The Tale of “The Gallant Jiraiya”



In the latest instalment of “The Stories behind the art”, we tell the tale of The Gallant Jiraiya and being Oscars’ week, it is a story worthy of the Silver screen with all the key ingredients for a box office hit.

There is a troubled leading man with a fascinating character arc, an unlikely love story, an evil nemesis and ultimately, the triumph of good over evil and a Hollywood Happy Ending.

So grab some popcorn and enjoy the show….



Our story begins with the young Ogata Shuma. He is known by his nickname “Young Thunder” due to a number of calamities that befell him in his youth.


He leaves his hometown in Kyushu to seek his fortune and to restore the wealth and standing of his family. Immature and somewhat naïve, he slips into a life of crime, joining a band of robbers and he soon rises through the ranks to become the gang leader.


See more of this wonderful Okimono of Jiraiaya here



One day, whilst committing one of his “enterprises”, he finds himself alone in a forest during a severe thunderstorm. He is offered shelter by an elderly lady who lives along in her humble peasants hut.

An honest and generous host she dries his clothes and feeds him a hearty stew despite scarcely having enough for herself. Despite this kindness, and true to the bandit that he had become, Young Thunder decides to murder the old lady in order to steal her few possessions.

Just as he was about to commit this gruesome act, the old lady transforms into the Toad Spirit and defeats Young Thunder.


See more of this great piece here



Instead of punishing him though, she takes pity on him, sees his potential and decides to teach him in the ways of Toad Magic on the condition that he would only use these newly acquired powers for the good of humanity.


For further images and information about this charming wood carving, click here


For some time our young anti-hero pursues a Robin-Hood style career, often stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.


See more images of this great piece here


It is during these times that he acquires a new rival and enemy: Yasagoro, a magician with powerful Snake magic, on which toad magic has no effect.


For more information about this fascinating work, click here


Young Thunder also meets and falls in love with a young and beautiful Maiden named Tsunade who herself is schooled in Slug magic. (Slugs are often over-looked as being lowly, ghastly and lethargic creatures) but it is well known that Slug Magic is far superior to both toad and Snake magic.


Both the evil Yasagoro and Young Thunder fight for Tsunades affections but she takes pity on our hero and chooses him. They marry and have many adventures together, traveling far and wide and meeting many interesting characters along their way.


One day while Young Thunder (now known as Jiraiaya) and Tsunade are asleep, Yasagoro slips into their hideout in snake form and bites Jiraiya. Deadly venom courses through his veins and he is on the point of death when Tsunade awakes and provides a potent elixir. A great battle ensues between Toad and Snake and ultimately our hero is victorious.


Click here for more information about this great wood carving


He is made Lord of Izu for banishing the cruel and troublesome snake.


For more information about this masterful Okimono of Jiraiya, click here


Jiraya and Tsunade live a long and happy life ending their days in peace.





We hope you enjoyed our brief rendition of this popular Japanese folk tale. It has received much recognition and was widely popularised when a collaboration of authors and artists published the tale in 43 instalments from 1839 to 1868. The popularity of the story and the character Jiraiya continues today with a character based on him appearing in the anime TV series Naruto.

If you are interested in reading the full tale, we would recommend the  English translation ‘Jiraya the Magic Frog’ by William Elliot Griffis.


If you would like to read more “Stories behind the Art”, feel free to browse through our ever-expanding collection here