Yukar 8: Repun Kamui

When we broke off the process of translating AInu Shinyoushuu way back when, the only yukar we had not addressed at all was number eight, the song of the sea god Repun Kamui.

Now that we come back to it after several year’s absence, it’s not hard to see why!  This is in many ways a horribly inaccessible yukar and a pain to translate without sounding silly.  It’s a crusty, curmudgeonly yukar.  And yet as the translation takes shape I think I’ve come to love it.  (Nobody else has, only me.)

Like the Rabbit’s yukar, Repun Kamui’s yukar has a surprisingly complicated dramatic structure with numerous point of view shifts and a lot of backing material.  The actual plot consists simply of:

  • Repun Kamui shoots whales
  • He gives some whalemeat to humans
  • A bird objects and is put in its place
  • Party!

Yet in fact this yukar is deeply thought provoking.  Repun Kamui of course is represented as human when at home in <i>kamuy moshir</i> but his nature is particularly ambiguous and fluid; there is no transition between him firing arrows and him carrying things ‘under his tail’.

There is a hidden secondary moral in the yukar; the obvious moral is the usual ‘treat the quarry with respect and more will come’, but there’s also another.  Repun Kamui meets with success by staying at home carving and making one good shot with (presumably) a ritually correct weapon; the ‘six tall brothers’ et al go out hunting daily but meet with failure.  So, again we are told that correct ritual and the correct use of well made tools is more important than violence, but in this case the lesson applies to a major kamui rather than being dictated to humans.