Mario’s transformations into Raccoon and Tanooki Mario are actually based on Japanese mythology. A “tanooki” (really spelled tanuki) is a raccoon-like animal indigenous to Japan. In ancient Japanese tales, raccoons had quite a bit of magic power. One of their most renowned talents was the ability to shift their shapes by using leaves. They often used this to turn into humans. Other creatures, such as foxes, were also known to have these powers, but whereas foxes used this ability to often play cruel tricks on humans, raccoons were more of a nice and helpful nature. Large raccoon statues are also used in Japan as some kind of good-luck bringers. [via The Mushroom Kingdom]
I never noticed that Mario transforms into an invincible Jizo statue as well, one that rendered Mario invicible to enemies. The figure is obviously meant to represent Jizo, the Bodhisattva that traveled to the underworld to save the souls that were suffering there. Which leads me to my main point: Super Mario Land is actually Hell. Jizo stated, “Not until the hells are emptied will I become a Buddha; Not until all beings are saved will I certify to Bodhi.” and that includes Italians roaming around the Mushroom Hell, evidently….
I loved that game…
Also, I believe that more and more I am beginning to resemble Mario…I need to find a Tanuki Suit.