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13 Oral Literature

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Ainu History and Culture

1●Ainu People
2●Eating Habits
3●Wild Vegetable
10●Religion/"Sending Spirits Back"
11●Life of the Ainu
12●Sacred Dances
13●Oral Literature
15●Ainu Museum

Oral Literature

The Ainu people originally did not have an alphabet. Therefore, they have orally transmitted literature such as tales, Iegends, experiences, and morals for everyday life from generation to generation.

" Yukar" are the tales of heroes. They are also called "yayerap," "sakorpe," or "haw" in some areas. Yukar are called "hawki" in Sakhalin. The hero is an orphan boy called by various names, including "Poiyaunpe," "Pon-shinutapkaunkur," "Pon-otasamunkur," and " Yayresupo," depending on the area. The narrator of yukar sits at the fireside and recites the adventure stories of this boy all night, beating the fireside with a stick called "repni. "

In some stories, the heroes are men ; in others, they are gods whose appearance resembles men. In a story in which heroes are gods, gods with such names as "Aeoynakamuy," "Ainurakkur" and "Okikurmi" descend from the heavens to the human world and experience various dramatic events with man. In the lburi and Hidaka districts, such stories are called "oyna." However, in other areas, such stories are included in " kamuy yukar" as described below.

Stories in which heroes are "natural" gods such as animal ones are called "kamuy yukar. " The narrator recites animal gods' experiences with morals, repeatedly inserting words called "sakehe " between phrases.

The oral literature of the Ainu is not only "recitative" as described above, but also "narrative uepeker " which is usually translated as, "an old tale," is called "tuitak" in some areas and "uchashkuma" in Sakhalin. Although uepeker is translated as an old tale, it is not a fictitious one but a real one with experiences of those who lived in olden times. Tales called "ikopepka" or "upashkuma" more closely resemble legends than do those called "old tale."

" Yaysama" is oral literature in which a woman sings an impromptu song of her emotions. Most words have been handed down from generation to generation. This is why it can be said to belong to oral literature.

" Upopo" is a festival song sung by women who sit in a circle, beating the lid of a container called "shintoko." The words are not long and are sung repeatedly in a round or a chorus.

A state to recite a "Yukar"

Ainu Museum 3-4, Wakakusa-cho 2-chome, Shiraoi-gun, Hokkaido, JAPAN 059-0902

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