Sacred Texts  Japan  Ainu  Index Previous Next

p. 25


   There was a person who was reared as a slave1 at p. 26 Shinutapka.2 Now, once upon a time he heard it noised abroad that there was a lady residing at Kunnepet3 who was famous for her beauty. So, one day, after he had cooked and eaten some food, our slave buckled on his belt,4 stuck his trusty sword into his girdle, and fastened on his helmet; then, being taken up by the winds which arose from the head of the fireplace,5 he was hastily carried through the upper window;6 and his p. 27 inspiring7 guardian god having rested upon him with a sound, he went before the mighty winds8 till he arrived at the village of Kunnepet.

   So he came to the lady of Kunnepet. When he looked at her he saw that she was weeping9 very exceedingly. p. 28 Still shedding tears, she spake and said:—"The thunder-gods who live in the heavens above are two in number,10 and the younger of them does nothing but make advances to me and is about to marry me. This being so, O Poiyaumbe,11 we cannot marry though you have come for me; nevertheless I will cook12 some food that you may eat." When she had so said she swung a pretty little pot over the fire and put some of her choice treasured-up food into it. She then dipped in her ladle and stirred up the delicious food. Next she took a pretty eating cup and set it upon a beautiful tray; then, heaping it up high, carried it to him and bowed profusely.

p. 29

   When he had but just commenced to eat, flashes of white13 lightning came through the upper window and hung upon the beams in curious forms. Upon looking up he saw a lady even more beautiful than the lady of Kunnepet, reclining in a white chariot.14 She had anger depicted upon her countenance; and, in her wrath said:—"O Poiyaumbe listen to me for I have something to say. I am the younger sister of the wolf-god and the benefactress of the lady of Kunnepet, whilst you are watched over by my elder brother.15 This being so, I am here to tell you that the thunder-god is angry with you for coming to visit this lady and is going to make grievous war against you. Nay, the war is at p. 30 hand. Though I am a worthless16 woman, I have come to assist you. Get into my white chariot;" so spake the younger sister of the wolf-god.

   So he got into the chariot, which immediately went out of the upper window. Then the trappings17 of the chariot whistled and rattled. As they went on their way, they skirted the mountains towards the source of the river, and, proceeding along, they saw white and black lightning playing about in the clouds of the lower18 heavens. As he was looking at it, he saw the aforementioned thunder-god sitting in a black chariot; he was unmistakably a very little man. There too sat a little woman, who, without doubt, was his younger sister. She held a wand in her hand; with p. 31 which she continually struck first one end of the chariot and then the other, as they hung and waved about over the tops of the mountains.

   The thunder-god, having anger expressed upon his countenance, said:—"Look here, O Poiyaumbe, listen well to me for I have something to say. You have been paying your addresses to and flirting with the lady of Kunnepet, whom I have determined to take to myself as wife. I take this as a cause for war. Be very careful, my fine fellow, for I will bring down your haughty looks." When he had so spoken, he set upon him mightily with his sword; so that his blows rattled upon the sides of the white chariot. Upon this Poiyaumbe also drew his sword and set upon the thunder-god as determinately as he was attacked by him. So they fought with might and main, but the black chariot rose and fell to meet the attack. So that the blows of the sword upon its sides and floor sent forth a clashing sound.

   And now there was a tremendous roaring sound of p. 32 thunder over the world, together with a mighty wind blowing; and both day and night they did nothing but fight. After the war had raged for twice ten months, the god of thunder said:—

   "I observe that as we fight upon this land in which men dwell, we are wasting and wearing out the country, for, as you see, its foundations (back-bones) consist of rocks; we ought to be more careful of the world. Now then, come, the foundations (backbones) of the world above are made of iron, let us go up there and fight; for there we may wage war without having any regard to the spoilation of the place." So spake he.

   He then withdrew into the air and I followed close behind him. The younger sister of the wolf-god, having the wand in her hand, continued to strike first one end and then the other of the chariot. The thin trappings whistled and the thick trappings rattled, as the white chariot followed close upon the black one. The gates of heaven opened with a sound, and, having passed through, were shut upon us with another p. 33 noise. Now, what we saw was on this wise. A splendid country lay before us and a very beautiful waterway opened up to our view. On the sides of the river were forests of magificient oaks, and the clouds upon the horizon were floating gently along. Now, the thunder-god said:—"This country is, in truth, the high heaven. Its foundations consist of iron so that if we fight here for two or three years we need have no fear of damaging it. This is indeed a place in which we can especially measure our strength."

   Having so said, he set upon me mightily with his sword, and I too turned upon him as fiercely. Nevertheless, the edge of the black chariot clashed against the sword and warded off the blows, so there was only the sound of clashing iron. In the same way our white chariot, also rising up and guarding with its floor, sent forth a clashing sound. And now, fighting fiercely, we chased each other from one end of heaven to the other, till at length we chanced to pass over a metal house which was covered in with a lid, and, p. 34 over this we stayed and fought; whilst doing so, there came forth a voice from the inside of the house which said:—

   "Look here, O Poiyaumbe and thunder-god, I have something to say, so pay attention. It is indeed true that the foundations of Ainu-land are rocks, and it is also true that the foundations of heaven above consist of metal. But as ye continue to carry on your battles here, heaven has grown weary and waxed hot for the reason that its foundations are iron. Ye should be careful. Now then, come, underneath Ainu-land there are six countries, and beneath these again there is another, a beautiful land. The name of that country is Chirama,19 and its foundations consist of earth. Go ye to that land and fight, for unless ye do, our country and villages will be all spoiled." So sounded forth the voice of God.

   Upon this the thunder-god sheathed his sword and I also sheathed mine. Then, as we entered heaven, so we went out—with a rush. We passed down through space p. 35 head-first, like snipes, and, piercing our land, we went through six countries. Having done this, we came, as we were told we should, to a truly beautiful country; without doubt this was Chirama-land, upon which we had descended.

   And now we chased one another from one end of the country to the other, fighting, as before, most fiercely. Nevertheless, whenever and however we fought, the black chariot rising, falling, and swinging to and fro, kept off my blows with its sides and floor, so that the result was nothing but the sound of clashing metal. In the same way the white chariot also rose up and fenced the blows with its sides and floor like a shield. However much I strove, I could by no means touch the body of the thunder-god. I therefore aimed at nothing but to cut the trappings by which the black chariot was suspended. And fighting hard with this intent, I was able, after a time and by the help of God, to sever them. So, too, all the trappings of our white chariot were cut asunder. We therefore all fell down to the p. 36 ground. Then the thunder-god got out of his black chariot and came to me, walking by the help of his hands.

   Upon this the younger sister of the thunder-god shed many tears and said:— "Oh my elder brother, you are a god; and if you would but marry a goddess you would have no need to carry on this fierce combat with Poiyaumbe. Why do you set your affections on this Lady of Kunnepet as though she were the only woman? Now our20 charmed black chariot has been quite broken up and you are as one fighting without armour. Be careful or Poiyaumbe will slay you." So spake the sister of the thunder-god through her tears.

   After she had said this, the sister of the wolf-god went out and fought against her. Then the thunder-god set upon me most fiercely and I returned the attack just as vehemently. Thus fighting together, I managed with great difficulty to strike him now and then, so that his garments p. 37 were hanging about him in rags. But he was not to be beaten; for he also in like manner cut my clothes into many pieces. Whilst things were going on so, a mighty sound as if the true gods were coming to us, issued forth from the east of Chirama-land, and all at once my Lady of Kunnepet, more beautiful than ever, and shedding many tears, alighted and came to the side of the wolf-god. And now the sister of the thunder-god fought mightily, but after two or three final struggles, she was cut down and slain. Her divine spirit roared loudly as it ascended into the skies. She went up to heaven a living goddess; and, when she had departed the roaring ceased.

   After this my Lady of Kunnepet, in company with the sister of the wolf-god came to my side and we three together fought against the thunder-god. So that after a time he was, though with difficulty, cut down and slain. His spirit roared as it went up; but, as it was not possible for it to go into the western21 end of Chirama-land it ascended p. 38 to the high heavens with a great noise. It went up a new god and then the sound died away.

   When all was over, my Lady of Kunnepet and the younger sister of the wolf-god saluted one another with their swords, and then, after we had come to our country and to the village of Kunnepet, the sister of the wolf-god said:—"As I am a goddess, I must take a husband from among the gods, but as you are a man, it would be well for you to marry the Lady of Kunnepet. Now, you are watched over by my elder brother the wolf-god, so henceforth do no more fighting, but when you have wine, be careful that you make some inao22 and offer libations to the wolf-god."

   When she had finished speaking, she departed with a great sound. Then my Lady of Kunnepet worked away with a willing heart and great pleasure, and, having prepared food, she heaped up very full a pretty cup, and, setting it on a beautiful tray, brought it to me with many bows. After eating a little of it, I pushed the remainder p. 39 to her and she, lifting it up and down in thankfulness, finished it.23 Then, when the meal was over, my Lady of Kunnepet proceeded to get the house in order and we have lived happily ever since.



p. 25

1 The word here translated "slave" is, in Ainu, a compound noun Usshiu ne guru. By comparing it with itself in certain other places in legends where it occurs, always, of course, taking the context into consideration, we are led to the conclusion that it really refers to persons who have been taken prisoners during war or in night raids. We learn from the Ainus that it used to be the custom of their ancestors when at war with one another to kill as many male adults as possible and take the women and children for "slaves" and concubines. All these were called by the word here translated "slaves." However, the hero of the present legend appears to have been a "lad in waiting" or "page," something after the manner, only greatly modified, of course, of the old chivalric times in Europe. Elsewhere he is called by a word meaning "the brave Ainu;" hence from these two names we are led to adopt the opinion that he was the son of a female prisoner or slave by her master, though he may have been only a son of two slaves born in the house. All children born in a person's house, whether they were the natural offspring of the master or the slave, were alike counted as members of one family and accompanied their lord on his war expeditions. Hence what would appear quite unnatural to us, namely, that a "slave" should go to war on his own account, would be quite natural among the Ainus.

p. 26

2 Shinutapka, elsewhere called Shinutapkashi is the ancient name of some mountains in the north of Yezo, distant from Ishkari about ten or twelve Japanese ri, and is said to have been the home of a race of especially brave Ainu warriors. Upon the highest point of this mountain there is said to be the remains of one of their old forts still in existence. However this may be, it is certain that Shinutapka enters very much into the Ainu legends, and the people of the present day point to the districts of Ishkari and Mashki as the locality of these famous mountains. Shinutapka means "the top of the very high mountain peak."

3 The name Kunnepet means "the black river," but it seems that no one now knows the locality or river which once bore this name.

4 The word translated "belt" is, in Ainu, Uokkane kut whose exact meaning is "girdle with metal fastenings." This would seem to show us that the Ainus used to wear "belts" rather than the girdles they have now. In fact, the word cannot be applied to any kind of girdle unless it has either a buckle or a hook and eye at the ends.

5 The head of the fireplace (i.e. that part of a hut between the fireplace and east window) is sacred. It is here especially that the great drinking-bouts are held.

6 The "upper window" here referred to is a hole left in the west end of a hut for the purpose of allowing the smoke to escape. Some of the Ainus, however, those of Ishkari for example, have the aperture left in the south side of the roof.

p. 27

7 The Ainu words I have translated "inspiring gods" are full of deep theology, and cast a side-light upon Ainu religious ideas. They show us that the Ainu race is a deeply religious one. The words are ituren Kamui. Kamui means "God" or "gods." Turen signifies "to be inspired by the gods" as when a prophet prophecies; "to be possessed with a devil;" "to be afflicted with disease as a punishment for evil;" "to receive special blessings from the gods;" "to have God's protection" as when engaged in some great and dangerous undertaking. The particle i prefixed to turen intensifies its meaning. Hence in this particular place ituren Kamui really means "the inspiring, guiding, guarding, keeping, protecting gods." Such words as these speak for themselves as regards the religious instincts of the Ainus. I may as well note in passing that every Ainu household is supposed to have its special guardian god. It is called Turen Kamui, and is thought to sit upon the roof the house when the master is at home, but to accompany him when he goes on a journey. So here, our hero was accompanied by his "inspiring, guardian god."

8 The words "mighty wind" are, in the original, "the winds of god." When the Ainus desire to express greatness, mightiness, beauty and such like ideas they often use the word Kamui, "god." Thus for "great trees" we hear "trees of God;" for "high mountains" we have "mountains of God;" for "beautiful flowers," "flowers of God," for "great rivers," "rivers of God," and here for "Mighty winds" we find "winds of God." We can thus understand that "bears" are called "animals of God" because they are to the Ainus the "Kings of the forest."

When it is said that he went before the "Mighty winds" or "the winds of God" we must remember that the Ainus have an idea that their ancestors had power, by the help of their Turen Kamui—"inspiring guardian gods," to fly through the air or even to wage war in the air. These particular "winds of God" may therefore be called "delightful, pleasant winds" with as much propriety as "mighty winds."

9 The words "weeping very exceedingly" are, when translated literally, "two bad weeps." Severity or excessiveness are often expressed in Ainu by "two or three" or "twice or thrice." Thus, "he was struck twice or thrice" sometimes means "he was severely beaten;" and, as here, "she had two bad weeps" we get "she wept very exceedingly," or "she wept exceeding bitterly."

p. 28

10 We are here let into the secret of Ainu ideas concerning thunder. In bodily form the thunder-gods are supposed to resemble men, and they have the same kind of affections as human beings. It will also be seen later on that they speak with the language of men. Nor, speaking from what we know of other so called Ainu gods, must we suppose that the thunder-gods are all males and but two in number, for analogy would lead us to conclude that the Ainus consider the thunder-gods to be very numerous and to marry and be given in marriage and therefore to be of both sexes. Though they may be born they can never die. Thunder itself is caused by the movements of these gods.

11 Poiyaumbe means "the brave Ainu" or "the brave hero." The Ainus sometimes call Yezo by the name Ya un moshiri so that Ya un guru or Yaumbe comes to mean "an Ainu." This term was discussed in Vol XVI., Pt. II., p. 47, note 1, of the Transactions of this Society.

12 The lady of Kunnepet says she would cook some food for her visitor. It would be considered a great breach of etiquette and very forward in a young woman to do such a thing for a bachelor unless she was commanded to do so by her guardians or parents. This is perfectly natural because part of the Ainu marriage ceremony consists in the act of the bride cooking food and giving it to her betrothed.

p. 29

13 The Ainus consider white to be the best and purest colour. It is the colour of the gods and all that is good, whilst black is supposed to represent evil and the devil. I once saw an Ainu corpse with its feet clothed in white rags which we had sometime before given to a person to dress some wounds with. It was thought that the white rags would assist the dead in its journey to heaven.

14 The word here translated chariot now means cradle, but in this legend chariot suits the sense better. The chariot is conceived of as being suspended from above by means of strings and cords in the same way as the Ainus suspend their cradles from the roof of their huts.

15 Here we have the curious idea that the use of animals is partly to watch over human beings. Thus the male wolf was the guardian of Poiyaumbe, our hero, whilst the female wolf protected the Lady of Kunnepet. We can therefore partly understand why the Ainus worship animals and offer libations of wine to them.

p. 30

16 The goddess does not mean to say that she is of no account; but to call oneself "worthless" and "bad" is Ainu etiquette, though probably originally borrowed from their Japanese neighbours.

17 These trappings are simply the cords by which the chariot was suspended from heaven.

18 "The lower heaven." The Ainus consider the heavens to be three in number. The first in order is called Shi-nish kando, "the greatest skies;" this is supposed to be the home of the chief of the gods, i.e. the Creator. The second order of heavens is called Nochiu-o kando, "the skies which bear the stars;" the second order of gods is supposed to dwell here. The last or lowest heavens are named range kando or urara kando, i.e. "the hanging skies" or "the fog skies;" the lowest orders of gods and some of the demons, especially the demons of thunder, are supposed to live here.

p. 34

19 Chirama means "lowest."

p. 36

20 The chariots were, we learn, charmed and acted as shields to the combatants.

p. 37

21 i.e. To die.

p. 38

22 Pieces of whittled willow wood.

p. 39

23 i.e. The marriage ceremony was concluded and they were married.