AINO FOLK-LORE.

BY BASIL HALL CHAMBERLAIN.


Prefatory Remarks.

I VISITED the island of Yezo for the third time in the summer of 1886, in order to study the Aino language, with a view to elucidate by its means the obscure problem of the geographical nomenclature of Japan. But, as is apt to happen on such occasions, the chief object of my visit soon ceased to be the only object. He who would learn a language must try to lisp in it, and more especially must he try to induce the natives to chatter in it in his presence. Now in Yezo, subjects of discourse are few. The Ainos stand too low in the scale of humanity to have any notion of the civilised art of "making conversation." When, therefore, the fishing and the weather are exhausted, the European sojourner in one of their dreary, filthy seaside hamlets will find himself,—at least I found myself,—sadly at a loss for any further means of setting his native companions' tongues in motion. It is then that fairy tales come to the rescue. The Ainos would not suggest the ideas themselves. To suggest ideas is not their habit. But they are delighted to follow it when suggested. Simply to repeat something which they have known by heart ever since the days of their childhood is not such an effort to their easily-tired brains as is the keeping up of a conversation with one who speaks their language imperfectly. Their tongues are at once loosened.

In my own case, I found myself, after a short time, listening to the p. 2 stories for their own sake,—not merely as linguistic exercises; and I ventured to include a few of them in the "Memoir on the Ainos" which was published a few months ago by the Imperial University of Japan. Some remarks in a review of this "Memoir," contained in Nature of the 12th May, 1887, have encouraged me to believe that anthropologists and comparative mythologists may be interested in having laid before them something more than mere samples of the mental products of a people which is interesting for three reasons,—interesting because its domain once extended over the entire Japanese archipelago, interesting because absolutely nothing certain is known as to its origin and affinities, interesting because it is, so to speak, almost at its last gasp. I have, therefore, now collected and classified all the tales that were communicated to me by Ainos, in Aino, during my last stay in the island, and more latterly in Tokyo, when, by the kind assistance of the President of the University, Mr. H. Watanabe, an exceptionally intelligent Aino was procured from the North, and spent a month in my house. These tales form the paper which I now have the honour to offer for the acceptance of your learned Society.

It would, no doubt, be possible to treat the subject of Aino folk-lore in great detail. The gloss might easily be made longer than the text. Each story might be analysed according to the method proposed by the Folk-Lore Society; a "survey of incidents" might be appended to each, as in Messrs. Steel and Temple's charming "Wide-Awake Stories," from the Punjab and Cashmere. More interesting to the anthropologist than such mechanical dissection of each tale considered as an independent entity would be the attempt to unravel the affinities of these Aino tales. How many of them, what parts of them, are original? How many of them are borrowed, and whence?

To carry out such an investigation with that completeness which would alone give it serious value, would necessitate a greater expenditure of time than my duties will allow of, perhaps also fund of multifarious knowledge which I do not possess. I would, therefore, merely suggest in passing that the probabilities of the case are in favour of the Ainos having borrowed from their only clever neighbours, p. 3 the Japanese. (The advent of the Russians is so recent that they need hardly be counted in this connection.) The reasons for attributing to the Japanese, rather than to the Ainos, the prior possession (which, by the way, by no means implies the invention) of the tales common to both races, are partly general, partly special. Thus it is a priori likely that the stupid and barbarous will be taught by the clever and educated, not the clever and educated by the stupid and barbarous. On the other hand, as I have elsewhere demonstrated, a comparative study of the languages of the two peoples shows clearly that this a priori view is fully borne out so far as far as the linguistic domain is concerned. The same remark applies to social customs. Even in religion, the most conservative of all institutions, especially among barbarians, the Ainos have suffered Japanese influence to intrude itself. It is Japanese rice-beer, under its Japanese name of sake, which they offer in libations to their gods. Their very word for "prayer" seems to be archaic Japanese. A medi?val Japanese hero, Yoshitsune, is generally allowed to be held in religious reverence by them. The idea of earthquakes being caused by the wriggling of a gigantic fish under the earth is shared by the Ainos with the Japanese and with several other races.

At the same time, the general tenour and tendency of the tales and traditions of the Ainos wear a widely different aspect from that which characterises the folk-lore of Japan. The Ainos, in their humble way, are addicted to moralising and to speculating on the origin of things. A perusal of the following tales will show that a surprisingly large number of them are attempts to explain some natural phenomenon, or to exemplify some simple precept. In fact they are science,—physical science and moral science,—at a very early stage. The explanations given in these tales completely satisfy the adult Aino mind of the present day. The Aino fairy-tales are not, as ours are, survivals from an earlier stage of thought. Even if not invented of recent years they fit in with the present Aino view of things,—so much so, that an Aino who recounts one of his stories does so under the impression that he is narrating an actual event. He does not "make believe" like the European nurse, even like the European child, who p. 4 has always, in some nook or corner of his mind, a presentiment of the scepticism of his later years.

So far as I can judge, that "disease of language" which we call metaphor, and which is held by some great authorities to have been the chief factor in the fabrication of Aryan myth, has no place in Aino fairy-land; neither have the phenomena of the weather attracted more attention than other things. But I speak subject to correction. Perhaps it is not wise to invite controversy on such a point unless one is well armed for the fight.

Failing an elaborate analysis of the Aino fairy-tales, and a discussion of their origin and affinities, what I venture to offer for your Society's acceptance is the simple text of the tales themselves, renderd into English. Nine of them have already been printed in the Aino "Memoir" already referred to. One has been printed (but not quite in its genuine form, which decency was supposed to forbid) at the end of Mr. Batchelor's grammar included in the same "Memoir." All the others are now given to the world for the first time, never having yet appeared in any language, not even in Japanese.

I would draw special attention to the character of the translation, as being an absolutely literal one in the case of all those stories which I originally wrote down in Aino from the dictation of native informants. As time pressed, however, I sometimes had the story told me more rapidly, and wrote it down afterwards in English only, but never more than a few hours afterwards. In such cases, though every detail is preserved, the rendering is of course not actually literal. This, and the fact that there were several informants, will account for the difference of style between the various stories. I have appended to each story either the words "translated literally," or the words "written down from memory," together with the date and the name of the informant, in order that those who use the collection may know exactly what it is that they are handling. In all such matters absolute accuracy, absolute literalness, wherever attainable, is surely the one thing necessary. Not all the charm of diction, not all the ingenious theories in the world, can for a moment be set in the balance against rigid exactness, even if some of the concomitants of rigid exactness are such as to spoil the subject for popular treatment. The p. 5 truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loin-cloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim when, having discovered a new set of facts, he undertakes to present them to the consideration of the scientific world.

Of course Aino tales, like other tales, may also be treated from a literary point of view. Some of the tales of the present collection, prettily illustrated with pictures by Japanese artists, and altered, expurgated, and arranged virginibus puerisque, are at the present moment being prepared by Messrs. Ticknor & Co., of Boston, who thought with me that such a venture might please our little ones both in England and in the United States. But such things have no scientific value. They are not meant to have any. They are mere juvenile literature, whose English dressing-up has as little relation to the barbarous original as the Paris fashions have to the anatomy of the human frame.

The present paper, on the contrary, is intended for the sole perusal of the anthropologist and ethnologist, who would be deprived of one of the best means of judging of the state of the Aino mind if the hideous indecencies of the original were omitted, or its occasional ineptitude furbished up. Aino mothers, lulling their babies to sleep, as they rock them in the cradle hung over the kitchen fire, use words, touch on subjects which we never mention; and that preciesly is a noteworthy characteristic. The innocent savage is not found in Aino-land, if indeed he is to be found anywhere. The Aino's imagination is as prurient as that of any Zola, and far more outspoken. Pray, therefore, put the blame on him, if much of the language of the present collection is such as is not usual to see in print. Aino stories and Aino conversation are the intellectual counterpart of the dirt, the lice, and the skin-disease which cover Aino bodies.

For the four-fold classification of the stories, no importance is p. 6 claimed. It was necessary to arrange them somehow; and the division into "Tales Accounting for the Origin of Phenomna," "Moral Tales," "Tales of the Panaumbe and Penaumbe Cycle," and "Miscellaneous Tales," suggested itself as a convenient working arrangement. The "Scraps of Folk-Lore," which have been added at the end, may perhaps be considered out of place in a collection of tales. But I thought it better to err on the side of inclusion than on that of exclusion. For it may be presumed that the object of any such investigation is rather to gain as minute an acquaintance as possible with the mental products of the people studied, than scupulously to conform to any system.

There must be a large number of Aino fairy-tales besides those here given, as the chief tellers of stories, in Aino-land as in Europe, are the women, and I had mine from men only, the Aino women being much too shy of male foreigners for it to be possible to have much conversation with them. Even of the tales I myself heard, several were lost through the destruction of certain papers,—among others at least three of the Panaumbe and Penaumbe Cycle, which I do not trust myself to reconstruct from memory at this distance of time. Many precious hours were likewise wasted, and much material rendered useless, by the national vice of drunkenness. A whole month at Hakodate was spoilt in this way, and nothing obtained from an Aino named Tomtare, who had been procured for me by the kindness of H. E. the Governor of Hakodate. One can have intercourse with men who smell badly, and who suffer, as almost all Ainos do from lice and from a variety of disgusting skin-diseases. It is a mere question of endurance and of disinfectants. But it is impossible to obtain information from a drunkard. A third reason for the comparatively small number of tales which it is possible to collect during a limited period of intercourse is the frequency of repetitions. No doubt such repetitions have a confirmatory value, especially when the repetition is of the nature of a variant. Still, one would willingly spare them for the sake of new tales.

The Aino names appended to the stories are those of the men by whom they were told to me, viz. Penri, the aged chief of Piratori; Ishanashte of Shumunkot; Kannariki of Poropet (Jap. Horobetsu); * and Kuteashguru of Sapporo. Tomtare of Yurap does not appear for the reason mentioned above, which spoilt all his usefulness. The only mythological names which appear are Okikurumi, whom the Aino regard as having been their civilizer in very ancient times, his sister-wife Turesh, or Tureshi[hi] and his henchman Samayunguru. The "divine symbols," of which such constant mention is made in the tales, are the inao or whittled sticks frequently described in books of travels.

BASIL HALL CHAMBERLAIN.

Miyamoshita, Japan,
20th July, 1887.


* The Aino name here used (ahunrashambe) denotes a horned species.

 

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