For those too lazy to click the link.
Legend of the Tailed Beasts
In the ancient Japan, according to the legend, each elemental god was sealed into an elemental shrine. Out of the 9 Bijuu, 5 of them were elemental gods, those being Shukaku, of the Wind; Kyuubi, of Fire; Isonade, of Water; Raijuu, of Lightning, and Kaku of Earth.
In the Legend of the Tailed Beasts, the 5 elemental gods were sealed with instruments called “The Tools of Power” (法器). Not all of them are known, and their translation may be not accurate, but all resemble a type of varied container (kettle, prison, altar, etc.)
After researching for a while, I’ve discovered that the “Tools of Power” descend from the “Eight Immortals” from the Chinese mythology. They’re deities who transfer their individual energy to each “Tool of Power”, that is able to give life or destroy evil. Together, the eight tools are called "Covert Eight Immortals" (暗八仙); (Though only five appear in the Legend, and it may be a varied version of it). The Immortals are: Immortal Woman He (He Xiangu), Royal Uncle Cao (Cao Guojiu), Iron-crutch Li (Li Tieguai), Lan Caihe, Lü Dongbin, Philosopher Han Xiang (Han Xiang Zi), Elder Zhang Guo and Zhongli Quan.
Personal Notes: For a moment I associated the Immortal Woman to Sakura <insert snicker> and Iron Crutch Li to Lee, and even some of the others to characters from the Rookie 9 + Gai Team; but everything is too vague.
Continuing the Elemental Shrine story:
There were respective shrines dedicated to these elemental Bijuu scattered through Japan’s territory, being the Fire shrine the strongest. Though, the shines keep releasing spiritual energy even while the Bijuu are sealed within sleeping, and this power from the 5 shrines goes to the Five-Tails: Houkou.
After Yamata no Orochi got the legendary sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi from the Kusanagi Clan, it defeated Nekomata and Houkou (Check Yamata no Orochi’s tale).
Yamata no Orochi then proceeded to release a tremendous amount of dark power to awaken the five elemental Bijuu, that were sealed in the 5 shrines, with the purpose of bringing chaos between worlds.
It ended up fighting the one deserving of the title “King of Bijuu”: Kyuubi no Youko. It has an unending amount of chakra, and because of that, Yamata no Orochi was defeated.
一尾 | 守鶴 - One Tail (Ichibi), Shukaku
As we all know, this is Gaara's demon, a wild, extravagant monster.
Jinchuuriki: Sabaku no Gaara (Extracted)
Tale in the Legend of the Tailed Beasts： Shukaku is a bijuu in the form of Raccon Dog (Tanuki of the Japanese mythology). Before, he was a priest that lived in the Desert of Nara. Because of the dark power released by Yamata no Orochi, and under the heavy assault of wind and sand, he transformed into a racoon dog (His actual form). He has a playful and extravagant personality, resembling the Tanuki nature. Has a pretty active sexual life. Shukaku lives in the souls of people killed by the wind and sand (This actually resembles the case of Gaara’s mother). The violet (blue in the anime) tatoos represent his title of God of Wind.
Situation in the Ancient War of the 9 Gods： Battled 5 times; 1 Win, 3 Losses, 1 Flee
Losses： Raijuu, Nekomata, Isonade
Escapes： Yamata no Orochi
Fate： Shukaku is defeated by a Nara Monk called Oraga Nakashimu with a type of magic art. Then, the monk proceeds to use the "Tool of Power: Antler Teakettle" to seal it into the seal in the Wind Shrine.
Japanese Myth Appearance: A species of Tanuki, Yellow body
Ability: Sandstorms, has the control of Wind and Sand manipulation.
Bijuu Strength Ranking： 8th
Bijuu Chakra/Stamina Ranking： 9th
Symbolic Element： Wind (God of Wind)
Origin / Discovered in： Nara Desert
Personal Notes: Shukaku is represented as the reincarnation of a Sand Priest in the series (which would be the poor guy transformed by the Sand and Wind.)
More info about Shukaku:
About Tanuki: (From Wikipedia)
Tanuki have been part of Japanese myth since ancient times. The mythical tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.
Tanuki in folklore:
The current humorous image of tanuki is thought to have been developed during the Kamakura era. The wild tanuki has unusually large testicles, a feature often comically exaggerated in artistic depictions of tanuki. Tanuki may be shown with their testicles flung over their backs like a traveller's pack, or using them as drums. Tanuki are also typically depicted as having large bellies. They may be shown drumming on their bellies instead of their testicles, especially in children's art.
During the Kamakura and Muromachi eras, some stories began to include more frightening, man-eating tanuki. The otogizōshi story of "Kachi-kachi Yama" features a tanuki that clubs an old lady to death and serves her to her unknowing husband as "old lady soup". Other stories report tanuki as being harmless and productive members of society. Several shrines have stories of past priests who were tanuki in disguise.
A popular tale known as Bunbuku chagama is about a tanuki who fooled a monk by transforming into a tea-kettle. Another is about a tanuki who tricked a hunter by disguising his arms as tree boughs, until he spread both arms at the same time and fell off the tree. Tanuki are said to cheat merchants with leaves they have magically disguised as paper money. Some stories describe tanuki as using leaves as part of their own shape-shifting magic.
Statues of tanuki can be found outside many Japanese temples and restaurants, especially noodle shops. These statues often wear a big, cone-shaped hat and carry a bottle of sake. Tanuki statues always have a large belly, although contemporary sculptures may or may not show the traditional large testicles. These exaggerated features represent fertility and plenty.
二尾 | 貓又 – Two Tail (Nibi), Nekomata
Tale in the Legend of the Tailed Beasts： Nekomata is a bijuu in the form of cat, and possesses the power of death. This Bijuu lives in a place called “Forest of Death” (Not a mistranslation.) in Hokkaido, to the north. His appearance is a black cat monster (depicted with huge, black angel wings). He’s the Death God’s pet. Nekomata feeds on dead people’s spirits, and can summon these to fight for him. He uses a third eye at the top of its head to consume the spirits.
Situation in the Ancient War of the 9 Gods： Trying to dominate his enemies, Nekomata forms an alliance with Houkou, and attacks Kyuubi. They have a disastrous defeat, and Nekomata is rescued by the Death God, escaping death by a hair’s breadth. Battled 3 times; 2 Wins, 1 Loss.
Wins： Kaku, Isonade
Fate： Nekomata ends up killed by Kyuubi later, and in that instant his spirit is summoned by the Death God. The body was kept in a shrine in the Forest of Death, sealed by the Death God himself.
Japanese Myth Appearance: A species of two tails black cat, with slightly more pointed ears and bigger canines.
Ability: Death; may control deceased person's spirits (May be related to Gaara) as well as different dark beasts
Bijuu Strength Ranking： 4th
Bijuu Chakra/Stamina Ranking： 8th
Symbolic Element： Darkness (God of Darkness)
Origin / Discovered in： Hokkaido’s “Forest of Devils” (Different of Forest of Death)
Personal Notes: This better have had a female Jinchuuriki.
More info about Nekomata: it is said it can walk erect. The original Bijuu was a old cat, depicted as a fat, old lady’s image also.
People knew of it, and in fear of having their cats turned into the monster, they cut its tails to prevent the transformation when the time came – a bifurcation. By gesturing with its tail (and walking erect), Nekomata can animate and control the dead to do their bidding, or even dance for their amusement. Sometimes it eats its owner, then changes into an human appearance, waiting for a next opportunity. Nekomata eats the person it hates, but if the person is even more wicked, the crueler the cat becomes. When it sees the person, Nekomata won’t differ the bad and good anymore, and injures the person as much as it can. There is also a good Nekomata in the legend, that often turns into a young girl’s appearance to approach the society; with a very docile nature, likes eating fish, has a beautiful body and likes depending upon others. Otherwise, the Nekomata’s appearance becomes of a old woman, that displays bad habits in public and always has an air of dread around her; which if around people for an extended period can cause disease and pestilence.
Nekomata can also do other magic, but their most well-known and common power is that of animating the dead and manipulating them to whatever ends the particular nekomata wishes. A nekomata must be appeased by attention, food, and respect, and while many are fickle and turn their attention at a moment's notice, they do not tend to forget when they are insulted and by whom, holding grudges. To gain revenge, these nekomata usually controlled the tormentors' dead relatives, haunting them until the nekomata was appeased with food, apologies and attention.
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三尾 | 磯憮 – Three Tails (Sanbi), Isonade
Tale in the Legend of the Tailed Beasts： Isonade is a shark shaped Bijuu with a sharp horn on the forehead. It lives in the deep waters on the West of Japan, fighting pirates. Every few months, Isonade will swim to the surface of the sea from the deep waters, to breath some fresh air. However, when he does this, storms erupt, oceans rage, and all ships will be swallowed by him as food. Isonade has a subordinate fish called Samehada (?) (Same name as Kisame's Sword. Depicted differently, but with same pronunciation). Samehada attaches itself to Isonade’s stomach, and absorbs its food to create huge amounts of chakra, proceeding to send it back to its body. Samehada’s power can enable Isonade to get 5 times the quantity of chakra it could originally get. Therefore, when Isonade battles, he will have unlimited chakra to receive from Samehada.
Situation in the Ancient War of the 9 Gods： Battled 4 times; 2 Wins, 1 Loss, 1 Flee
Wins： Kaku, Shukaku
Escapes： Yamata no Orochi
Fate： A fisherman and brave warrior from Yokohama, called Takuma Muramasa, sacrifices himself in behalf of two villages in a courageous act, getting near Isonade and sealing his personal servant Samehada in the “Tool of Power: Pot of the Shark-named fish” from seal in the Water Shrine. Isonade then becomes unable to draw the massive chakra, and ends up getting exausted and sucked by the Tool’s seal in the Water Shrine as well.
Japanese Myth Appearance: A big shark/fish(?) with 3 tails and 3 fins. Has a dark blue body color, is attracted by blood (like all sharks); has a personal servant, a small fish named Samehada, as shown above, that is responsible to help Isonade absorb and digest Chakra in 5 times his original capacity.
Ability: Generic water powers, can control the currents of water.
Bijuu Strength Ranking： 6th
Bijuu Chakra/Stamina Ranking： 7th
Symbolic Element: Water (God of Water)
Origin / Discovered in： Four Nanju Country Islands - Yawagawa Sea Area (*COUGH*Nanju is Kisame's Akatsuki Rank*COUGH*)
Personal notes: Well, if this bijuu doesn’t scream KISAME to you, then this note is indeed useful. The Samehada connection is frightening (absorbs chakra), but there can be more about it, explaining WHY Kisame’s chakra reserve is SO big (as being the biggest in Akatsuki).
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四尾 | 鼠鮫 - Four Tails (Yonbi), Sokou
Tale in the Legend of the Tailed Beasts： Sokou is a bijuu that looks like a reptile. It was a creature that lived near Mount Fuji. Because of the toxic gas and the volcaninc ash, he was transformed into a half-rooster, half-snake monster. The Rooster and Snake are husband and wife in Sokou’s body. Everything around it withers away or dies, because of its poison. According to the Legend, whenever he hibernates in Mount Fuji, the snoring he causes will make the volcano erupt.
Situation in the Ancient War of the 9 Gods： Battled 4 times; 3 Losses, 1 Flee
Losses： Shukaku, Kaku, Houkou
Fate： Sokou was sealed by a master of demonic arts, called Yamazaki Ishiro, with the “Tool of power: Netted Moon Cage” to the seal in the Mount Fuji’s base. Sokou becomes unable to send out his poisonous gas from the mountain for all eternity.
Japanese Myth Appearance: A four-tailed Rooster / Snake mixture. The lower part of the body is a Snake, while the upper part is a Rooster. Crawls instead of walking (Just like desert scorpions *COUGH*Hiruko!Sasori*COUGH*). Most of the body parts have an orange tone. Lives in the mount Fuji.
Ability: Controls poison, poisonous gas, venoms, and so on.
Bijuu Strength Ranking： 9th
Bijuu Chakra/Stamina Ranking： 6th
Symbolic Element： Poison
Origin / Discovered in： Close to Tokyo, Mount Fuji.
Personal notes: Well, it indeed makes you remember of Sasori. Just a little.
More info about Sokou: If you remember, Sokou is the oriental counterpart of the folklore creature Cockatrice. Sokou doesn’t have wings like it, though.
五尾 | 彭侯 – Five Tails (Gobi), Houkou
Tale in the Legend of the Tailed Beasts： Houkou is a bijuu which looks like a five-tailed dog. Each tail of this creature represents one elemental power: Wind, Water, Earth, Lightning and Fire. They can cause catastrophic damage when used. Houkou will willingly destroy the nature to obtain the power he desires from these elements. He was once badly injured when he and Nekomata challenged Kyuubi. Strangely enough, he is the god of Illusion. Houkou lives in a giant, ancient tree.
Situation in the Ancient War of the 9 Gods： Battled 4 times; 3 Wins, 1 Loss
Wins： Sokou, Nekomata, Raijuu
Fate： After receiving a severe wound, Houkou runs away to one of Japan's islands, and hides in a place near Kyushu’s Volcano - a giant tree, to heal his wound. But the tree's concrete position is not known by anyone.
Japanese Myth Appearance: A species of dog, with 5 long tails. Has a white coloured body. Each of the tails possess one of the five elemental powers, that used simultaneously can cause a big earthquake.
Ability: Attacking using mixture of elements; Houkou is skilled in each kind of element ability, and can also create instantaneously each kind of natural disaster.
Bijuu Strength Ranking： 3rd
Bijuu Chakra/Stamina Ranking： 5th
Symbolic Element： Illusion (Being the god of Illusions)
Origin / Discovered in： Near one of Kyushu’s volcanoes (Akase Lava Volcano, probably)