This mysterious creature is usually described as having the head of a monkey, the body of a racoon dog, the limbs of a tiger, and a snake tail. But it is sometimes thought to have a bird-like shape instead, perhaps because its distinctive cry is said to be similar to that of a mountain thrush. Either way its name is synonymous with a nebulous, elusive, and cunning nature.
The most famous story involving the nue takes place in the year 1153, at the imperial palace in Kyōtō. Emperor Konoe begins having terrible nightmares every night, to the point that he falls ill, and it seems that the source is a dark cloud that appears on the palace roof every night at two in the morning. The problem is eventually solved by Yorimasu Minamoto, who stakes out the roof one night and fires an arrow into the cloud, out of which falls a dead nue. Yorimasu then takes the body and sinks it into the Sea of Japan.
A sequel to the story exists, in which the nue's corpse floats into a certain bay and the locals, fearing a curse, bury it. The mound where the beast lies can still be seen today.1
1. Mizuki 2001, pp. 114-115.