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Throne of Blood: The Old Woman

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    Vili Maunula

    Here’s something interesting. In a 1975 interview with Joan Mellen, Kurosawa mentions his basis for the character of the old woman / witch:

    In the case of the witch in the wood, I planned to replace it with an equivalent to the hag which appears in the Noh play named Kurozuka. The hag is a monster which occasionally eats a human being. I realized if we were to search for an image that resembles the witch of the West, nothing exists in Japan other than this. The other parts, however, I went on developing during the actual stage of interpretation. (Cardullo, 65)

    (I have a strong feeling that the translation here is not entirely accurate, and among other things the first sentence should begin “In the case of the witches in the wood”, as I think that Kurosawa is referring to Shakespeare there.)

    I did some digging online, and from what I can see, Kurozuka (which also seems to go by the name Adachigahara) does indeed seem to have influenced not only the character but the scene as a whole. The synopsis found here describes the play as follows:

    Priests in search of a nights lodging stop at the humble hut of a lone woman in the wilds of Adachi, Japan. She finally lets them in and while spinning thread speaks of her wretched solitude. As she is leaving to gather firewood, she suddenly turns back to the priests and tells them not to look into her inner room. This arouses the curiosity of a servant who, despite the head priest’s reprimands, does look in the womans’s room and finds piled of bones and rotting corpses. The priests realize this must be the demoness of Adachi, and when they are about to flee, she returns in a rage, now in her demonic form. But finally through the power of their Buddhist prayers, the priests, are able to quell her anger and she disappears. [Richard Emmert]

    We have the spinning thread and the piles of corpses right there. It is also interesting how her second appearance appears to on some level correspond with the changed second appearance of the old woman in Throne of Blood, something that has puzzled me, as I have noted in the free will thread.

    Moreover, if the remark on this page actually refers to the original Noh play and not some kind of a modern adaptation, the woman demon is actually “a monstrous spider” in the form of an old woman. There, then, is you “Spider Web Forest”.

    A full script of the play can be found here, and a scene-by-scene PDF synopsis here.

    The script also sheds some light to the old woman’s song, as I have noted in the song thread.



    Very interesting, vili.

    That scene did remind me a little of several scenes in the 1968 Kaneto Shindo film Kuroneko. (he made the better known Onibaba). I think its quite a common motif in some 1960’s Japanese horror movies. I’m wondering if Throne of Blood was the first to use it, or maybe it was quite a common character type in horror/creepy Japanese movies?

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