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Advent Calendar of Winter Mythos Day 2: Yuki-Onna

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Japanese folklore, Urban Legend

Predates the Muromachi Period (1336-1573 Kyoto)

There are many tales of these mysterious pale women. Some are beautiful while other variations are portrayed as hags who appear at one’s door, in a blizzard, or on the road luring men to them. Picture it. A gorgeous maiden in the dead of winter wanting to marry man. Things get a little awkward as she seems unwilling to bathe and finally, she does… melting away to nothing but floating icicles. In other stories she is said to be icy to the touch, an unmistakable sensation and vision to behold as she’ll burst into a while of snow and escape out a door, window, or chimney. Perhaps her and Santa Claus use the same magic, hmm? But these get darker and more unnerving. Some report seeing her in the night of a blizzard standing in the white-washed landscape holding a child asking others to help her keep them warm. “Come closer, hug tighter, help me save this child” is a powerful trap indeed for those made of kindness. The victims often come to realize this child she has asked you to hold grows heavier, along with the snow piling onto you. By morning, you’ll be found frozen to death.

They are considered an evil yokai or spirit or demon of some kind, though not every story has her doing harm, but more mischief or stealing a moment to be human almost. Snow Women are often said to be the spirit of a woman who died in the snow or left in poverty by her husband. In another tale, a master and his pupil encounter one of these phantoms while traveling during a snowy day. Hear dark black hair a harsh contrast that makes her pale skin that seems almost translucent, blue lips, and white kimono glisten and blend in the snow. Sometimes she approaches in the nude though in these her face and hair are more easily seen, giving her a phantom appearance. Even more ghostly is the fact she floats across the snow and never leaves behind footsteps or in some reports has not feet at all! The master addresses this gorgeous woman only for her to part those glittering blue lips to freeze the man to death, yet she allowed the younger man, his pupil, to escape. Later, the man marries a gorgeous newcomer until one day he realizes she’s the Snow Woman from before. Confronting her, he gripped her wrist too tight, and she simply disappeared in a cold mist of air.

More modern depictions or newly created Yuki-onna involve women who were deceived and murdered close to the holidays. They become vengeful ghosts, bewitching and chasing after any who cross her path in anguish against the living. Other variants paint a very less ghost, more vampire aspect for the Snow Woman. Said to prowl the forest, she comes out to drain vital energy from humans by freezing them, draining the warmth through their mouths. Kissing men or cuddling children especially on snowy nights is when one should beware of her. In some versions she has no means to speak while others call out to lure victims closer or even go as far as to throw them into ravines. Regardless, this ancient woman uses the snowstorms and blizzards to hunt, making it a cautionary tale that no one should dare travel through such terrible whether and seek shelter and warmth immediately. You see her as characters in anime including Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon (remember the Frosslass event). She even has left her mark in Magic: the Gathering and seems to still find her way into the forefront of this new world. Many include her as another form of the Woman in White phenomenon, but this one is only a threat when the snow falls.


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