Sacred Texts Japan Ainu Index Next
BY THE REV. JNO. BATCHELOR.
[Read 14th March, 1888.]
The following specimens of Ainu folk-lore form a small portion of matter which the writer has himself collected, from time to time, during a period of nearly six years. They are merely specimens. Many other examples might be given. But it is presumed that the following half-dozen samples will be fully sufficient to illustrate the manner in which this crude race of men, in the absence of books, keep their legends, fables, and traditions alive.
It is not pretended that all such legends are interesting to general readers, for some of them may be said to be quite ridiculous and nonsensical. Nevertheless, they are all curious in their way, and are certainly well worth studying from a linguistical, philosophical and anthropological standpoint; hence it is hoped that the following specimens of Ainu folk-lore will not come amiss to the ethnologist.
Some of the Ainu legends and traditions are recited in prose, and others in a kind of verse. Those given in verse are recited in a sort of sing-song monotone, whilst those in prose are chanted more in the natural tone of voice.
Each legend has its own particular name, as a reference to those here given will show. In the case of those in verse, the p. 112 name appears to indicate either the metre or tone of voice, whilst in those given in prose, the name seems to point rather to the subject than to the tune or metre. For an example of prose see the last specimen given, and for verse see any of the preceding ones.
The legends or traditions given below will be found in parallel columns, Ainu on one side and an English translation on the other. The divisions into verses or sections are the writer's own, made for his own convenience in the matter of translation and for easy reference; and it is hoped that they will be found useful to any person who may hereafter either desire to translate the Ainu for themselves, or to compare the one language with the other.
Thc translation is as literal as possible, but the writer cannot hope, in every case, to have lit upon the exact corresponding English word or phrase. To any one who knows how difficult it is to translate the legends and fables of one nation into the language of another, my misgivings on this point will be easily understood, duly appreciated and, it is hoped, generously pardoned.
In order that the theme should not be interrupted, it will be found that most of the notes and explanations have been reserved till the end of each legend.
I will now proceed with the specimens:—