Ainu creation story, as recorded by William Elliot Griffis

An account of the traditional origin of the Ainos[Ainu] said to be given by themselves…

“A certain prince, named Kamui, in one of the kingdoms in Asia, had three daughters. One of them having become the object of the incestuous passion of her father, by which her body became cover with hair, quit his palace in the middle of the night, and fled to the seashore. There she found a deserted canoe, on board which was only a large dog. The young girl resolutely embarked with her only companion to journey to some place in the East. After many months of travel, the young prince reached an uninhabited place in the mountains, and there gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl. These were the ancestors of the Ainu race. Their offspring in turn married. some among each other, others with the bears of the mountains. The fruits of this latter union were men of extraordinary valor, and nimble hunters, who, after a long life spent in the vicinity of their birth, departed to the far north, where they still live on the high and inaccessible table-lands above the mountains; and, being immortal, they direct, by their magical influences, the actions and the destiny of men, that is, the Ainos.
The term “Aino” is a comparatively modem epithet…its derivation, as given by several eminent native native scholars who, I consulted, is from inu, a dog. others assert it is an abbreviation of ai no ko, ” offspring of the middle;” that is, a breed between man and beast.”

— pp. 28-29 “The Mikado’s Empire” by William Elliot Griffis

Open source:

This account is being included here for its value in providing information on the totemic symbolism of the dog and the bear and their meaning for tribal affiliations and origins. Further work comparing the totems of the Ainu people with those of genetically related peoples as well geographically proximate groups of peoples should prove valuable for drawing a picture of the migratory paths taken in remote prehistoric times, as well as towards the theory of origins of the Ainu and related peoples.

Claude Lévi-Strauss, whose important works on the subject, Totemism (1962), deriving a definition from the Ojibwa expression ototeman, gave us a “significant, for a useful and broad definition of totemism is that it refers to the use of plants or animals by social groups as guardians or emblems that are ritually celebrated. In such a system, different social groups are identified with different species.” —

Further readings:

  • Claude, Lévi-Strauss Totemism (1963)
  • Insoll, Timothy, Animism and Totemism. The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion
  • Sir James George Frazer Totemism (1887)
  • Sir James George Frazer Totemism and Exogamy, Vol. II (in Four Volumes), Volume 2 (2013)
  • Leach, Edmund The Structural Study of Myth and Totemism (2013)

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