what Suirui was, he was attributed as a bringer of rain and thunderstorms. Farmers would pray to him during droughts and curry his favor in hopes of bring the life giving rain.
This is just a small selection of information on Japanese Dragons I uncovered while doing my research for the Priestess and the Dragon. Kaito’s character while influenced by these legends also came through my own discovery of the character as I was writing. I really wanted a character who was arrogant but also a little emotionally damaged. Part of his inspiration was drawn from the character InuYasha, from the anime by the same name. A lot of my love of anime is woven into this series and it comes through in I hope exciting ways.
If you want to know more about the world of Akatsuki, you can get a free copy of The Priestess and the Dragon.