If there is one thing I remember from my childhood, it’s my first introduction to anime. Like most people, it was Pokémon. This was my show and my main games of childhood. However, there was another anime making its rounds on Cartoon Network. That anime was Naruto and I ignored it. Why? Because young me found him annoying, no joke. Clearly, young me did not expect it to become phenom it has become. Twenty-one seasons with 500 episodes, that is no small feat. Now if Pokémon taught me anything, it is that Japan loves putting their folklore into modern media, and who can blame them. To me, it is fascinating. I mention that because I can find two sources of folklore within the show. Those two being the Nine Tailed Fox and Jiraiya.
To start off with, the Nine Tail Fox. Now, the folklore Nine Tail Fox actually has a name. Her name was Tamamo No Mae. She was beautiful, intelligent, and more. She charmed the Emperor enough to convince him to let her stay at his palace. Having charmed the Emperor, the two became inseparable. However, the Emperor became ill. All the servants were concerned for their emperor, except for one, Tamamo No Mae. If anything, she was confused and apathetic.
One scholar became suspicious of Tamamo No Mae, due to her being near perfect, so he went to the monks in the mountain. To make this long story short, the scholar tricked Tamamo No Mae into revealing her true form, a beautiful woman who had nine tails of a fox. She had intentions for killing the Emperor, however there was one thing she did not expect, falling in love with him. The scholar called for two assassins to kill her. The assassins and Tamamo No Mae’s fought, leaving all three heavily wounded, where she ran away. Eventually, she died, but it does not end there. In death she inadvertently, cursed a stone to kill anyone who came close to it. Much later, a monk walked by the stone, and did not die. He even touched it! He then asked Tamamo No Mae to reveal her spirit and tell her side of the story. In reality, she was not always like this. She was cursed by a nine-tailed fox, which is why she abandoned by her birth parents. Her adoptive father was killed for treason when she was sixteen. She was so angry and upset, so she embraced the curse. After hearing this, the monk had mercy on her, and lifted the curse letting her spirit rest.
Now the story of Jiraya is not that old, in folklore terms, also he was seen as Japan’s Robin Hood. Originally published in 1839, The Heroic Tales of Jiraiya or Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya. This story took ten years to complete. His story begins with an evil snake. Long story short, evil snake manipulated three clans, the Tsukikage, Ogata and Matsuura. Which eventually lead to a coup and infant Jiraiya being thrown off a cliff along with Tsunade, who is his wife and companion. To avenge their clan, Jiraiya learned toad magic while Tsunade learned slug magic. When they faced the snake, they were in a three-way deadlock. Snake magic beat toad magic, toad magic beat slug magic, and slug magic. The only way they could beat Orochimaru (the snake) was to use Nakirimaru sword, or wave cutting sword. Later in life, Jiraiya found the Nakimaru sword and used it to exercise the demon out of Orochimaru and the clans made peace. That is the end of the 1839 story, however Jiraiya has appeared in more things since then. In 1921, there was a movie called Jiraiya the Brave. In 1966 there was a movie called The Magic Serpent, which was said to have a similar plot to Star Wars. Then eventually he, Tsunade and Orochimaru would make their way into Naruto.
In closing, I believe that you can find inspiration from a lot of things. From Pokémon to RWBY, and to now Naruto. Its surprising how deep some things go. This is most likely only a few references to Japan’s folklore in the show.