6: The Song the Wolf Cub Sang

Hotenao
One day, I was bored so I went to the beach
And I saw a human boy coming, so I played a game:
When he went downstream, I went downstream,
When he came upstream, I came upstream and blocked his way.
When we’d been downstream six times
And upstream six times,
Anger started to show on the boy’s face and he said:

Pii tuntun, pii tuntun
You little brat, if you’re going to be like that
Tell me the names,
The past and present names,
Of this headland.”

Hearing that, I laughed and replied:
“Is there anyone who doesn’t know
The past and present names of this place?
Long ago, magnificent gods and men were here
And this headland was called ‘The Headland of the Gods’.
But now in this age of decay
It’s called only ‘The Headland of Inau‘!”

So I said, and he replied:
Pii tuntun, pii tuntun
If that’s your answer, kid,
Then try telling me the names,
The past and present names,
Of this river.”

And what I said was,
“Is there anyone who doesn’t know
The past and present names of this river?
Long ago, in the ages of glory,
This river was called ‘The Swift-Flowing River’.
But now that the world has declined
It’s called only ‘The Slow-Flowing River’!”

So I said, and he replied:
Pii tuntun, pii tuntun
If that’s really your answer,
Then perhaps you can give an explanation
Of our own ancestry!”

This was my answer,
“Is there anyone who doesn’t know your history?
Long, long ago, Okikirmui went up into the mountains
And when he built himself a shelter, he put in a hearth-frame of hazelwood –
But when the fire was lit, the wood dried out
And warped so much that when Okikirmui trod on one end,
The other would go up in the air.
And that annoyed him so much
That he took the whole structure to the river
And threw it in.
So the wood drifted in the current
And reached the sea, where the gods noticed it
Being battered at random by the waves;
They thought it an unbearable shame
That the work of great Okikirmui
Should be drifting aimlessly, uselessly, rotting in the water
And so they turned that wood into a fish
And it was called Inunpepecheppo, the fire-fish.
As it happens, that same fire-fish
Knowing nothing of its origin
Is now wandering about in the form of a human being.
And that fire-fish is you!”
As I was speaking, the boy listened
With strong emotions following one another across his face.
Pii tuntun, pii tuntun
Well you, you are a little wolf cub!”

As soon as he’d said that,
He plunged into the sea with a splash.
Where he vanished, a single red fish
With great strokes of its tail
Could be seen swimming away to the open sea.

So said the young wolf god.