The rich background of Holo: being a minor deity of harvest, her forms, shapeshifting, powers and limitations, likes and dislikes, traits character etc - how is it grounded in Japanese beliefs, myths, traditions, and legends?

Is her lore entirely made-up for the needs of the show; did the authors take strong artistic license on some more or less common legends; or is she shaped closely after a character well known in Japanese culture?

If it's one of the latter, could you give some sources or summaries of the original upon which she is based?

5 Answers 5


I wasn't able to find any references that state that the exact background that Horo has originates from some exact legend or myth. However, it is definitely not entirely made-up. Animals play a significant role in Japanese folktales. Two of them are also widely known to be able to transform into humans, and other objects: kitsune (狐) - fox, and tanuki (狸) - raccoon dog.

Also, the Wikipedia article "Japanese folklore" has this interesting fact:

Marriages between humans and non-humans (irui konin tan (異類婚姻譚 "tales of heterotype marriages")) comprise a major category or motif in Japanese folklore. Japanese heterotype examples such as the crane story describes a sustained period of married life between the interspecies couple, in contrast to Western examples like Frog Prince or the Leda myth where the supernatural encounter is brief.

I believe we can say that all these definitely have some resemblance with Horo's background.


Okami written one way in Japan means 'wolf', but written another way means 'great god'. If you look up Okami, Honshu wolf, and Hokkaido wolf you find references to wolves as being venerated in the Shinto beliefs and by the Ainu.

One reason they were venerated was for keeping the wild boar and deer populations down, which was great for farming societies. They were revered in a respectable and down-to-earth manner. While they did protect crops, they also ate horses, and possibly people who were out too late at night.

Japanese folklore referred to the Honshu wolves as Okami, Yama-inu (mountain dog), and Okuri-inu (escorting dog). If a person walking alone after dark felt they were being watched, they were considered as protected. If you tripped though, it was said Okami would attack you. They started dying from rabies in the 1700s, and were hunted by people trying to bring in cattle in the 1800s. Nowadays, in some parts of Japan, it is said some survived and studies are often done as to whether or not they are still out there.

The wolf as god is worshiped under the name of Ooguchi no Magami, or "Large-Mouthed Pure God". The people who followed the Shinto beliefs had rites in small farming villages to honor it. It is still worshiped at some shrines, like at the Mitsumine mountains. The shrine guardians there are wolves, not foxes. The Ainu felt that a white wolf came and mated with a human woman to create their people, similar to some of the British Columbia and Alaska native peoples who believe that the ancestors of men had been wolves.

The Ooguchi Magami Matsuri, or Wolf Deity Festival, takes place at the Musashi Mitake Jinja every January.

There is also a Japanese myth of how a wolf deity, a white wolf, appeared to Yamato Takeru, son of Emperor Keikko. Takaru and his group got lost near Mitakesan when a demon shape-shifted into a white deer and obstructed the road. The white wolf showed him the way and led his group to the correct path to where they were going.

You can find all of this information and more in library books, or on internet websites if you run searches.

  • 2
    it is preferable to cute the soruces of this yourself rather than telling readers to effectively validate the information for you. this makes your answer more creditable
    – Memor-X
    Jan 20, 2017 at 9:50

For the most part, there is not much.

The author Isuna Hasekura herself mentioned in an interview that Holo is based off folklore from France, Germany, and Slavonic countries.

One particular story worth noting is that of the "corn-wolf" from the story of the Golden Bough. That and a particular mention of a corn ritual parallels particular Pasloe rituals regarding the wheat harvest.

Note that while the word "corn" is mentioned, it does not refer to the maize crop of modern times, as it did not exist in the pre-Christian, medevial setting that the series is based on, since it was a New World crop. During those times (even in Britian now), any staple cereal crop was referred to as 'corn.'


Horokew (Kamuy) is the Ainu word for wolf. And probably where Horo's name comes from. The r is important because unlike the Japanese language the Ainu language actually has the R-sound. Inserting it this way will help you find more background on Ainu tradition and wolf deities that in part inspired the Horo you know and love from Spice & Wolf.

  • An interesting new thread!
    – SF.
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:03
  • Please include relevant sources/references.
    – W. Are
    Jan 11, 2020 at 2:31

Pretty sure her origin is rather primarily the Germanic "Frau Holle", probably especially Holle's connections with the Greek/Roman "Diana/Artemis" and "Frau Gauden" and the wild hunt.

  • 1
    Welcome to A&M! As it stands your answer is very speculative, could you give some background as to why you think so? Preferably with some credible sources to back it up
    – Dimitri mx
    Jan 9, 2020 at 15:16
  • While unsourced, I'm not inclined to dismiss this thread, considering the show's world - cities, culture, politics, technology - resembles the Hanseatic League, and is pretty far from Japanese culture.
    – SF.
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:10

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