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The Hunter In Hades


Source: Aino Folktales

A handsome and brave young man, who was skilful in the chase, one day
pursued a large bear into the recesses of the mountains. On and on ran
the bear, and still the young fellow pursued it up heights and crags
more and more dangerous, but without ever being able to get near enough
to shoot it with his poisoned arrows. At last, on a bleak
mountain-summit, the bear disappeared down a hole in the ground. The
young man followed it in, and found himself in an immense cavern, at the
far end of which was a gleam of light. Towards this he groped his way,
and, on emerging, found himself in another world. Everything there was
as in the world of men, but more beautiful. There were trees, houses,
villages, human beings. With these, however, the young hunter had no
concern. What he wanted was his bear, which had totally disappeared. The
best plan seemed to be to seek it in the remoter mountain district of
this new world underground. So he followed up a valley; and, being tired
and hungry, picked the grapes and mulberries that were hanging to the
trees, and ate them as he trudged along.

Happening suddenly, for some reason or other, to look down upon his own
body, what was not his horror to find himself transformed into a
serpent! His very cries and groans, on making the discovery, were turned
into serpent's hisses. What was he to do? To go back like this to his
native world, where snakes are hated, would be certain death. No plan
presented itself to his mind. But, unconsciously, he wandered, or rather
crept and glided, back to the entrance of the cavern that led home to
the world of men; and there, at the foot of a pine-tree of extraordinary
size and height, he fell asleep.

To him then, in a dream, appeared the goddess of the pine-tree, and
said: "I am sorry to see you in this state. Why did you eat of the
poisonous fruits of Hades? The only thing you can do to recover your
proper shape is to climb to the top of this pine-tree, and fling
yourself down. Then you may, perhaps, become a human being again."

On waking from this dream, the young man,--or rather snake, as he still
found himself to be,--was filled half with hope and half with fear. But
he resolved to follow the goddess' advice. So, gliding up the tall
pine-tree, he reached its topmost branch, and, after hesitating a few
moments, flung himself down. Crash he went. On coming to his senses, he
found himself standing at the foot of the tree; and close by was the
body of an immense serpent, ripped open so as to allow of his having
crawled out of it. After offering up thanks to the pine-tree, and
setting up the divine symbols in its honour, he hastened to retrace his
steps through the long, tunnel-like cavern, through which he had
originally entered Hades. After walking for a certain time, he emerged
into the world of men, to find himself on the mountain-top, whither he
had pursued the bear which he had never seen again.

On reaching his home, he went to bed, and dreamt a second time. It was
the same goddess of the pine-tree, that appeared before him and said: "I
have come to tell you that you cannot stay long in the world of men
after once eating the grapes and mulberries of Hades. There is a goddess
in Hades who wishes to marry you. She it was who, assuming the form of a
bear, lured you into the cavern, and thence to the under-world. You must
make up your mind to come away."

And so it fell out. The young man awoke; but a grave sickness
overpowered him. A few days later he went a second time to Hades, and
returned no more to the land of the living.--(Written down from memory.
Told by Ishanashte, 22nd July, 1886.)

Next: An Inquisitive Man's Experience Of Hades

Previous: The Worship Of The Salmon The Divine Fish

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