3: The Song the Black Fox Sang

Haikunterke Haikoshitemturi
On the rocky headlands of our land
On the rocky headlands of the gods
I was sitting.
One day I went out and saw
The sea stretching away broad and calm, and on the sea
Okikirmui, Shupunramka and Samayunkur[1]
Had sailed out together to hunt for whales, and when I saw this
The evil heart I bear swelled with malice.

Over these rocks
Over the rocky headlands of our land
Over the rocky headlands of the gods
I ran from top to bottom
I ran with light feet and sinuous body
I barked with a low sound like heavy wood splintering.
I stared at the fountainhead of the river, and called to the storm demon within.
And a violent wind, a whirling wind came forth from the spring
And blew on the ocean. And straightaway
The surface of the sea plunged down
And the depths of the sea rose up. Okikirmui’s boat,
Caught where the coastal waters meet the ocean waters
In dire peril, in the space between the waves
Span round and round. Mountains of water
Wrapped around the boat. but
Okikirmui, Samayunkur and Shupunramka
Chanting loudly, kept on rowing.
That tiny boat was blown around like a fallen leaf
Almost already it seemed to capsize, but
Those brave Ainu nobly sent their little boat
Skipping through the wind
Slipping over the tops of the waves.

And when I saw this, the evil heart I bear swelled with malice.
I ran with light feet and sinuous body
I barked with a low sound like heavy wood splintering.
I urged the storm demon onward with all my strength
And as I did so, at last, Samayunkur
With blood running from the palms of his hands
And blood running from the backs of his hands
Collapsed from exhaustion
And a secret laugh bubbled up inside me.
Once more, with all my strength
I ran with light feet and sinuous body
Barking with a sound like heavy wood splintering.
I cheered on the storm demon.
Okikirmui and Shupunranka
Shouting encouragement to each other, were bravely rowing onward, but
After a while Shupunramka
With blood running from the palms of his hands
And blood running from the backs of his hands
Collapsed from exhaustion
And again I laughed to myself.
I jumped up and ran about gracefully, with light feet
I barked with a sound like hard wood splintering –
But Okikirmui was still not even looking tired.
With only a thin garment round his body
He rowed onward until
The oar snapped in his hands.
At which he sprang over to half-dead Samayunkur
Snatched from him his oar
And rowed onward single-handed.

And when I saw this, the evil heart I bear swelled with malice.
Barking with a deep sound like hard wood splintering,
I ran with light feet and sinuous body
I urged on the storm demon with yet more force.
And soon the oar taken from Samayunkur, too,
Snapped in half. Okikirmui leapt over to Shupunranka
And seizing his oar rowed bravely onward
But this oar too was broken by the waves.
Then Okikirmui stood up in the middle of the boat,
Hero among humans, and though I did not believe
His eyes could search me out, yet
On the rocky headlands of our land
On the rocky headlands of the gods
His eyes stared straight into mine.
In his calm face the color of anger appeared,
He searched for something in his bag[2]
And I saw him draw out a little wormwood bow
And a little wormwood arrow.[3]
Seeing that, I laughed to myself.
“What is the so-called human doing? Trembling in fear of me?
What does he hope to use that feeble arrow for?”
On the rocky headlands of our land
On the rocky headlands of the gods
I ran up and down with light steps
I ran up and down gracefully.
I barked with a deep sound like heavy wood splintering.
I heaped praises upon the storm demon.
Meanwhile Okikirmui’s arrow came flying
It hit me exactly in the back of the neck, it went right through…
What happened after that I could not tell.

When I came to,
The weather was good, and the surface of the sea
Was wide and calm, and Okikirmui’s boat was gone.
From the top of my head to my feet
I was in agony, as if my skin were burning and shrinking.
I could never have thought that little arrow of the humans
Could make so much pain. With my limbs twisted in torment
Over these rocks
Over the rocky headlands of our land
Over the rocky headlands of the gods
I screamed with pain,
I writhed with pain,
By day and by night,
Half alive and half dead,
Until finally somehow I lost consciousness.
When I came round again,
I was sitting between the ears of a great black fox.
After two days, Okikirmui returned
He came with the appearance of a god, and grinning from ear to ear he said,
“Mm, a fine sight to see –
The black fox god who keeps watch
Over the rocky headlands, the rocky headlands of the gods
Because he has a good heart, a godly heart
Dies a good and splendid death.”
So saying, he took hold of my head
With vast strength he took my upper jawbone
And made out of it a latrine; my lower jaw
He made into a latrine for his wife;
And my body he left to rot in the earth.
And thus tortured by night and day
By the horrible stench
I died a pointless death, a horrible death.

I was not content to be a minor god;
Because of the evil heart I bore there was no choice –
I died a horrible death. Therefore,
Foxes of the ages to come, learn from my fate:
Never harbor wicked thoughts.
So said the fox god.



[1] Okikirmui is the most important of all Ainu heroes, wise and brave.  There are innumerable stories about him. By comparison, at least, Samayunkur is shallow, indecisive, and weak. Shupunranka is the oldest of the three and is known for mildness and reticence – which is why he appears in no stories of his own. [Chiri]

[2] The Ainu used bags woven from rushes when travelling on land, but this bag is made of sealskin or bearskin for use at sea. [Chiri]

[3] Wormwood arrows were favored on journeys because of their efficacy against demons, as we see here.