Japan's 'Killing Stone' split in two, possibly setting powerful evil vixen loose
On March 5 this year, a large stone in the volcanic mountains near the town of Nasu in Japan's Tochigi Prefecture was found to have succumbed to what seems like a normal case of freeze-thaw weathering and split in two. Even setting aside that this occurred over two months ago (though, to be fair, that's a blink in the lifespan of your average rock), such geological processes are hardly news even for mainstream sources, much less a furry news site. But this wasn't just any rock.
The rock in question was the Sessho-seki (or Killing Stone), the rumored earthly remains of Tamamo-no-Mae, the Jewel Maiden, a legendary nine-tailed fox said to have spread chaos throughout Eastern Asia for nearly 2000 years before finally being hunted down in Nasu. Though finally killed and transformed into the stone, you can't keep a good evil fox spirit down; so her final resting place was obviously haunted by it, poisoning anyone who came near. Though she'd apparently calmed down a bit after an encounter with a Buddhist priest, the stone suddenly breaking in two is a bit ominous.
Tamamo-no-Mae's story was first written down during the Muromachi period of Japanese history, which makes the story's age approximately 700-600 years old. However, Tamamo-no-Mae's tale takes place approximately two centuries earlier, as she was said to be the favored courtesan of the real Emperor Toba. Exposed as the cause of the Emperor's illness, she was forced to flee, until she was eventually hunted down in Nasu.
Of course, as a 2000-year-old fox spirit, it was revealed that this was not her first stint as an Emperor's concubine. Other legendary concubines of doomed emperors were said to be earlier exploits of the evil vixen. She was said to have been Daji, the favored consort of the last of China's Shang dynasty emperors, where she helped foment rebellion and is traditionally seen as a fox spirit even in China. She then went to India, where she purportedly caused the crown prince to behead a thousand men, in a story itself probably inspired by tales of the demon-cursed king Kalmashpadar. She returned to China, this time as Bao Si, who was the concubine of the last king of the Western Zhou dynasty, also personally responsible for his fall - putting the score at nine-tailed fox: two; Chinese dynasties: zero.
The stone that Tamamo-no-Mae haunted, that has now broken in two, was said to have been exorcised by a Buddhist priest who also convinced her to seek salvation and change her ways. However, this part of the story was added later, and hardly seems very in character with the fox as seen in life, who had previously been an unrepentant, if charismatic, villain with a "chaos reigns" attitude toward life. A possible explanation for this late addendum, outside of a form of Buddhist propaganda, is that the volcanic region the rock is located was becoming less active, and less likely to spew the toxic fumes that initially inspired this aspect of the story.
Tamamo-no-Mae has become a common public domain character in Japanese popular culture, with vulpine characters bearing her name in multiple comics, cartoons and video games, whether they're explicitly the original Jewel Maiden, merely inspired by her, or just borrowing her name. With the rise in popularity of anime in America and the West, she's fairly well known outside of Japan, as well. Perhaps not surprising, considering her role as courtesan, concubine and femme fatale for centuries, she's starred in some risqué material, such as her memetic role in the eroge Monster Girl Quest!
A similar, if less influential character, is the Greek Teumessian vixen, who shares with Tamamo-no-Mae the traits of being a vixen, being an unrepentant monster, and also sharing a similar fate. The vixen preyed on the children of the Greek city-state of Thebes, and was destined to never be caught. Eventually, the hound Laelaps, who was destined to catch everything he hunted, was deployed to catch her. Zeus, unamused by this "Juggernaut vs. the Blob" situation, simply turned them both into stone. Given the way the Tamamo-no-Mae stories freely adhered stories from other cultures onto hers, it's not entirely facetious to posit a modern retelling in which the Greek legend is an early misadventure of the villainous vixen.
It hardly needs to be said, but Tamamo-no-Mae is an almost entirely legendary character. Some of her misdeeds in China may have been based on real people who existed, though neither Daji nor Bao Si are likely to have actually been malicious fox spirits. Though there were some early social media posts positing that the breaking of the stone is a sign of the end of world, most were tongue in cheek; and even if there are true believers in Japan, America's History Channel has been running Ancient Aliens since 2009, so it's not like the West has any room to talk. (We're not saying this guy has said Tamamo-no-Mae was an alien ... but this guy will eventually say Tamamo-no-Mae was an alien.) However, in the unlikely event that this is how the world does in fact end, well, there's only one thing left to do.