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p. 124



1.Okikurumi1 and Samai2 came to harpoon the sword-fish.
2.And we waited for them at the fishing place.
3.When they came they effectually harpooned a large fish.
4.From this point the fish went from one end of the sea to the other, taking the boat with it.
5.Now Samai collapsed for want of strength.
6.Upon this Okikurumi put forth all his strength p. 125 and wrought with the grunt of a young man.
7.Then there arose upon the palms and back of his hands two blood-stained blisters.
8.And with temper depicted upon his countenance Okikurumi said:—
9.Oh, this bad sword-fish, as you are doing this I will cut the harpoon-line.
10.And because upon the harpoon head there is metal, you shall greatly suffer from the noise of striking iron and grinding bones in your stomach;
11.Because the line is made of hemp, a plain of hemp shall grow out of thee;
12.Because the rope is made of Nipesh3, a Nipesh forest shall grow from p. 126 thy back;
13.And when you die you shall be cast into the mouth of the Shishirimuka4 river, and crows and many kinds of dogs shall congregate upon thee and defile thee.
14.Now, though the sword-fish said it understood, and thought it was Ainu that was spoken, yet it secretly laughed and went its way.
15.But before it had gone any great distance, mighty pains seized it, and in its stomach was heard the sound of striking iron and of grinding bones.
16.And plains of hemp and forests of Nipesh and Shiuri5 sprouting forth from its body, it was cast ashore in a dying p. 127 condition.
17.Then the dogs and crows congregated upon it and defiled it.
18.Upon this Okikurumi came down from the mountains and said:—
19.Oh! you bad sword-fish, it is by your own fault and for your own doings that you are thus punished.
20.Your lower jaw shall be used in the outhouse, and your upper one shall be sunk with a stone, and you must die a very hard and painful death.
21.Do not treat this Ainu tale of the sword-fish slightingly.


   The object of this tradition appears to be threefold.

   First to preserve and hand down to posterity the fact that Yoshitsune and Benkei once resided among the Ainu race and taught the people how to catch the larger kinds of fish. That these two persons really came to Yezo (and there can be but little doubt as to their having gone to Saghalien also) and dwelt p. 128 at Saru for a time seems almost indisputable, but what eventually became of them we are unable to determine, at least from what Ainu traditions have hitherto been obtained. We may perhaps learn more in time.

   The second object of this tradition is to teach people not to despise a new-comer or stranger, but rather to see what he can do and what useful things may be learned from him, e.g., the tradition says:—Ru etok oroge chiaiwakte okai ash awa, "and we waited for them at the fishing place." The Ainu interpret this by saying that the ancients took their boats and went to the point where the fishing was to commence, and waited for the appearance of Yoshitsune and Benkei. Their motive, however, was to see beforehand where the best fish might be caught and to return more successful than their Japanese friends. They did not so much desire to learn from them as to parade their own skill. But it turned out that the Ainu caught no fish, whilst Yoshitsune secured the very king of the sword-fish!

   In the third place this tradition teaches the Ainu not to forget the exceeding great power of Yoshitsune. Though Benkei dropped down in the boat through sheer exhaustion, and the harpoon line had to be cut, yet Yoshitsune turned out to be the conqueror. He cursed the fish with a mighty curse. Forests of trees and plains of hemp were to grow from its body and its interior was to resound again with the noise of iron striking together and of grinding bones. It was to die a hard and painful death, be cast into the mouth of the Saru river and be horribly defiled by crows and dogs. Such was the curse, and so indeed, say the Ainu, did all surely come to pass. The tradition finishes up with a caution, not to treat this Ainu tale in a slighting manner.



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* Tusunabanu is the name of the tune or voice in which this legend is recited.

1 Okikurumi is the Ainu name of the Japanese hero Kurohonguwan Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who was driven to Yezo by his younger brother in the 12th century of our era, and who is said by the Ainu to have taught their ancestors the arts of hunting and fishing.

2 Samai un guru stands for Benkei, who was the servant and retainer of Yoshitsune, and who is said to have accompanied him to Yezo. Samai un guru merely means "a Japanese" Samai being short for Samoro, which is the Ainu name for "Japan," e.g. Samoro kotan, " Japan," Samoro un guru or Samai un guru, "a Japanese." Here I may add, the name of the famous volcanic mountain, the Fuji Yama of the Japanese, is possibly none other than a corruption of the Ainu name Huchi Kamui, who is supposed to be the goddess of fire.

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3 Nipesh is the name of the tree with the bark of which the Ainu make their fishing ropes. It is called in Japanese Shina no ki.

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4 Shishiri-muka is the name of the Saru river.

5 Shiuri. This is the name of the wood out of which harpoon shafts are made. The Japanese of Yezo call this wood Nigaki.