Sacred Texts Japan Ainu Index Previous Next
|1.||At the source of the Saru river there is a large lake.|
|2.||In this lake there was a monster trout which was so big that it used to flap its (pectoral) fins at one end and wave its tail at the other.|
|3.||Then the honourable ancestors met and went to kill this fish, but found themselves unable to accomplish their end, though they attempted to do so for many days.|
|4.||Because, then, they very much desired to kill the fish, the gods, who had a special regard for the welfare of Ainu-land; sent help from heaven.|
|5.||And, the gods descending, they seized the great trout with their hands (claws).|
|6.||Upon this it plunged mightily and went to the bottom of the lake with great force.|
|7.||Then the gods put forth all their power, and, drawing the great trout to the surface of the water, brought it ashore.|
|8.||Upon this all the honourable ancestors drew their swords and chopped the fish till they quite killed it.|
It is said that this mighty trout was in the habit, not only of swallowing any animals, such as deer and bears, that might come to the shores of the lake to drink, but would sometimes swallow up men, women and children. Nay, not only so, but even whole boats full of people! Yes, boats and all! Hence it was that the ancients were so anxious to slay this monster.
The Ainu appear to have a special dread of large lakes, because they say that every now and again one of these monster p. 123 fish suddenly puts in an appearance, and commences its destructive work of swallowing animals and human beings. Only a few hundred years ago, say they, one of these awful fish was found dead upon the shores of the Shikot1 to (Chitose lake). This monster had swallowed a large deer, horns and all, but the horns caused a severe attack of indigestion to come on, which the fish could not get over; nay, the horns were so long that they protruded from its stomach and caused its death.
It is to the actions of one of these monstrous fish that all earthquakes, of which there are many occurrences in Yezo, are to be traced. The earth, i.e., so far as Ainu-land is concerned, is supposed to rest upon the back of one of these creatures; and, whenever it moves, the world, as a matter of course, must feel the effects and move also. This earthquake-causing fish is sometimes called Tokushish, i.e., "trout"; and sometimes Moshiri ikkewe chep, i.e. "the backbone fish of the world."
* Piu-ham-piu is the name of the tune or tone of voice in which this legend is recited.
1 A propos the Shikot or Chitose lake, it may perhaps be worth recording that the Ainu say the sea used to come up to its very borders, so that large junks from Japan formerly anchored there; and that the present lake is neither half so large nor deep as it used to be. Volcanic eruptions have, according to Ainu traditions, been the powers at work here. Shikot is really the old name of the river which flows into this lake, and from which the lake formerly took its name.