beginning, the world was nothing but a slushy
quagmire. The water and the earth were all mixed up
and there was nothing but a great swamp.
Nothing could live there. But in the six skies
above and in the six worlds below dwelled gods,
demons, and animals.
In the foggy and hanging
skies of the lower heavens, demons lived. In the
star-bearing and high skies of the clouds lived the
lesser gods. In the skies of the most high
lived Kamui the Creator god, and his
servants. His realm was surrounded by a mighty
metal wall and the only entrance was through a great
Kamui made this world as a
vast round ocean, resting on the backbone of an
enormous trout. This fish sucks in the ocean
and spits it out again to make the tides; when it
moves it causes earthquakes. One day Kamui looked
down on the watery world and decided to make
something of it. He sent down a water wagtail
to do the work. When the poor bird arrived and saw
what a mess everything was in, it was at its wits'
end to know what to do. However, by fluttering
over the waters with its wings and by trampling the
mud with its feet and beating it with its tail, the
wagtail at last created patches of dry land.
In this way islands were
raised to float upon the ocean in this, the floating
Even today, the faithful
wagtail is still carrying on its work. still beating
the ground with its tail.
When Kamui created the
world, the devil tried to thwart him. One
morning, the devil got up and lay in wait with his
mouth gaping wide to swallow the sun. But Kamui
sent a crow to fly down the devil's throat and make
him choke and cough. That is why the crow is
such a bold bird. Because a crow once saved the
world, all crows think they can act as they like,
even stealing people's food.
When the animals who lived
up in the heavens saw how beautiful the world was,
they begged Kamui to let them go and live on it, and
he did. But Kamui also made many other
creatures especially for the world. The first
people, the Ainu, had bodies of
earth, hair of chickweed, and spines made from sticks
of willow. That is why when we grow old, our
backs become bent.
Kamui sent Aioina,
the wise man, down from heaven to teach the Ainu how
to hunt and to cook. When Aioina returned to
heaven after living among people and teaching them
many things, the gods all held their noses, crying,
"What a terrible smell of human being there
They sniffed and sniffed to
find out where the stink was coming from. At
last they traced the smell to Aioina's clothes.
The gods sent him back to earth and refused to let
him back into heaven until he left all his clothes
behind. Down in the floating world, Aioina's
cast of sandals turned into the first squirrels.
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