Page:Aino folk-tales.djvu/15

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vii
INTRODUCTION

to us living far to the south and west of their present haunts; and ever since then, century by century, we see them retreating eastwards and northwards, as steadily as the American Indian has retreated westwards under the pressure of the colonists from Europe."

As with their language, so with their folk-lore, which largely shows itself adopted from the Japanese. In the present collection the stories of the Salmon-king (xxxiv.), the Island of Women (xxxiii.), and others, are based on episodes of Japanese tales, sometimes belonging to world-wide cycles of myth, as in the theme of the mortal who eats the deadly food of Hades (xxxv.), which has its typical example in the story of Persephone. On reading the short but curious tale (xvi.), How it was settled who should rule the World, one sees at once that the cunning Fox-god has come in from the well-known fox mythology of Japan; and as to the very clever mythic episode of looking for the sunrise in the west, I find, on inquiry of a Japanese gentleman living in Oxford, Mr. Tsneta Mori, that this belongs to the tale of the Wager of the Phœnix, known to all Japanese children, and in which the Phœnix is plainly derived from China. On the other hand, there is much genuine Aino matter in the present collection. For instance, we learn from Professor Chamberlain's above-mentioned treatise why it is that Panaumbe ("on the lower course of the river") does the clever things, while Penaumbe ("on the upper course of the river") is the stupid imitator who comes to grief. It is simply the expression of the dislike and contempt of the coast Ainos, who tell the stories, for the hill Ainos further up the rivers. It is needless to mention here the many touches of Aino ideas, morals, and customs, which their stories disclose, for it is in noticing these that much of the interest consists which the reader will feel in perusing them. Their most important characteristic indeed is insisted on by Professor Chamberlain, in remarks of which the value must not be overlooked. Of all the difficulties felt by the student of folk-lore the greatest is that of judging how far those who tell and listen really believe their childish wonder-tales of talking beasts and the like, or how far they make and take them as conscious fun. We ourselves are at the latter sceptical end, and many peoples we can examine are in a halfway state, not altogether disbelieving that big stones may