Remember "the mud boat on Kachi Kachi Mountain" that was frequently mentioned in Ponpoko? There is a story behind that. There are many variations and I can't clearly remember, but I think this is one version.
One day long ago, an old man caught a tanuki and brought him home for tanuki stew. His wife tied his legs together and hung him from the ceiling, when the tanuki cried and pleaded that if she released him, he would do anything. So she let him go; but the tanuki turned around and killed her, ate her, and hid her bones in the cupboard. He ran out of the house and taunted the old man to look in his cupboard for his wife. The old man wept and thought of revenge.
So, the old man, as he was a woodcutter, was walking around the forest with his pack of firewood on his back. The tanuki became curious and jealous of these mysterious human activities. So the old man made a pack of wood for him to carry. Then, when they were walking along, he took out his lighting stone and set fire to the tanuki's wood. It started to crackle (kachi kachi), and the tanuki wondered, "Why is it going 'kachi kachi'?" The old man replied, "Because this is called 'Kachi Kachi Mountain.'" "Oh," said the tanuki, and walked on. Soon the fire started to roar (bou bou). The tanuki wondered, "Why is it going 'bou bou'?" The old man replied, "Because this is called 'Bou Bou Mountain.'" "Oh," said the tanuki, and walked on. But very soon the fire burned through, and the tanuki suffered a terrible burn on his back.
The next day, the old man was building a wooden boat when the tanuki came along and looked at it longingly. The old man said, "Would you like a boat, too? Here, I'll make you a boat," and proceeded to make a boat out of mud. The tanuki was very excited and took it out on a ride at once. He went far into the lake and felt proud of himself, as no other animal is capable of such a feat - but soon the mud dissolved, the boat sank, and the tanuki drowned as the old man looked on.
Hmm, maybe that was not so bright and happy (I swear there was another all-animal version with a bunny in it that explained why she has red eyes), but most stories about tanuki ended with them getting punished for their mischievous acts. The stories weren't meant to teach disrespect for animals, of course - probably just the opposite. The transforming animals liked to tease humans a lot: the fox was more clever and hardly ever got caught, but the tanuki, as seen here, was as dense as a rock. Thus, most of their deeds were relatively benign. The humans generally laughed them off when their plans failed and they scurried away, while the fox was regarded as more cunning and sometimes evil. However, it's interesting that in some places, the fox is revered as a messenger of the gods. Those were the days when humans interacted with animals and folk tales were abundant...