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The Man Who Married The Bear-goddess


Source: Aino Folktales

There was a very populous village. It was a village having both plenty
of fish and plenty of venison. It was a place lacking no kind of food.
Nevertheless, once upon a time, a famine set in. There was no food, no
venison, no fish, nothing to eat at all; there was a famine. So in that
populous village all the people died.

Now the village chief was a man who had two children, a boy and a girl.
After a time, only those two children remained alive. Now the girl was
the older of the two, and the boy was the younger. The girl spoke thus:
"As for me, it does not matter even if I do die, since I am a girl. But
you, being a boy, can, if you like, take up our father's inheritance. So
you should take these things with you, use them to buy food with, eat
it, and live." So spoke the girl, and took out a bag made of cloth, and
gave it to him.

Then the boy went out on to the sand, and walked along the sea-shore.
When he had walked on the sand for a long time, he saw a pretty little
house a short way inland. Near it was lying the carcase of a large
whale. The boy went to the house, and after a time entered it. On
looking around, he saw a man of divine appearance. The man's wife, too,
looked like a goddess, and was dressed altogether in black raiment. The
man was dressed altogether in speckled raiment. The boy went in, and
stood by the door. The man said to him: "Welcome to you, whencesoever
you may have come." Afterwards a lot of the whale's flesh was boiled,
and the boy was feasted on it. But the woman never looked towards him.
Then the boy went out and fetched his parcel, which he had left outside.
He brought in the bag made of cloth which had been given to him by his
sister, and opened its mouth. On taking out and looking at the things
inside it, they were found to be very precious treasures. "I will give
you these treasures in payment for the food," said the boy, and gave
them to that divine-looking man-of-the-house. The god, having looked at
them, said: "They are very beautiful treasures." He said again: "You
need not have paid me for the food. But I will take these treasures of
yours, carry them to my [other] house, and bring you my own treasures in
exchange for them. As for this whale's flesh, you can eat as much of it
as you like, without payment." Having said this, he went off with the
lad's treasures.

Then the lad and the woman remained together. After a time the woman
turned to the lad, and said: "You lad! listen to me when I speak. I am
the bear-goddess. This husband of mine is the dragon-god. There is no
one so jealous as he is. Therefore did I not look towards you, because I
knew that he would be jealous if I looked towards you. Those treasures
of yours are treasures which even the gods do not possess. It is because
he is delighted to get them that he has taken them with him to
counterfeit them and bring you mock treasures. So when he shall have
brought those treasures and shall display them, you must speak thus: 'We
need not exchange treasures. I wish to buy the woman!' If you speak
thus, he will go angrily away, because he is such a jealous man. Then
afterwards we can marry each other, which will be very pleasant. That is
how you must speak." That was what the woman said.

Then, after a certain time, the man of divine appearance came back
grinning. He came bringing two sets of treasures, the treasures which
were treasures and his own other treasures. The god spoke thus: "You,
lad! As I have brought the treasures which are your treasures, it will
be well to exchange them for my treasures." The boy spoke thus: "Though
I should like to have treasures also, I want your wife even more than I
want the treasures; so please give me your wife instead of the
treasures." Thus spoke the lad.

He had no sooner uttered the words than he was stunned by a clap of
thunder above the house. On looking around him, the house was gone, and
only he and the goddess were left together. He came to his senses. The
treasures were there also. Then the woman spoke thus: "What has happened
is that my dragon-husband has gone away in a rage, and has therefore
made this noise, because you and I wish to be together. Now we can live
together." Thus spoke the goddess. Afterwards they lived together. This
is why the bear is a creature half like a human being.--(Translated
literally. Told by Ishanashte, 9th November, 1886.)

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