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Tales from Local Religions

Useful Things

A certain man had a little boy. A kami* boy and a kami girl used to come and play with his son every day. Only the child could see them. His parents thought that their son played alone.

One day the child fell ill. His two playmates came to see him only when he was near death. The girl said to him: “We know the cause of your illness. Your grandfather had a beautiful cutting tool. I myself am a small tray that he fashioned with that tool and the boy who comes with me is a pestle that was also fashioned with it. In fact, the hatchet was our kami chieftain and we are its kami children. But your father has done something bad. He broke the handle and threw the cutting tool away and it is now rusting under the floorboards. This is why you are ill. It is a punishment from our chieftain, the cutting tool, for your father.

Umbrella Maker and Son
Umbrella Maker and Son | © Elstner Hilton / A. Davey | Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

We have come to tell you because we were your playmates. If you wish to live, you must tell your father to search for the tool, to polish it and make a new handle for it. He should also set up the kami symbols in its honour. Only then may you be cured. Furthermore, the tool will pay you a visit in human form.”

The little boy told his father what the girl had told him. The father thought that his son had learned of his bad act in a dream so he searched under the floor of the house, found the tool and then set up the kami symbols as the girl said. His son was immediately healed.

Shortly after that the cutting tool appeared as a very handsome man. The tray and the pestle appeared too and became the child’s brothers and sisters. The cutting tool, being a kami, knew all that went on and the causes of everything and it always told the child. If any one fell ill, the child knew why and how they should be treated. He was looked upon as a great soothsayer and wizard, who could turn death into life.
So, one should never throw away anything that has belonged to one’s ancestors for the kami will surely punish such thoughtlessness.
Ainu Tale | Japan

* Kami = spirits or gods
Adapted from AINO FOLK-TALES. By Basil Hall Chamberlain [London, 1888] (Written down from memory. Told by Ishanashte, 2nd December 1886.)


The Man Who Avenged Widows

This story took place in the old days, in those times when men were still skilful rowers of kayaks. A great sickness came and carried off all of the older men. The young men who were left did not know how to build kayaks and so it was that the skill of hunting from kayaks was lost.

Inuit Kayak
Inuit Kayak | Dom A. Manalo | Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Our forefathers were so skilful that they could cross seas over which we no longer dare to venture. It is said that the weather was less violent than now; the winds came less suddenly and the sea was not as rough.
There lived a man at Kangârssuk whose name was Angusinãnguaq. The other men envied him because he had a very beautiful wife. One day, when they were setting out to hunt eider duck on the islands, the other men took counsel and agreed to leave Angusinãnguaq behind on a small lonely island.

They sailed far to get to the island where they caught eider duck and gathered their eggs. When they were ready to return home they pushed off without waiting for Angusinãnguaq, taking his kayak in tow so that he could not leave the island.

When they finally came in sight of their tents on the mainland, they saw a man going from one tent to another, visiting the women they left at home. Since all of the men had left together to hunt, they could not imagine who was moving among their tents. They rowed hard to reach home as quickly as they could. Suddenly, one of them recognised the man among the tents as Angusinãnguaq.

The men did not realise that Angusinãnguaq was a great wizard. When Angusinãnguaq did not find his kayak on the island, he wound strips of hide around himself and flew through the air to the mainland, arriving before the other hunters. From that day onwards, no one ever tried again to take his wife.

Then a fierce people came to live on the islands. Whenever a kayak from the mainland came near, the islanders would call down a fog so that the kayaker would lose his way and perish. One day Angusinãnguaq decided to avenge his fellow villagers and, being a great wizard, he took the islanders by surprise, killing many of them.
There was great joy among the widows of the dead hunters when they learned that Angusinãnguaq had avenged their husbands. One by one they went to Angusinãnguaq’s hut to thank him.
Inuit Tale | Canada
Adapted from Eskimo Folk-Tales, collected by Knud Rasmussen, translated and edited by W. Worster [London, 1921]


An Alliance

Chameleon
Chameleon | © Tambako the Jaguar |Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
A story, a story; let it go, let it come around again.
A chief sought a test to help the family choose a good husband among his beautiful daughter’s many suitors. He finally decided to hold a hoeing contest. The man who hoed the best would be his son-in-law.
Chameleon heard about the contest and consulted a shaman to get a special medicine to make him the best hoer. He waited until the contest had begun and then struck one blow on the ground with his hoe. It fairly flew across the field until it had done as much work as the hoers who had started before him. Chameleon was so far ahead that he even stopped to take a short rest.

But the chief did not want to marry his daughter to a chameleon so he organized a second contest. He said the winner of a foot race would marry his daughter. Everyone thought Hartebeest was sure to win this contest. But Chameleon turned himself into a needle and attached himself to the tail of Hartebeest. At one point in the race they passed the entrance of the chief’s huts.
When he saw the chief’s daughter standing in the doorway the clever Chameleon let go of Hartebeest’s tail. The young woman was so taken with Chameleon that she fell into his arms and kissed him. When Hartebeest saw Chameleon embracing the chief’s daughter he realised he had lost the contest and began to shed huge tears. From that day on Hartebeest’s eyes look like they are full of tears.
Off with the rat’s head!
Hausa Tale | West Africa