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"A Pointless Death, A Horrible Death": The Role of Small Animals in Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shin'yōshū.

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"Therefore, rabbits of the future, take heed not to make mischief" proclaims the rabbit narrator at the end of "The Song the Rabbit God Sang" (28). This Ainu Oral Story is just one of thirteen recorded in Chiri Yukie's Ainu Shin'yōshū (Collection of Ainu Chants of Spiritual Beings). In this paper, I examine "The Song the Rabbit Sang" alongside two other stories from Chiri's collection, "The Song the Otter Sang" and "The Song the Frog Sang", which characterize their animal narrators as mischievous 'trickster' figures. These stories follow a similar narrative structure wherein the 'trickster' animal defies an understood social boundary between itself and humans, is subsequently punished for its wrongdoing, and ultimately learns an important lesson which it shares with others of its species. Through examining these recurring narrative elements, I argue that the relationship between Ainu and these smaller, less symbolic animals as expressed in Oral Story reflects a complex system of reciprocity that lies at the heart of Ainu relationships with their land, spirits (Kamui), and the nonhuman world.
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