Animal Crossing: New Horizons is just about as lighthearted as a video game could possibly be. Players move to a beautiful island and turn it into a thriving community filled with adorable anthropomorphic animals. On the surface, there’s nothing sinister about these friendly neighbors at all. However, when it comes to Japanese folklore, some NPCs have pretty dark backstories. One Animal Crossing character with frightening folklore is Kapp’n, the singing, sailing turtle.
Who is Kapp’n in ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons added Kapp’n with its major Update 2.0 back in November 2021. Players can find the turtle hanging out in his boat by the dock. For 1,000 Nook Miles per trip, he’ll take players to special mystery islands that cannot be accessed by plane. Along the way, Kapp’n sings various sea shanties, which can be skipped if a player wants (although Kapp’n will get upset).
Players who have Kapp’n’s amiibo can build him a vacation home in the Happy Home Paradise DLC. He’ll bring along his family, including his wife, Leilani; his daughter, Leila; and his mother, Grams.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons took a while to introduce Kapp’n, but he is by no means a new character to the franchise. He has been in the Animal Crossing series since the very first installment on GameCube. Kapp’n has always transported players in some way or another. For example, in Wild World, he drives a taxi, while in City Folk, he drives a bus. But no matter what vehicle he’s operating, he’ll always sing sea shanties.
‘Animal Crossing’ took inspiration for Kapp’n from Japanese folklore
As it turns out, this happy-go-lucky sailor has a dark secret: He may or may not like to eat children. As Animal Crossing Wiki notes, in Japanese versions of the game, Kapp’n is known as a Kappa (which is likely part of where he gets his name). In Japanese folklore, a Kappa is a human-like creature with webbed feet and a bald spot on its head. This creature lurks in rivers and is said to enjoy eating humans, especially kids.
One big piece of evidence that connects Kapp’n to the folk tale is is sea shanty about a boat made of cucumbers. A cucumber is said to be a Kappa’s favorite food, so people would throw one into the river as a way to protect themselves from getting eaten.
More specifically, Kapp’n sings the line, “Cloudy skies mean storms and storms cancel dinner.” This could reference the idea that people avoid going into the water in a storm, so a Kappa has no one to eat for dinner. Animal Crossing players might want to watch their back while they’re out on the water alone with Kapp’n …
Other ‘Animal Crossing’ characters inspired by folk tales
Kapp’n isn’t the only Animal Crossing character with folklore roots. For example, as Screen Rant notes, Crazy Redd, the shady art dealer, is based on the Japanese Kitsune. This shapeshifter is often known for playing tricks on people with their paranormal abilities. Meanwhile, creepy villager Coco is modeled after Haniwa figures, or terracotta sculptures that house the spirits of the dead.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available now on Nintendo Switch, as well as the Happy Home Paradise DLC.