The Prologue

Long ago, this broad land of Hokkaido was a world in which our ancestors lived lives of freedom. Like children of unspoilt innocence, they lived their carefree lives in the embrace of mother Nature, whose beloveds they were – what happy people they must have been!

In winter, kicking aside the thick snow that covered field and forest, hunting the bear across mountain after mountain in defiance of the frost that froze all the world – on the summer ocean, in the cool wind, swimming the green waves, setting sail, under the cries of the white seagulls, in little leaf-like boats to seek fish – in the flower-filled spring, bathing in the gentle sunlight, singing along with the endlessly-warbling birds, plucking sagebrush and butterbur – in the red-leafed Fall, splitting the ripe ears of grain, not extinguishing till midnight the salmon-fishing fires, hearing the deer cry to one another in the ravine, falling, beneath the round moon, into a dream-laden slumber. Oh, what a wonderful way of life it must have been! That tranquil state of mind is already a thing of the past, a dream torn apart by the passing decades, for this earth is changing quickly, with hills and meadows becoming villages and villages becoming cities one after another.

Somehow, almost unnoticed, the form that Nature had worn in ancient times began to fade, and of the people who once dwelt so happily in field and mountain, most are no longer to be found. The few of us who remain of our race do nothing but stare in astonishment at the way the world has gone. Yet what we see from these eyes is that the radiance of the beautiful spirits of our forebears, whose every gesture was ruled by a sense of the spiritual, has been burdened with unease, consumed with discontent, weakened, dizzied, become helpless, gone beyond the reach of outside help, a miserable sight, something doomed to annihilation… Such is the name we have now – what a sad name it is that we now bear.

Our happy ancestors of long ago – it must have been impossible for them to imagine that in the end their native land would decay to this wretched state.
Time flows ever on, the world endlessly goes on changing. If from the worthless remnant who still exist on the site of our great defeat, there could someday emerge just two or three strong leaders, then perhaps the day when we catch up again with the changing world might not be far off. That is our true cherished wish, for which we pray morning and night.

But… the language that we use each day to share our feelings with our beloved ancestors has become worn with use. Even the beautiful words that have been handed down to us are mostly timid things, things which will surely be extinguished along with their weak, doomed users. Oh, what a heartbreaking thing – and almost already only a memory.

I, born an Ainu and living among Ainu speakers, in my spare moments, in rainy evenings and snowy nights, have put together with my clumsy brush just one or two of the very least of the tales our ancestors told for amusement. If it should turn out that this work is read by some who are kind enough to understand us, then I shall share with our race’s ancestors joy without limit, happiness unsurpassable.