The Oral Literature of the Sakhalin Ainu :The TUYTAH

Kyoko Murasaki

Yokohama National University

Ainu is a language without a script. However, it has a rich tradition of oral art which is not mediated by a script, but by mouth to mouth transmission.

The TUYTAH (Old Tales) is an oral genre of the Karafuto Ainu. Karafuto Ainu was a dialect which was formerly spoken by the Ainu people of South Sakhalin. It was spoken a little among the elderly of the Karafuto Ainu who came to Hokkaido after the war, but with the death of Asai Take (1902-1994) it became a language with no living speakers, in other words, a dead language.

The materials of the CD is 24 pieces of tuytah from "The Tuytah Collection by Asai Take, Volume 2" (Transcribed by Kyoko Murasaki, Yokohama National University, 1999).

The narrator:

Asai Take was a perfect speaker of the Ainu dialect of the West Coast of South Sakhalin. I shall give a brief summary of her life.

Asai Take (Ainu name, TAHKONANNA) was born on the 5th of April 1902, in the Ainu village of Otasuh (Porusnoe, cFjon the west coast of Karafuto. Her father was Yamada Chikuyupi (Ainu name, SAHPO) and her mother was Tetsuko (Ainu name, TEKAKUNKEMAH). She lost her sight soon after birth and remained completely blind throughout her life. Her father died soon after she was born, and her mother died when Take was 18. After her parents died she was taken in by her uncle and aunt and moved from Otasuh 4 km north to Rayciska (Ainskoe, muj. The dialects of Otasuh and of Rayciska appear to have been practically identical, i.e., both were the same west coast Karafuto dialect. After that, she became the wife of an Ainu from Maoka (Holmusk, ^), Asai Seiji (born the 10th of June, 1890). After the war she came to Hokkaido and lived at first in Furenai (U), but in 1961, after the death of her husband, she was taken in by her elder brother, but she never got used to the change of environment, and in 1974 she entered an old peoplefs home in Hidaka Monbetsu (), Saruijprovince, and lived there for 19 years until entering hospital in 1993. In May 1993 she was diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the uterus and was admitted to Higashi Sapporo Hospital, where she stayed until her death on the 30th of April 1994..

I first met Asai Take in February 1984, while working on the "Pilsudski wax cylinder project". I was living in Sapporo at the time, and for the next ten years I went to the old peoplefs home as often as I could and learnt a lot of Karafuto Ainu from Asai Take. According to my research in Hokkaido and Sakhalin, unfortunately Asai Take was the last speaker of Karafuto Ainu.


I shall now explain a little about the oral genres of the Oral Literature of the Sakhalin Ainu.

The Karafuto Ainu tradition is basically a common one with the Hokkaido with tradition. However, there are some considerable disparities in the storytellers, the form of the tales, the manner of chanting and the genres. Up to now, very little was known of these points of difference, and the recordings of Asai Take have helped considerably to make them clear.

The oral tradition of the Karafuto Ainu can be divided first, into tales and songs. The tales can be further divided into rhymed or versed and unrhymed or prose tales. The TUYTAH (Old Tales) of the second kind, i.e., they are prose tales. However, as well as the TUYTAH, there is another kind of prose tale known as UCASKUMA (Folktales). On the other hand, in the song category, there are forms such as the YAYKATEKARA (love songs by women), the IHUNKE (lullabies), the HECIRE HAW (songs to dance), the SAKE SINOHCA (wine praising songs), REKUHKARA (throat mimicry), and the TUSU (shaman prayers).

I shall now mention some of the characteristics of the TUYTAH, particularly in contrast to the UCASKUMA.

Fist are the characteristics of forms of the TUYTAH.

(1) The setting of the stories is in fantastic villages like Sannupis village or Repunkus village. On the other hand, UCASKUMA tales are set in villages which really exist.

(2) The names of the protagonists are fixed and no proper names appear. For example the male herofs name is always Horokewpo (which means son of wolf in Ainu), the female heroinefs name is always Monimahpo (which may mean girl of hands ?). The bad manfs name is always YEESU, the bad womanfs name is always Simah, and old women are always called Acahcipo. In Ucaskuma tales, by contrast, real names are used.

(3) The old woman figure, or granny (grand mother), Acahcipo appears very frequently, but the old man or grandfather Henke seldom appears at all. This is not the case with the Ucaskuma tales.

(4) Tuytah are usually told by women, and on occasions by men. With the Ucaskuma tales the reverse is the case: Ucaskuma tales are usually told by men and on occasions by women.

(5) Within the prose narration, short rhymed songs are inserted to describe the crying of a child, of a bird, or the spinning of thread. This is a characteristic unique to the TUYTAH tales and no such songs exist in the UCASKUMA.

Next, the content of the TUYTAH tales can be classed into five groups.

(a) Tales in which animals who live like human beings appear. Crows, swans, dogs, seals, toads, salmons, crabs, balloon fish, etc.

(b) Tales of marriage, love or relations between humans and animals.

(c) Tales of ogre-like creatures called OYASI that eat human flesh.

(d) Tales of adventures undertaken to acquire a wife or a husband.

(e) Tales where the same adventure is repeated by the three brothers (or three sisters).

All of these five types can be identified among Asai Takefs tales, but most remarkable is (c) the Tales of ogre-like creatures called OYASI that eat human flesh, which is unique to Karafuto and does not exist in Hokkaido.

To summarize, the main characteristics of the TUYTAH tales of the Karafuto Oral tradition are:

(1) The form of the tales is regulate.
(2) The content of the tales can be typified.
(3) There are inserted songs which make the depiction very lively.
(4) The appearance of the OYASI ogre-like human flesh eating creatures.

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