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The following ridiculous legend of the hero Okikurumi in love with an Ainu maiden was told me some four years ago by an old man who has, I believe, since passed away. It is a curious production altogether. In hearing the commencement of this legend I had expected great things, but in the end found that it finished up with nothing.
The purpose for which this legend is recited seems to be to teach young lovers never to despair even if they cannot obtain the objects of their affections, and never to look too much after the softer sex. The great Okikurumi fell deeply in love; he became very ill, exceedingly lovesick; he lost his appetite and bodily strength. He laid down in his hut in sullen despair and would eat neither good food nor bad; he was, in short, ready to die of love; and, mark you, all this happened through taking just one glance at a beautiful woman. "Dear, dear," says the legend, "how badly he felt!" Therefore let the young beware.
But Okikurumi gets cured of his dangerous malady. A little bird flies to the cause of this affliction—the object of his affections. Word is brought to her of his deep-seated love and critical condition. The pretty little bird wags its tail and whispers in the lady's ear that, if Okikurumi dies, the soul of Ainu-land will also depart. Therefore the bird begs her to have mercy upon poor Okikurumi for the sake of Ainuland. The intercession is successful. An unreal, unsubstantial woman is made in the likeness of the beauty Okikurumi was smitten with. She is brought to his hut, and forthwith proceeds to arrange the mats, furniture and ornaments. Okikurumi takes a sly glance at her through his arm hole or sleeve; he is encouraged; he gets up, rejoices, eats food, is revived and feels strong again. This done, the lady takes her departure: she is not. What then does Okikurumi do? Why, he sees that he has been deceived in the woman; and, as "there was nothing to be done p. 130 nothing to be said," he got well again like a sensible man.
I will now proceed to give the legend.
|The goddess felt lonely and gazed upon the inside and surveyed the outside of the house.
|She went out, and behold,
|The clouds were floating and waving about in beautiful terraces upon the horizon over Ainu-land. Yes, that is what she saw.
|So she returned into the house backwards, and took down her needle-work.
|Again she looked to the point of her needle, and p. 131 fixed her gaze upon the eye end thereof;
|Then came a little bird called "water wag-tail," and sat upon the window shutter and wagged its tail up and down and waved it from right to left.
|Then two chirps and three chirps came to her and touched the inside surface of her ears, and what she heard was this:—
|The mighty Okikurumi, who is the governor of all Ainu-land, went out of doors for a little while, and, seeing you, has fallen in of love on your account.
|And though two bad fish and two good fish were placed before him for food he refused to eat.
|Now, if Okikurumi should die, the soul of Ainu-land will depart.
|Then the little bird called "water-wagtail," waving its tail, spake two words to her and said: "Have mercy upon us that Okikurumi may live."
|Thus, then, by simply looking out upon the world Okikurumi fell so sick of love that though two bad fish and two good fish were set before him, he could not eat.
|Dear, dear, how badly he felt!
|Therefore the form of a woman resembling the goddess was made and sent down to Okikurumi.
|The house was set in order; that woman who was sent down put things to right.
|Then Okikurumi looked through his sleeve and saw the beautiful woman;
|He got up greatly rejoicing; he ate some food; strength came back to his body, and,—the woman was gone.
|Okikurumi saw he had been deceived, but there was nothing to be done and nothing to say, so he got well.
Verses one to three are a mere introductory statement as to how it was that Okikurumi first caught sight of this beautiful woman with whom he fell in love. She had been sitting in the hut and now felt a little lonesome, restless or tired. Her eyes had been wandering about from one object to another with weary solitude. She gets up, goes outside in an aimless kind of way and scans the horizon, which she sees is very beautiful in its grandeur, the clouds being piled one upon another in terrace-like masses. She feels revived and returns into her hut.
The fourth verse tells us that this lady returned into the house backwards (hetoro-horoka). This is a sign of great respect. A woman, when going out of a hut or from the presence of a man, must always, according to Ainu etiquette, walk slowly out backwards. She must never turn her back on a man! She must always honour her betters, i.e. the opposite sex. She must also smooth back her hair, draw her finger acress her upper lip and cover her mouth with her hand. This is the woman's mode of salutation and showing honour to her superiors. In the present case, however, this comely woman was paying respcct to the brilliant beauties of nature which she saw depicted upon the heavens, hence she came into her hut reverently walking backwards.
Here I may perhaps note in passing, that, when men are talking together in a house, the women present must endeavour to become nonentities. They must sit apart and either keep silent or speak in whispers. They generally sit in a ring and go on with what work they have in hand, such as needle-work, p. 135 making string or cloth, or cleaning fish. They are supposed to be neither seen nor heard, though they must of course be at the beck and call of the men and attend to the fire.
Also in passing a man in the forest, she must always make way for the stronger sex, must cover her mouth with her hand and not speak unless spoken to.
The fifth verse merely describes how intent the lady was upon her sewing. She looked at "the point of her needle, and fixed her gaze upon the eye end thereof," says the legend.
Verse six. The water-wagtail is much esteemed by the Ainu, for they consider it to be a bird of good omen. It is supposed to be the first bird that was created, and is thought to be a special favourite and companion of the gods. Hence verse seven tells us that this bird was chosen and sent to convey the intelligence of Okikurumi's love-stricken heart and critical condition to this beautiful and industrious damsel. The burden of the bird's speech is contained in verses eight to eleven.
Verse nine. The words "two bad fish and two good fish" form an expression indicating that whatever food was placed before Okikurumi, whether good or bad, he could not touch it. He was so very love-sick. "Dear, dear," says the thirteenth verse, "how badly he felt!"
Verse ten expresses what a sad calamity it would be if Okikurumi were to die. He was the very life and hope of the Ainu.
Let every one take warning from verses twelve and thirteen. It is not good to look upon a woman and become love-stricken and love-sick on her account. See what Okikurumi suffered.
The remainder of these verses merely tell us how easily the great Okikurumi himself was deceived by a shadow.
The moral the Ainu draw is:—Do not be too easily deceived by woman's love, for it soon passes away like a mere unsubstanial phantom or shadow; or as the words are:—"it is not." i.e. it ceases to be. Therefore beware.
* Ahetenrai is the tune or tone of voice in which this legend is recited.