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If any student of philology is desirous of seeing what the ancient language of the Ainu was really like, he may surely find it in the text of this tradition. Many of the words here used are never heard now excepting in the like traditions and legends, and most of the younger Ainu can neither explain nor understand such language unless they are first specially taught p. 140 it by their elders. It really requires much patient toil and study to grasp the peculiar meaning of the words, and still more to understand the drift of certain allusions and idiomatic phrases, especially as many of them either have already become or are fast becoming obsolete.
I have seen the following tradition listened to by old men full of years with rapt attention. And indeed, I hardly wonder at it, for it is an exciting tale full of pathos and graphic description, but it loses much of its beauty by being translated.
In order that it may be the better understood as it is being read to you, I would ask you kindly to bear the following few remarks in mind.
1. Poiyaumbe may be taken to mean "ancient Ainu warriors."
2. The deer which will be brought before your notice are human beings, inhabitants of a place called Samatuye. They have come to fight the Ainu. The speckled buck is their chief and the speckled doe is the chief's wife. The man leads the men, and the woman the women. Women as well as men used to fight.
3. These Samatuye people are said to have been a very warlike race. The travelled far and wide in search of conquest and fame, They used to travel and fight in the air, and could assume the forms of different kinds of animals. Thus they came in the form of deer to wage war with the Ainu.
4. As soon as the battle is commenced, they assume their proper form and carry on the fight in the air.
5. But the Ainu warriors could also mount upon the clouds and fight; hence, the Poiyaumbe here brought before our notice was able to travel through the air to Samatuye and so carry the war into the very camp of the enemy.
I will now give the tradition, reserving all further notes and comments till the end.
1. We three, my younger sister, my elder brother and I, were always together.
2. One night I was quite unable to sleep, but whether what I now relate was seen in a dream or whether it really took place I do not know.
3. Now I saw upon the tops of the mountains which lie towards the source of our river a great herd of male deer feeding by themselves. At the head of this great herd there was a very large speckled buck; even its horns were speckled. At the head of the herd of female deer there was a speckled doe skipping about in front of its fellows. So I sat up in my bed, buckled my belt winding it once round my body, and tied my hat strings under my chin; I then fastened my leggings, made of grass, to my legs, slipped on my best boots, stuck my favorite sword in my girdle, took my quiver sling in my hand, seized my bow, which was made of yew and ornamented with cherry bark, by the middle, and sallied forth.
4. The dust upon the road by the river-side was flying about; I was taken up by the wind and really seemed to go along upon the clouds. Now, my eldest brother and younger sister were coming along behind me.
5. And as we went along, in truth, we saw that the mighty mountains were covered with great herds of bucks and does; the bucks had a speckled male at their head, even its horns were speckled; there was also a speckled female deer skipping about at the head of the does.
6. On coming near them, I took an arrow out of my quiver and shot into the very thickest of the herd, so that the mountains become covered with the multitude of those which had tasted poison (i.e. which had been hit with poison arrows). And my elder brother shooting into the thickest of the herd of does, killed many that the grass was completely covered with their bodies; within a very short time the whole herd, both of bucks and does was slain. How was it that that which but a short time since was a p. 143 deer became a man? That I cannot tell.
7. What angry words he said to me:—"Because you are a brave Poiyaumbe and your fame has spread over many lands, you have come hither with the purpose of picking a quarrel with me. Thus then, you see that you have slain my friends and you doubtless think you can defeat me, but however brave you may be, I think you will probably find that you are mistaken."
8. When he had spoken so much, this lordly person drew his sword with a flash and struck at me with powerful strokes; in return I also flashed out my sword, but when I hit at him with mighty blows there was no corresponding crashing sound. It was extremely difficult to come upon him; it was as though the wind caught the point of my sword. Though this was the case, though it was difficult to strike him, and though I did not realize that I was struck, yet much blood spurted out of my body. That abominable, p. 144 bad man was also bleeding profusely.
9. Whilst things were going on in this way, my elder brother and younger sister met with the speckled doe, and both attacked it with drawn swords. With great fear they fought; and, when I looked, I saw that my elder brother was cut in twain; as he fell, he put out his hands and raised himself from the earth. I then drew my sword and cut him twice or thrice, So that he became a living man again. Then riding upon a sound like thunder, he quickly ascended to the skies and again engaged in the fight. I now heard a sound as of another person being slain elsewhere: it was my younger sister who was killed. With a great sound she rode upon the sun (i.e. she died with a groan).
10. Upon this the bad foreign woman boasted and said that she had slain my younger sister and thrown her to the earth. Then, the two, the woman and man, fell upon me with all their might and main, but I struck the bad p. 145 woman twice or thrice so that she rode upon the sun; she went to the sun a living soul. Then the bad, malignant man, being left alone, spoke thus:—
11. "Because you are a Poiyaumbe and the fame of your bravery has spread over many countries, and because you have done this, know ye that the place where I live is called Samatuye. The two, my younger brother and sister, are the defenders of my house, and they are exceedingly brave. Thus then, if I am slain by you, my younger brother will avenge my death and you will live no longer. You must be careful."
12. Now I made a cut at that bad, malignant man, but he returned the blow, and I swooned. Whether the swoon lasted for a long space or a short, I know not. But when I opened my eyes I found my right hand stretched out above me and striking hither and thither with the sword, and with the left I was seizing the grass and tearing it up by the roots.
13. So I came to myself. And I wondered where Samatuye p. 146 could be, and why it was so called. I thought that name was given to the place to frighten me, and I considered that if I did not pay it a visit I should be laughed at when I returned home, and thus feel humiliated.
14. Therefore I looked up and discovered the track by which this multitude of persons had come; I ascended to the path and passed very many towns and villages. And I travelled along this path for three days and three nights, in all six days, till I came down upon the sea shore; here I saw many towns and villages.
15. Here there was a very tall mountain whose top extended even into the skies; upon its summit was a beautiful house, and above this circled a great cloud of fog. I descended by the side of the house, and stealthily walking along with noiseless steps, peeped in between the cracks of the door and listened. I saw something like a very little man sitting cross-legged at the head of the fire-place staring into the fire, and I saw something like p. 147 a little woman sitting on the lefthand side of the fire-place.
16. Here again was a woman who in beauty equalled my younger sister. Now, the little man spake thus:—"Oh, my younger sister, listen to me, for I have a word to say. The weather is clouding over, and I am filled with anticipation. You know, you have been a prophet from a child. Just prophesy to me, for I desire to hear of the future."
17. Thus spake the little man. Then the little woman gave two great yawns and said:—"My elder brother, my little elder brother, listen to me for I have a word to say. Wherefore is my brother thus in anticipation? I hear news from a distant land; there is news coming from above the mountains of Tomisan pet!1 The brave Poiyaumbe have been attacked by my elder brother without cause, but a single man has annihilated my brother and his men. Whilst the battle p. 148 proceeds a little Kesorap2 comes flying across the sky from the interior; and though I earnestly desire to prophesy about it somehow or other it passes out of my sight. When it crosses the sea it darts along upon the surface of the water like a little fish: coming straight towards our town is the clashing of swords, the sword of a Ya un3 man and a Rep un4 blood is spurting forth from two great wounds; the sword of the Rep un man goes into the setting sun and is lost; the handle of the sword of the Ya un man shines upon the sun. Although our house was in peace it is now in danger. In speaking thus much my eyes become darkened. Pay attention to what I have said."
18. As she said this, I pretended that I had but now arrived, and knocking the dirt off my boots upon the hard soil just outside the house, I lifted the door-screen over my p. 149 shoulders and stepped inside. They both turned round and looked at me with one accord; with fear they gazed at me from under their eyebrows. Then I walked along the left-hand side of the fire-place with hasty strides.
19. I swept the little man to the right-hand side of the fire-place with my foot, and, sitting myself cross-legged at the head thereof spake thus:—"Look here, little Samatuye man, I have a word to say: attend well to me. Why has your elder brother, the Samatuye man, attacked us without reason? Has he not done so? As you have stirred up this war without reason you will be punished by the gods, you will be annihilated. Listen to what I say. Besides, although I am a wounded man, I will overthrow your town. Listen to what I say!"
20. And when I had said so much, I drew my sword and flashed it about. I struck at p. 150 him with such blows that the wind whistled. We ascended to the ceiling fighting, and here I chased him from one end of the house to the other. Whilst this was going on, a very great multitude of men congregated upon the threshold. They were as thick as swarms of flies; so I cut them down like men mow grass.
21. Whilst this was going on, the little woman said:—"Oh my brothers, why did ye commit such a fault as to attack the Poiyaumbe without cause? Was it that ye desired to slay those who had no desire to die that ye fell upon them? Henceforth I shall cast in my lot with the Poiyaumbe. Listen to my words."
22. When the little woman had thus spoken, she drew a dagger from her bosom and cut down the men at the door like grass; we fought side by side,
23. Fighting so, we drove them out of the house. And, when we looked at them there were but a few left, but behind them stood the little Samatuye man; yes, he was there. In a very short time those few p. 151 persons were all killed. After this I went after the Samatuye man with hasty strides and drew my sword above him. I struck at him with heavy blows. The Samatuye woman also stood by my side and hit at her brother with her dagger.
24. In a short time he received two or three cuts and was slain. After this the little woman wept very much and spake, saying, "As for me, I am undone. I did not desire to draw my dagger against a man without friends. As the little hawks flock together where there is food, so have I an earnest desire to be with thee, O Poiyaumbe! Listen to what I say."
1. Poiyaumbe. I have come to the conclusion that this word is most probably meant to designate the ancient Ainu, for, ya un guru is the word by which the Ainu used to distinguish themselves from foreigners, whom they called Rep un guru. Ya un guru means "persons residing on the soil," or "natives." Rep un guru means, "persons of the sea;" or "persons residing beyond the seas!" or "Islanders." Thus Poiyaumbe signifies, "little beings residing on the soil;" for the word may be divided in this way: Poi or pon, "little;" ya, "land," "soil;" un, locative particle; pe "things," "being," "persons." Pon, however, should not be taken in this instance to really mean "small" or "little," but it is intended to express endearment or admiration, p. 152 and may in this case be conveniently translated by "brave;" thus the word comes to mean "the brave Ainu." Persons who especially bore this name were the brave warriors of the Ainu race, what we should probably call the heroes of the people.
2. Sections one to five need no comment from me; I will therefore pass them over, merely saying that such minute and graphic description is common among the Ainu.
3. Section six asks:—"How was it that that which but a short time ago was a deer became a man? That I cannot tell." It was now for the first time that the Ainu discovered the deer to be human beings. They now assumed their proper form and were found to be enemies come to pick a quarrel and fight.
4. Section seven contains the challenge to fight. Here we see that the speckled buck, now turned into a man, accuses the Ainu of slaying his comrades. He seeks some ground of quarrel and attempts to shift the real cause of the war from his own shoulders to those of the Ainu, when, in truth, he himself had invaded the land."You have slain my friend," says he. Then out flash the swords and the duel is fought with vigour and warmth.
5. In this section we have also an intimation that the Ainu was of great fame; his" fame had spread over many lands." What lands these were I cannot learn. Some tell me that the Ainu sailed in their boats to Manchuria and crossed the ice to Siberia, and there waged war and traded.
6. Section nine tells us of the fight between the foreigner's wife and the Ainu's brother and sister, both of whom were slain by her. The brother was cut in twain, but the Poiyaumbe went and struck him twice or thrice with his sword, which it is said, brought him back to life! This is a very curious statement, but it is said that the Ainu once had the power of bringing persons back to life by cutting them with their swords. To this very day they have a custom of drawing their swords over a sick person and making a pretence of cutting him or her to pieces. This is supposed to have great efficacy in healing and restoring to life! The Ainu say that they have lost the power of restoring slain comrades to life by the sword, and this is the reason they have now given up fighting! In this section we have also an intimation of how the Ainu used to speak of life and death. The Ainu's sister rode upon the sun; i.e. she died. Death is riding upon the setting sun, and life is riding upon the rising sun, or a shining like the sun. This is a curious thing. What the underlying thought may be I will leave you to imagine.
7. Section ten tells us of the death of the doe, who become a woman: her body was left, but her living soul travelled to the sun, i.e. she was slain.
8. Sections ten and eleven intimate that the antagonist of the Ainu was beginning to fear. He therefore threatens him with the vengeance of his brother and sister; he also tells him that the name of his country in Samatuye. Where p. 153 Samatuye may be I cannot find out. Samatuye means, "to be cut in twain;" but it is said to be the name of a place or country.
9. Section fourteen. The path by which the enemy had come was in the air, and the Ainu followed it up till he came to the country called Samatuye. Here, the fifteenth section says, was an exceedingly high mountain, upon whose summit was built the chief's palace; at its foot was the capital city. Again, the Ainu ascends to the air and comes stealthily to the door of the palace; he sees the brother and sister of his enemy and listens to their conversation. What he overheard is recorded in the sixteenth and seventeenth section.
10. Sections sixteen to eighteen. The sister was a prophetess. There are still prophets and prophetesses amongst the Ainu, but their chief duty now is to tell the causes of illness, to prescribe medicines, to charm away sickness, and to make known the ultimate result, i.e. to tell whether a person will die or get well again. When a person prophesies he or she is supposed to sleep or otherwise lose consciousness, the spirit of prophecy or divination is thought to enter into the heart of the prophet, so that the subject merely becomes a tool or mouth-piece of the gods. The prophet is not even supposed to know what he himself says, and often the listeners do not understand what his words portend. When in the act of prophesying the prophet is in a fearful tremble; he generally breathes very hard and drops of perspiration stand upon his brow. Though his eyes should be open they have, for the time being, lost all power of sight. He sees nothing but with the mind. Everything he sees, whether relating to the past, present or future, is spoken of in the present tense. This spirit of prophecy is quite believed in by the people, and the prophet or prophetess is often resorted to. But curiously enough, no person can prophesy just when he or she pleases; he must wait till the spirit seizes him. Nor is a good drink of wine always needed, but contemplation and prayer are absolute necessities. The burden of prophecy sometimes comes out in jerks, but more often in a kind of sing-song monotone.
11. I have witnessed a prophet prophesying, and, truly, I think it would be difficult to find a more solemn scene. Absolute silence was observed by the people who were congregated together; no voice was to be heard but that of the prophet. Old men with grey beards sat there with tears in their eyes, silent and solemn; attentively were they listening to what was being said. The prophet appeared to be quite carried away with his subject, for he was beating himself with his hands. When he had finished, he opened his eyes and, for a moment, they looked wild and shone like fire; but exhaustion soon came over him. But to return.
12. Section seventeen. This section contains the woman's prophecy. She sees the fight beyond the Ishikari river. She beholds her brother and his hosts slain in battle. She sees the conquering hero, the Ainu, come flitting across the skies likes a little bird. He darts along upon the seas like a fish skimming the surface of the water. She hears the clashing sound of swords coming straight towards their own city and palace. They are Ainu and Samatuye men that p. 154 she sees. The Ainu, says she, is wounded. The sword of the Samatuye man, her brother, goes into the setting sun, i.e. he dies. The sword of the Ainu shines upon the sun, i.e. he conquers. And, lastly, she sees that the very house in which they are is in danger; and, no wonder, for the Ainu is at the very door listening. Then, say sections eighteen and nineteen, in walks the Ainu and challenges the brother to fight.
14. Sections nineteen to end tell us the result of this fight. The woman casts in her lot with the Ainu. She assists him in the fight. The Samatuye men are all slain, and the woman becomes the Ainu's wife! So ends this tradition.
* Poiyaumbe is the name of the subject and means "the brave Ainu."
1 Tomisan pet is the name of a river said to be about a day's journey further up the West coast of Yezo than Ishkari.
2 Kesorap is said by some Ainu to be peacock, and by others a kind of eagle. Here, however, it signifies the victorious Ainu now on his way to destroy Samatuye.
3 Ya un, "Ainu."
4 Rep un, the enemy of the Ainu.