因幡の白ウサギ【The White Rabbit of Inaba】

While he was yet a young man, Okuninushi was not liked by his brothers, and treated as a slave. This was too bad, since Okuninushi was a kind and gentle person. Let’s look at the legend of, “The White Rabbit of Inaba.” In those days, a story of a lovely princess of Inaba, named Yakami, was being spread around the country. The brothers of Okuninushi thought they would go, and one of them would be chosen to marry her. They ordered Okuninushi to get ready, and then set off on the journey, with him carrying all the baggage.

大国主がまだ若かりしころ、彼の兄弟たちは彼を嫌い奴隷のように扱っていました。大国主は親切で心優しかったにもかかわらずです。ひどい話です。「因幡の白ウサギ」の物語を見てみましょう。 当時、因幡に住む美しい姫・矢上のことは国中に知れ渡っていました。大国主の兄弟たちは姫の所に行き、自分たちの中からだれか一人を姫の婿にしてもらうことを思い立ちました。兄弟たちは、大国主に支度をさせ彼に荷物を全部持たせて旅立ちます。

On the way to Inaba, the brothers met a white rabbit who was suffering terribly from having his skin torn off. The brothers thought this was a comical situation, so they told the rabbit to wash off in salt water, and lie on top of a hill to heal himself. The rabbit did as it was told, and was soon suffering more than before, as his skin cracked and bled. This was the situation that met the eyes of Okuninushi when he came along later. With so much baggage to carry, he could not move fast. The rabbit was crying, and shedding great tears at his terrible pain. Okuninushi asked him what had happened.

因幡への道中大国主の兄弟たちは、皮をはがされたいそう苦しそうなウサギに出くわします。ウサギの様をこっけいに思った彼らは、塩水の中で体を洗い丘の上で寝転がって治すようウサギに言います。ウサギが言われた通りにすると、間もなく皮膚にひびが入るわそこから血が出るわで前よりもよけいにひどくなってしまいました。 たくさんの荷物を抱え速く歩くことができないため遅れてやってきた大国主の目にこの光景が入ります。大国主は、ひどい痛みに大粒の涙を流して泣くウサギに何が起こったのかを尋ねます。

The rabbit told Okuninushi that he had been living on Oki Island, and had wanted to see the Princess Yakami, so he had told a wani (shark)* that he thought his family was not as numerous as that of the rabbit’s family. The wani disagreed, so the rabbit told the wani to have his family line up from Oki Island to the shore of Inaba, and he would count them. The wani thought this was a good idea, so he did as the rabbit directed, and lined up his whole family from Oki Island to the shore of Inaba. The rabbit then ran gleefully across the backs of the wani to the other shore. Unable to resist the temptation, he laughingly told the wani that he had tricked them, and they were really foolish! The wani were understandably shocked and angered at his trick, and before he could escape, they caught him and tore off his skin!

ウサギは大国主を前に話し始めます。ウサギはこれまで隠岐で暮らしていました。しかし、矢上姫に会いたくてワニ*に「お前の一族よりウサギの一族の方が規模が大きい」と言い、これに異を唱えるワニに対し「ならば、隠岐の島から因幡の海岸まで一族全員を並ばせろ、俺が数えてやる」と言いました。 それは良い考えだと思ったワニは、ウサギの言う通りにします。ウサギは喜びいさんでワニの背中越しに因幡の海岸目指してかけていきました。しかし、我慢しきれずに「だましただけだ、愚かなサメどもめ」と笑いながら言ってしまいます。 サメたちが愕然とし腹を立てるのも無理からぬことです。逃げようとするウサギを捕まえて皮をはいでしまったのです。

As a result, he was in great pain, and asked Okuninushi for help. Okuninushi told the rabbit to wash off in fresh water, and roll in the seeds of a cattail reed. The rabbit did so, and was cured. He was so grateful to Okuninushi that he told him his brothers would never win the hand of the Princess Yakami, but she would choose Okuninushi to be her husband. This happened as the rabbit had said, and Okuninushi married the Princess Yakami. There is a statue on the left of the entrance to Izumo Taisha Shrine, that shows the scene of the rabbit telling Okuninushi’s fortune.

ウサギはひどい痛みに苦しみ大国主に助けを求めたというわけです。大国主は真水で体を洗い、ガマの穂で転がるようにウサギに言います。言われる通りにするとウサギの痛みは引いていきました。ウサギは大国主にたいへん感謝し、彼の兄弟たちが矢上姫から結婚の承諾を受けることは決してない、大国主こそ姫が夫君として選ぶ男である、と告げます。果たしてそれは現実となり、大国主は矢上姫と結ばれました。 出雲大社の入り口の左側には、この場面を描いた像が立っています。

*Wani, is “shark” in this legend. In reality, however, in Japanese, it means “crocodile.” I believe that wani is really crocodile, and that real, ocean-going crocodiles existed in the Japan Sea in those ancient days. They still exist in the South Pacific. At that time, the weather must have been much different. In recent history, whales and other arctic animals have visited this area. These days, neither of these events happens any more. The stories still exist in legend, however.

*この伝説の中のワニは「サメ」を意味します。しかし私は、当時の日本海には本物のワニが生息していたことから、本当はワニだっのではないかと思います。南太平洋には現在もワニが生息しています。当時の気候は現在とは大きく異なっていたに違いありません。より近年になると鯨やそのほかの北極に住む動物たちがこの地方にやってきました。現在では、どちらも目にすることはもはや不可能です。しかし、物語は伝説の中で今も生き続けます。

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