Kannon is the Japanese goddess of mercy, compassion, and pets. She is usually depicted as female, but can also be depicted as male, which I think is pretty interesting. I’ve read somewhere that androgyny is quite prevalent in myth and lore, but it’s not something I’ve had the opportunity to look into deeper. Perhaps for another day and another blog post.
Of the stories I’ve read that feature Kannon (and there are quite a few, though I’ve not read them all) my favorite is the one where a girl saves a crab from being killed and sets it free. Later, due to an ill-gotten arrangement by her father, a snake comes to claim her as his wife. Well, the girl was having none of it, and she prayed to Kannon for help. In response, the goddess sent a legion of crabs to destroy the snake and save the girl.
There is a moral here, of course. But I mostly like the story because I like imagining a herd (gaggle?) of crabs, walking sideways, raising hell. Good stuff.
Source: Tyler, Royall, “The Grateful Crab”, Japanese Tales, Pantheon Books, 2002