Every Tailed Beast in Naruto and their origins

Eight Tailed beast Gyuuki and Nine-Tailed beast Kurama (Image via Studio Pierrot)
Eight Tailed beast Gyuuki and Nine-Tailed beast Kurama (Image via Studio Pierrot)

The Tailed Beasts are intrinsic to the story of the Naruto franchise, featuring prominently even in the climax of the series. While the creation of the nine Tailed Beasts by Hagoromo Otsutsuki is shown in the anime and manga, rarely discussed are the inspirations behind these fascinating creatures.

So, here are the origins of every Tailed Beast in the Naruto series.

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The origin and inspirations for every Tailed Beast in Naruto

1) Shukaku

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Shukaku, the One-Tailed beast in Naruto, originally hosted with the current Kazekage Gaara, is based on the shape-shifting tanuki, a Japanese raccoon yokai.

In the Boruto anime, we even see Naruto keeping Shukaku inside a teapot, a reference to the folktale where a tanuki turns into a teapot.

Another direct reference to the tanuki legends is the One-Tail’s name. In some stories, Shukaku is a tanuki living in disguise as a human priest, which seems strikingly similar to the idea of a jinchuuriki hosting a tailed beast.


2) Matatabi

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The Two-Tailed Matatabi is portrayed as a cat, more specifically a cat yokai called nekomata. Not to be confused with another Japanese cat yokai referred to as bakeneko, nekomata are portrayed to have two tails. They first appeared in Chinese legends and later, in Japanese folklore as well.


3) Isobu

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The Three-Tailed beast in Naruto is depicted as a huge tortoise with three tales. Rather than a singular origin, it appears to have roots in multiple legends, including the umibozu, who are mysterious yokai of the sea, and “suppon no yurei”, the spirits of softshell tortoises, which were believed to have medicinal properties.

The name Isobu seems to be inspired by the legends of a huge shark-like monster called isonade, believed to be found off the coasts of Western Japan.


4) Son Goku

Son Goku, the Four-Tailed beast looks like a monkey and alludes to one as well. Son Goku is the Japanese name for “Son Wukong”, the Monkey King from the 16th century Chinese novel, Journey to the West.

The Monkey King is an iconic presence in anime, inspiring characters not only in Naruto but in Dragon Ball Z as well.


5) Kokuo

The Five-Tailed beast of Naruto was likely inspired by both the horse yokai sagari, as well as the legends of the bake kujira, a yokai that takes the form of a skeletal whale. The name Kokuo means “respectful king”, which is believed to be a reference to the Chinese legend of King Mu of Zhou.


6) Saiken

The Six-Tailed Saiken seems to have its roots within the stories of sazae-oni, large snail-like demons that allegedly haunted pirates and took off with their treasures. The Tailed Beast’s name is believed to be taken from an anthology of Chinese folklore.


7) Choumei

Choumei is the Seven-Tailed Beast of the Naruto franchise, appearing as a rhinoceros beetle. It may have been inspired by the mythical Chinese beast Si, the steed for the founder of Taoism, Laozi. The Seven-Tails’ name is likely taken from the 12th century reclusive poet, Kamo no Choumei.

The Founder of Taoism, Laozi riding an ox (Painted by Chen Hongshou)
The Founder of Taoism, Laozi riding an ox (Painted by Chen Hongshou)

8) Gyuuki

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Gyuuki is both inspired by and named after the Japanese yokai ushi-oni. Mostly portrayed as a monstrous demon with the head of an ox, descriptions of its body vary geographically.

In Naruto Shippuden, Gyuuki is shown to have the head of an ox and the body of an octopus, with each of its tentacles representing a tail.


9) Kurama

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Kurama is the ninth and the most powerful of the Tailed-Beasts. He is depicted as the ever-popular kitsune, or, fox yokai. The legends of the kitsune especially refer to their tails as markers of their wisdom. Legends imply that the number of tails that a kitsune has increases with its age and wisdom.

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This might also be why Kurama, having nine tails, is represented as the strongest Tailed Beast. Even back in the time when Naruto was unable to control Kurama’s powers, the number of tails manifested from his Nine-Tails cloak determined the danger of the Tailed Beast taking over his body and consciousness.

Interestingly, the Nine-Tails’ name, Kurama, is taken from the Kurama Mountain in Japan, the home of the tengu god Soujobo, and a center of Japanese healing called “reiki”.

Reiki might have been an inspiration for both medical ninjutsu as well as Naruto’s healing chakra after he started using his Nine-Tails chakra mode.


Influence in Boruto


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In the Boruto series, the importance of the tailed beasts decrease considerably as the Otsutsuki clan take over as the ultimate source of power. The Ten Tails, or Devil Fruit tree, is revealed to be the progenitor of chakra. Interestingly, chakra itself becomes something that the Otsutsuki did not intend for humans to possess.

Despite it all, characters both on and off screen value the tailed beasts highly, as is proved by the fandom mourning Kurama's death after Naruto's use of Baryon Mode against Isshiki Otsutsuki.