Plays DataBaseNue (Monster Nue)

Photo from National Noh Theatre

A traveling monk, destined for Kyoto from Kumano, arrives at the village of Ashiya in Settsu Province (present day Ashiya City in Hyōgo Prefecture). Although he asks a villager for lodging for the night, he is refused. The monk therefore decides to stay at a small temple, suggested by the villager, built by a river. In the middle of the night, a shabby boat, which looks like a log dumped in the water, pulls over to the temple on the river bank. From the boat appears a strange boatman –– his appearance is very indistinct. He exchanges words with the monk. Although the boatman did not identify himself at the beginning, when the monk asks of him, “You aren’t human, are you. What is your name?” he responds that he is the ghost of the monster, Nue. Then, it narrates its life story that because it made Emperor Konoe (reigned 1142–1155) sick while His Imperial Majesty was on the throne, it was shot and killed by Minamoto no Yorimasa (a famous samurai warrior, a master archer). The ghost of the monster asks the monk to pray for it and disappears in the night waves of the river.

A little while later, the villager comes to check on the monk’s safety and also tells the story of the extermination of the monster Nue by Minamoto no Yorimasa. He reveals to the monk that the monster Nue which was exterminated and discharged into the Yodo River stayed at this place for a while. After listening to the story of the villager, the monk recites a sutra to pray for the Nue. Then, the ghost of the monster Nue appears in its original form. The ghost says that while Yorimasa gained his prominence with the extermination of Nue and received a superb sword, Sword Shishi-ō (Sword Lion King), from the Emperor, Nue itself was boxed into a dugout canoe and discharged to the bottom of the dark water. The monster Nue sinks into the darkness together with the moon, while begging to be saved and illuminated, just as the moon hangs at the edge of the mountains.

In actuality, the word ‘nue’ refers to a bird, the White’s Thrush. The Nue in Noh is a monster, which has a monkey’s head, tiger’s legs, and a snake’s tail (and racoon’s body in the Tale of the Heike). A legend says that it was called Nue because its crying voice sounds similar to that of the White’s Thrush. In Western culture, it corresponds to the Chimera in Greek mythology, or a monster created by genetic engineering in contemporary science fiction.

It might be thought that general audiences would prefer a monster-extermination story in which a hero slays the monster and lives happily ever after. However, Noh dramas often set a defeated or destroyed character as the protagonist in, for example, plays based on records of battles or confrontations with monsters; they describe the view of the ones being destroyed, and, through the description of their sorrow, confront us with the shadow of the human world and the dark side of our lives.

In the Noh piece “Nue” the ghost of the monster Nue plays the main character and narrates his hopeless, destructive fate in detail. The last scene of this drama is impressive as Monster Nue, exterminated by the hero, Minamoto no Yorimasa, set off to sink into the darkness of the Yodo River, implores the moon at the edge of the mountains to illuminate the darkness in which it stays. We wonder whether the Nue, which sank into the water together with the moon, was saved.

STORY PAPER : Nue (Monster Nue)

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Nue (Monster Nue) Story Paper PDF Sample

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