Abstract

Yukionna (snow woman), a Japanese supernatural being that represents snow or wintry weather, is frequently described as a striking, ethereal female figure. Among the numerous legends of snow women, arguably the most famous one was written by Lafcadio Hearn. This article discusses the history of yukionna while considering how the symbolic role of snow relates to conceptions of the female and to female yōkai (weird or mysterious creatures), and it examines Hearn's rendition of yukionna and its influence on the character in subsequent tellings. It also considers why a snow woman is often portrayed as a stunningly beautiful female in both Japanese and Western traditions.

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