Monday, December 19, 2005

frosty's second cousin

As a result of the fallen snow yesterday, there are several melting snowmen balancing precariously on mailboxes, street corners, and park benches in my neighborhood. The first one I saw had already been reduced to two dirty snowballs. I thought, “Poor snowman has lost his head.” But as I rode around passing one after another headless Frosty, I realized that either my neighborhood is home to a ruthless snowman decapitator, or Japanese snowmen in general only have two body parts.

I am going to go with the latter. Snowman in Japanese is yuki daruma. Yuki means snow. Daruma is the Japanization of the name Dharma, short for Bodhidharma, the Indian monk credited with the foundation of what later became Zen Buddhism. One of the legends concerning Bodhidharma is that he meditated facing a wall for seven years and consequently his legs and arms fell off (he also attained enlightenment). Thus, in Japan we have a good-luck Daruma doll who is legless and armless and often very round. From this rationalization, I believe that the name and form of the Japanese snowman comes from this roly-poly Daruma doll.

Why does an American snowman have three body parts?

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