The anime My Neighbour Totoro introduces small black soot sprites, apparently called Susuwatari.

Mei and Susuwatari

Around 8 minutes 42-45 seconds into the movie (German DVD edition), when the family checks out their new home and the girls ask their father about the spirits while they are looking around the bathroom, the father identifies them as "soot sprites" and in response the older girl asks whether they are the same like "in the picture book" (or storybook).

I'd like to know what book she's referring to. Does it exist at all, seeing that the sprites were - according to Wikipedia - invented by the story's author/director Hayao Miyazaki.

I'm mainly looking for canon answers, or answers referring to traditional Japanese legends.


Based on quick research in Japanese, there's no official statement about the book used as a reference for Susuwatari (or Makkuro Kurosuke).

The only traditional Japanese legend mentioned on Japanese Wikipedia is Kesaran Pasaran, which refers to the similarity to its form, but the similarity only goes as far as a fluffy furball (not even black).


The exterior appearance looks like a white fluffy furball, similar to dandelions or rabbit's tails.

(From Japanese Wikipedia - Kesaran Pasaran)

Alteil Online rendition of Kesaran Pasaran

Alteil Online rendition of Kesaran Pasaran

Regarding the book which "Makkuro Kurosuke" appears, it's never been stated officially. However, according to Yahoo! Chiebukuro (Japanese), some Japanese fans speculated that it was based from Little Nerino (translated as Makkuro Nerino in Japan), a picture book by Helga Galler.

Book cover of "Little Nerino"

Book cover of Little Nerino

Nerino, from あっちゃんたかちゃん's blog on Yahoo! Blogs (Japanese)

  • Thank you! The mentioned book predates the film 6 years, so it's at least plausible. I'll wait a couple more days and then accept your answer if nothing better shows up ;) Apr 19 '19 at 9:43

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