Noh TriviaQuestion and Answer

Question82 How are spider's webs and threads used in "Tsuchigumo"?


In "Tsuchigumo", the spirit of a ground-spider uses spider's threads and webs. In the second half of the play, a large artificial mound containing the nest of the ground-spider appears on the stage. The leading actor tears this open to reveal the terrifying figure of the spider. The web is made of paper tape that is literally webbed. If the web is too close, the actor will have difficulty tearing it open to reveal himself. The nest is build from pieces the size of a tatami mat, so making and carrying it takes time and effort, but it is destroyed in an instant.

The leading actor playing the spirit hurls spider's threads at Raikō in the first half of the play, and in the second half at warriors including the one played by the supporting actor. The threads are made of Japanese paper. A sheets is rolled around a piece of lead wire, then the roll is sliced and the pieces bound together, creating what is known as a "spider web" or "ball of lead". The length of the threads is either about 5.5m or about 9m. When thrown by an actor, they spread over the stage and make an impressive scene. Those of 5.5 m are used more frequently because the length corresponds to the area of the Noh stage. Those 9 m long are considered difficult to throw, because the threads can spill off the stage. The spider's web is made by hand, and only a certain number can be made per day.

(July. 20, 2010)

illustration : Hiroko Sakaki

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