Masks for Yamanba

Yamanba, the central character in the noh Yamanba, can be interpreted in several different ways--as an old woman living in remote mountains, as a demonness, or as an enlightened being who helps others. Indeed much of the performance is dedicated to trying to define just who she is. Early in the piece an old woman meets a professional dancer (tsure: Hyakuma Yamanba) who is reknown for her kuse dance about Yamanba and challenges this impersonator with describing Yamanba. Later the old woman reappears in her "true" form as Yamanba and dances for, or with, her impersonator (depending on the interpretation).

 


Yamanba Mask Old Woman   Yamanba Drawing
  Yamanba Mask
When the dancer suggests that Yamanba is "a demoness living in the mountains," Yamamba replies, "demoness or human, if it is a woman living in the mountains, that could be me."
  When the Hyakuma first sees the true Yamanba, she describers her as being "in form and speech a human, yet, snow covered bambles for hair, eyes shining like stars, cheeks the color of vermillion, and the shape of a gargoile demon"   The introduction to the kuse dance (shidai) describes Yamanba as, "dragging good and evil, she makes her mountain rounds, in pain." and the final scene shows her leaping from mountain to mountain enjoying the seasons, an element of nature herself.

How would you describe the next two masks? Can you find lines in the kuse text that relate to what you see as the character portrayed by each mask?

 

Thumbnail Image Yamanba Mask Izumi
Click image to enlarge

Here are some drawings of Yamanba masks made in the past. Try drawing your own image of Yamanba.

Yamamba Mask drawing 1 Yamanba Mask Drawing 2 Yamanba Mask drawing 3

 

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