In my universe I am designing anthropomorphic foxes similar in appearance to the japanese mythological kitsune. For those who are familiar with the game League of Legends: Ahri is a good example of what i have in mind. I use magic in the setting and do not care about topics like evolution (e.g.: creation of fox-fire) or concealing the existence of the kitsune (How would a kitsune conceal her presence in a city?).

I want to know how to use my version of the kitsune in a medieval army.

Here is how I want to design my version of the kitsune:

Look and magical capabilities:

  • Basically humans, who grow tails and ears that look like those of foxes
  • They store magical energy in their tails, which can be released to create magical flames
  • They can create one flame per tail or they can also combine the magic from multiple tails to form a bigger flame. The flames are fueled by the magical energy in their respective tail
  • The flames hover in the air and can be controlled by the kitsune
  • Normally a kitsune with one tail is able to create and sustain a single flame that encompasses an adults hand for a few minutes
  • The furthest distance a single flame can be moved, is a few dozen metres, depending on the ability of the kitsune


  • Kitsune grow like normal humans up to the age of 25. At this point their first tail starts growing and they begin to age more slowly.
  • A tail takes about 100 years to grow
  • The magical capacity of each tail continues to grow even after the tail itself does not grow anymore
  • The kitsune in my universe cannot shapeshift
  • Their eyes, ears and nose are more sensitive than those of normal humans

Other magic:

  • This is the only kind of magic that exists in this universe

View of society:

  • The exitence of kitsune ist common knowledge, but they are rare
  • A kitsune with one or two tails might be found every few villages. Kitsune with four or five tails can only be found in the biggest cities.
  • Most of them do not live long enough for their sixth tail to start growing
  • They do not possess magical healing abilities or better regeneration
  • Because they are rare and they can use magic people view them very differently
  • There are religions and cults worshipping them as their deities.
  • On the other hand many people fear them, because they are different.

Technological level:

  • The technological level of the world is similar to 15th century Europe.

My question is: How can kitsune be used in an army?

Here are a few keypoints that I was thinking about:

  • Extra tails make them an easy target on the battlefield. By chopping off their tails they cannot use their magic anymore and they are heavily bleeding.
  • Heightened sight and the ability to create little flames at will might be useful for archers that use fire arrows. But a kitsune will run out of energy pretty quickly when igniting the arrows of many people.
  • Their heightened senses give them an edge in the night. Therefore they might be useful as spies. On the other hand their tails give them away pretty quickly.
  • In the rear they can be useful by providing magical fire at will. This might come in handy when patrolling to illuminate the path or to warn others. But an army should have enough torches for this kind of task
  • After a few hundred years you probably know a thing or two about war. Therefore kitsune might be good advisor. But as I mentioned above some people fear them and might therefore object to them advising the commander.
  • There are only a few kitsune compared to the normal humans in the army.
  • They can greatly vary in their ability to control their magical energy as well as the amount of magical energy they can store.
  • Both sides have kitsune in their army.

If you have an idea but need to adjust the level of military technology, the power of the kitsune or other factors for your idea to work please feel free to do so. The goal is to find ways to utilize kitsune in an army.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for specifying what you're asking in the first paragraph $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Jan 17 '17 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ As a rule of thumb, data like "up to 10 minutes" or "10~20 metres" don't exactly help to enrich a fantasy story. Your reader probably won't care and you'll trap yourself to those numbers, spending too much time in the wrong details. Try to use relative quantities like "a few minutes" and "a few dozen meters". That way you help yourself out of trouble when the numbers don't exactly match the scenes you're building. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jan 18 '17 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ Just how big are these tails? If they are so difficult to conceal such that they are even obvious at night in the dark and easily spotted from a distance even in the din of battle... $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jan 19 '17 at 16:13
  • $\begingroup$ @pluckedkiwi: The picture of Ahri that I am referring to in the first paragraph shows pretty much what I have in mind. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 19 '17 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Clarification? - "The furthest distance a single flame can be moved, is a few dozen metres, depending on the ability of the kitsune" Does that mean the furthest a flame can be created away from the Kitsune that created it a few dozen meters? If there was a pile of hay within sight but a few hundred meters away from the Kitsune, could he/she ignite it? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Jan 23 '17 at 22:38

10 Answers 10


They will have very limited use in armies, due to this restriction here:

A tail takes about 100 years to grow

For the 15th century medieval society to have a city with a 5 tail Kitsune, this Kitsune would be 525 years old and around for the dark ages that preceded it. You now have a being who can impose their will throughout history on the scale of 10x human life spans. They can see a scale and direction far outside of what any human can witness. They will have years to acquire and perfect skills, but also years to make a single mistake and die in battle.

The first question is what happens in the first 125 years before they gain a tail? Are they being heavily guarded and trained by older Kitsune? Are they being left to their own means? Do they exist in remote monasteries disappearing from human view for 4 generations before returning as super trained monks with over 100 years of training? War is death...if Kitsune are rare, then risking an asset that has possibly taken 300+ years to develop on a battlefield is a risky proposition.

Medieval armies started to hit some impressive sizes by the 15th century, so it's hard to suggest that one or two of Kitsune could really influence a battle that heavily, and if they were there, they would be big targets. There might be some opportunities for them to fill in at some key points (defend a bridge during a withdraw?), but a couple Kitsune (from a purely 'combat' point of view) isn't going to heavily change the outcome of a battle.

So to the question:

How can kitsune be used in an army?

The likely answer is they wouldn't. Their value is simply too high to risk in a war. As knowledge/technology/history scholars having knowledge spanning generations of humans or craftsmen/blacksmiths/woodworkers/etc with centuries of experience or as kings/advisors allowing for a constant vision/direction spanning many human generations or merchants with centuries of massed wealth or even a borderline god like status (if they can convince the world their energy is divine...). Kitsune would see a much greater scale than a single army/battle/war as their lifespans are far longer than any medieval empire ever survived.

All this said : There is the potential of the Kitsune having a 'hero' like status (kinda like Achilles or Hector in 'Troy' or several of the characters in 'Hero' from 2002) or the leaders of an elite squad/body guard unit. Will they die? Likely, every battle could be their last. Will they add an explosive element to the army the hero accompanies? Yes, most definitely.

An after thought:

As much as war is a leading cause of death during these times...disease and famine also played their parts. Kitsune might need a heightened immune system

Adding more towards their combat uses after some comments were answered.

You may have found an interesting balance here.

  1. Sieges in Medieval terms are generally not short events and are drawn out across months and years. However an army with a Kitsune could drop a city in a matter of days...

    • Stockade. Any smaller town with a simple wooden wall is a simple fire away from being wall-less. Smaller towns wouldn't even require an effort to create siege equipment from that army to successfully overrun, massively increasing the rate a marching army can capture targets.

    • Turrets / defensive artillery. Larger cities will have walls armed with weapons, which a high powered Kitsune could disable from a safe distance. The Kitsune doesn't even need to fully burn the device, just simply burn the ropes and firing mechanisms. Archer towers can also go up in flames

    • Front gate. Why bash it in when you can burn it down? With enough intent, the Kitsune should be able to burn the gate, or the mechanisms that keep the gate closed. Burnt ropes will drop draw bridges as well

    • City itself. A good way to reduce a standing garrison at the walls is start burning the city in behind. Ammunition, food stores, and other supplies can also be targeted.

    • Threat. Why attack an enemy you can coax to surrender instead? "Open your gates and let us in or our Kitsune burns every home in this town and every man/woman/child in it".

Of course, the reverse applies...a defending Kitsune could easily burn siege equipment (Siege towers would burn before they ever hit the walls). It'd be an interesting power balance...a city with a high power Kitsune would be hard to overcome without a kitsune in the opposing army as well. A Kitsune becomes the ultimate in siege warfare and the presence of one 5-tail Kitsune could make a city 'unsiegable'

  1. Skirmish/Guerrilla/saboteur. I suspect a Kitsune would make a pretty wild 'robin hood' type figure. Quick strikes at supplies and a quicker retreat, especially when combined with heighten senses at night. Extra points if the Kitsune could turn an armies encampment to ash overnight.

  2. Kitsune Youngins. Most of your single tail (or no tail) Kitsunes are relatively weak compared to their older counterparts. Ultimately (as other answers have mentioned) their use is will be more dependant on the value of these Kitsunes and their place in the social structure.

    • Just as peasants can be given weapons and join an army, so can these young kitsune. Like anyone else, this will give the Kitsune a trial by fire experience of war and they'll learn quickly or die. If Kitsune are semi common, you might see this setup occur. They might find the occasional situational use of their fire magic and potentially be able to harm some more powerful enemy units with fire, but will mostly be no different from the majority of other soldiers. In this methodology you will have battle hardened veteran Kitsune emerge, however only through surviving heavy attrition will they reach multiple tails.

    • If there is a high 'divine' view of these Kitsune, then the general might find himself benefiting from a body guard of these Kitsune to show his fellow troops and the enemy that the divine beings are on his side (this would relegate them to be more figurines than having any useful role beyond weak bodyguard). If troops are more willing to fight to the death because a 'divine' kitsune is following the general like a trained puppy, all the power to em. Should also note that if you are using them for this reason, then having the enemy kill them off can be a heavy blow to morale.

    • My precious! If there is this view that the Kitsune is a very rare and powerful resource to be taken care of and nurtured, then no...they won't be used in an army readily as the benefit they give to an army is easily outweighed by what their future state could be. They would be removed from combat and likely only experience it through training until they are older. One thing to point out on this front though...How many people are capable of seeing several generations beyond their lifetime? Would a general in a war now forgo using a potential resource because 10 human generations later would see this resource increase exponentially in power? Hard to call.

  3. Leaders. Added this in after...but no matter how you look at it, these Kitsune exist on lifespans far beyond humans which increases the upper limit of the amount of experience this being can have compared to humans. This means they would make excellent advisers to generals or generals themselves pretty readily.

Incidentally...the more common Kitsune are, the more developed the local fire department likely is ;)

  • $\begingroup$ Good point. Maybe I need to rethink some things... Handwaving a better immune system shouldn't be a problem, thiking about all the other things I handwave. What would you say if I reduced the time for a tail to grow to, lets say, "25 years"? Or would something vague like "a few years" be better? I would like to keep them relatively long-lived. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 20 '17 at 8:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Secespitus I would stagger them a bit...shorter for the first tail and much longer for each new one (50 for second, 100 for third?). This will definitely give you more 'one tail' Kitsune that would be expendable enough for war, yet allow for the possibility of an ancient 5 tailed Kitsune. It can also depend on how they are introduced to the world...if the first 100 years of their lives they are in some angelic nursery before being released to the world at a steady rate, then maybe? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Jan 20 '17 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Staggering sounds quite good. Locking them away for a longer period doesn't fit into my current ideas of the story. I will keep the question with 100 years because I am not sure about if and how I would change the years exactly, but I will keep your feedback in mind. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 20 '17 at 23:16
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    $\begingroup$ Pocket Kitsune sound interesting. Do they come packaged with some kind of red and white little ball to store them in? I'd like to carry, like, 6 of them with me! ;) $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 25 '17 at 0:43
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    $\begingroup$ I definitely see these Kitsune as saboteurs. Sneak into a town under the cover of night, and torch garrisons, food supplies, armories... anything of military value. That said, "green" ropes (made from fresh-cut plant fibers) would be an expensive but useful means of preventing long-range torching of important ropes. A distantly-lobbed fireball is likely going to be in contact with it for a second or less; while dry fibers will easily ignite, green fibers will just dry out a bit. Bamboo would be good: high tensile strength, grows rapidly, doesn't burn easily. $\endgroup$ – Doktor J Jun 28 '17 at 19:47

As artillery:

First thing that might come to mind is in heavy artillery. Find a way to charge a massive projectile with kitsune fire, or even propel a normal projectile using the energy from said fire (or both at the same time, of course). Meaning the kitsune individuals (I struggle with applying the plural form to this Japanese name, so let's go with that) that possesses the most tails would be the most valuable, and the more high-capacity kitsune units an army possesses, the more artillery units it can employ for less resources (an army marches on it's stomach)

This use of kitsune as a resource, rather than a work-force, implies that the kitsune are treated as a lower class. In which case, doing things like cutting a kitsune's tail should be bussiness as usual for the machine of war.

As spies and gurrila warfare unites:

Kitsune with a lower tail-count would probably have the easiest time traversing a forest or any other difficult environment. The act of cutting tail- if acceptable in the society you are creating, would probably be a normal procedure for kitsune of two or three tails, as removing their magic ability completely would probably be a waste (and they might be using their tails for balance, so removing all of the tails could leave them unable to preform acrobatic moves) And of course- A kitsune with even a single tail is never unarmed. Think about stealthy and asymmetrical warfare, not just reconnaissance. An elite group of stealthy kitsune could take down units much bigger than themselves by using their natural talents and some crafty tactics to get a massive advantage (and cause massive damage)

As musketeers:

Came to me after thinking about that artillery option. A kitsune could easily operate a matchlock rifle, considering they literally have fire at their fingertips. Depending on the size of the projectile and the technology available to creating the guns, they could be deployed as sneaky, long-range assassins, or as entire infantry squads, all depends on the availability of the kitsune themselves.

(All of this is only if they can make their fires explode, which should determine if the artillery idea is possible as well, you could discard half the mechanisms of the primitive matchlock rifle, and just have them create mini-explosions from behind a projectile resting inside a tubular contraption. Knowing a thing or two about these creatures, this shouldn't be a problem...)

Anyway, hope something from here gave you some new material. Good luck on your project.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your input, those are some very nice ideas. Especially the idea of using them as musketeers is interesting. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 17 '17 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ Glad you liked it. the others were too obvious, so this one is my favorite. $\endgroup$ – Trickyni Jan 18 '17 at 12:11

Ignoring what other answers have been given already, let's look at the different possibilities.

  • The Kitsune stand low in society in general
  • The Kitsune are treated normally, yet feared for their powers
  • The Kitsune are worshiped more than feared

In each case, there will be some worship, just not largely spread throughout the world.

With these baselines in place, we can go look at their use, the treatment that leads out of that and possible results from that.

Low society

Assuming Kitsune are not respected by the general populous and are more feared than worshiped, they will either work as simple workforce, lighting arrows, torches or in mobile smithies, as their fire will allow craftsmanship to repair weapons and armor much closer to the battlefield.

Since they have no large value in society, they will likely be pushed to their limits, treated more as slaves in armies, causing these Kitsune to be forced to be very proficient in the use of their mana. This lack of respect makes them a dangerous tool to use in the army, as a rebellion of Kitsune could cause massive damage to the existing army. Therefore, Kitsune will be handled almost the same way we handle explosives nowadays, stuffed away until of use.

Normal treatment

In this case, we can assume that Kitsune will be free to join the army themselves, and if they do, will often be trained as if they were one of the more capable humans. Their training will therefore allow them to make proficient use of their skills, yet still remain one of many other foot soldiers. Uses would vary from much more dangerous archers, to low level mages, to immensely lethal close quarters combat units. They'll likely be the inspiring officer that leads the charge, and instills fear in both ally and enemy.

This kind of Kitsune will likely never be any higher than an officer in society, simply because of the fear they instill in men and the lack of trust that comes along with that. Therefore, the rare few Kitsune that do exist, will likely be drawn to other fields, causing the few Kitsune that do join to be huge assets in a war.


Kistune in these situations will more likely have be generals, or highly trained special ops. The ability to cast fire at will make close quarters combat against them very deadly, and their ability to enhance any kind of weapon, projectile or even armor will make them a very valuable asset to any kind of smaller, more specialized force.

Even though they are feared, their divine image prevents people from discrediting them or keeping them out of the higher echelons of society, making it a very common thing for two armies to be lead by Kitsune, with men advising them instead.

It gets much more interesting if you mix these different treatments up with each other however. Imagine a divine war against a country that mistreats Kitsune, or the stories that could evolve from a "soldier"-Kitsune seeing a "slave"-Kitsune or "general"-Kitsune, or any other combination of that.

In short, you can use Kitsune for almost everything, it's more about what makes more sense.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer. Having a "general"-Kitsune meet a "slave"-Kitsune sounds like a very nice addition to my story. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 19 '17 at 18:56

I would see their use less in the offensive department but more for defence. Using them as artillery is more dangerous for them as a valuable resource. You could better employ them to guard your fortresses, ships and siege engines from fire (assuming they can control other flames as well and not only those they create themselves.)

Some might be used as part of guerrilla actions, too.

There might be experiments for technologies fuelled by Kitsune flames. Like hot air balloons that fly high enough to be out of range for arrows and that are used for recon. Their enhanced senses could allow them to then use flag signals to other kitsune on the ground.

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    $\begingroup$ The alternative use as balloon fuel is great! +1 $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Jan 25 '17 at 0:33

Of course they could be used in Warfare. They are demigods, living flame throwers. They could be very useful in Warfare not only for battle but intimidation. You said that they are feared, what if a commander let it slip that he had a few hundred kitsune on his side? are they fair enough then alining with anything cause the enemy to retreat?

Let's not forget also that they worshipped as deities. Their presence on the battlefield can be used to inspire the troops much the same way that religious objects were carried into battle in our own histories, or the way Kings and Generals would ride in the front lines.

Of course if not used carefully they could be disastrous to your army. A Untrained Kitsune on the battlefield mite accidentally set his own Man on Fire. And if they were to be killed the troops might lose heart at seeing one of their gods die. Similar to the way airmes would lose heart after their generals were killed. however all these can be avoided with good training and proper planning.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I did'nt think about using them in a psychological way. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 17 '17 at 19:53

So, what puts your kitsune apart from the normal rank and file?

  1. They can create fire.
  2. They have an effective range larger than any melee weapon.
  3. They have more controll over their missiles than any conventional missile soldier (archers, slingers, crossbowmen).

What is the same as your everyday human?

  1. Swords kill them.
  2. Arrows kill them.
  3. Horses trample them.

What are their disadvantages?

  1. They are rare.
  2. They take a long time to replenish, should one of them die.
  3. Compared to classical missile weapons their range is abomninable short.

Now lets draw some conclusions from that:

  • Your Kitsune wouldn't be placed in the frontline, since they are too rare.
  • Your Kitsune would be helpfull during battle downtimes, since they provide easier access to fire than any contemporary method (read: glorified pocket lighter).
  • Your Kitsune could easily work as ranged support were classical ranged soldiers would pose to big a threat for your own troops. Much like the use of normal fire, their role would probably focus on harassment, and area controll. Fire just doesn't do enough immediate dammage to be usefull as classic missile weapon, but it excells at blinding enemies, panicing war beasts, and disabling equipment.

Assuming that your Kitsune would be used as field units, they would probably spend their time behind lines of more classical soldiers, where they would be somewhat protected from missile fire, but not exposed to actual frontline combar.

Since classical combat was all about hammer and anvil tactics, with a stable core army and a flanking army to make the enemy route, their position would be on the outer edges of the main army, where they could provide support to the anvil, and could make potential flanking attacks with cavalry falter.


Message transmitters.

Having heightened senses would be great for a spying role, but you're not wrong in mentioning their flames and long tails could give away positioning. So why not make use of that visibility?

I would propose assigning them as message carriers. I assume they're energetic and fast? Why not have them physically travel between base camps, spreading vital war tactics. Their impressive agility would allow them to trek efficiently.

Don't want to have them travel vast distances? Let's not forget about their magic. Flickering on and off their flames could represent visual transmission, similar to Morse Code. They could act as look outs and notify allies when dangers are spotted.

Their super hearing and vision could also help leak encrypted, enemy, information. Perhaps they could utilise their magic in the form of code breaking? Medieval and Renaissance cryptography did exist and deciphering that kind of data could often be the key to winning a war.

I would like to add that given 25 years, until their abilities develop - putting them on the frontline or in some type of fighting position just doesn't make sense, they're too valuable.


Battlefield ready forge

Having a flame this hot can make them walking forges for small repairs and jobs.

Making a katana or shied from scratch would not be plausible, but repairing broken swords and shields with scrap metal found in the battlefield can be.

Also they can be used to metal salvaging by smelting broken weapons in the battlefield to easier transportation in a cube shaped mold.

Sabotage team

Having a intense flame with no need for fuel can be really useful on supply sabotage mission.

A single humanoid can have the firepower to ignite an entire supply of food of an enemy army efficiently, and the no reliance of fuel or climate conditions (rain) can make this approach better than a human with molotov like weapons or fire arrows.


Weapons, fighting; bah. Catapults, forges; bah; bah. You can have all that already. I suppose if this is some Magic the Gathering card fighting game then you will have to do with that. If this is for a story, consider: these fox folk are the only magic things in the universe. And a cursory Google image will reveal (I mean it) that many kitsune are smokingly hot. That League of Legends girl being a prime example.

They should be there for the sex. I do not mean like tragic poxy camp followers. I mean magic holy Sex Priestesess.


For one this will liven up the sausage party type battle story I smell brewing here. For 2 their flame powers will keep any soldiers they choose (they do the choosing) on good behavior. For 3 they are magic so it is plausible that being chosen for attention by the fox confers power or luck. Definitely luck. And if the soldiers believe that then the leaders will like it too and so allow the kitsune. For 4 there can be talk of "getting some tail" (sorry).

And for 5 the real motivations of the kitsune who choose this path can remain obscure. This gives asymmetric energy to a narrative.

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    $\begingroup$ This... is a very different approach to what I had in mind. I have to admit it made me laugh, but I am planning to keep the story a bit more serious. Still +1 for ... interesting... ideas about maybe one secondary character... $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 24 '17 at 16:31

Breed the foxes, at least 1-3 children per female fox so the entire army would consist of these foxes. Then there should be fewer humans trying to wage war over useless crap. Also then, the foxes become the majority so humans cannot dictate what the foxes should and should not do.

Edit: Since all living organisms have DNA, simply find the genetic pattern among existing foxes, then we can breed them without waiting generations by forcing all people to have their DNA sequenced and stored in a DB.

We can have war in 25 years then, not entire generations.

OR just sacrifice 1 fox in the image of your own people like a Jesus Christ, then you can create a religion based on people who look like him and then use the worship from the opposing sides females in a sexual imperialism. Once the hearts of the women are on the ground, it doesn't matter how strong the men are.

  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to worldbuilding.SE! I appreciate the effort but this won't be a viable option, because as I stated in the question it takes at least 25 years before the first effects of being a kitsune become apparent. Breeding them would take generations. And humans normally don't like waiting for generations. My armies want war now! :D $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jan 24 '17 at 10:00

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