Ancient Japan

Shinto Creation Stories

The Two Brothers and the Princess of the Sea

   The elder brother Ho-no-susori no Mikoto had by nature a sea-gift; the younger brother Hiko-ho-ho-demi no Mikoto had by nature a mountain-gift. 1 In the beginning the two brothers, the elder and the younger, conversed together, saying, "Let us for a trial exchange our gifts."

   They eventually exchanged them, but neither of them gained anything by doing so. The elder brother regretted his bargain and returned to the younger brother his bow and arrows, asking for his fish-hook to be given back to him. But the younger brother had already lost the elder brother's fish-hook, and there was no means of finding it. He then made another new hook which he offered to his elder brother. But his elder brother refused to accept it, and demanded the old hook. The younger brother, grieved at this, took his cross-sword and forged from it new fish hooks, which he heaped up in a winnowing tray and offered to his brother. But his elder brother was very angry and said, "These are not my old fish-hook! Even though they are many, I will not take them!"

   And he continued repeatedly and passionately to demand his old hook. Therefore, Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto's grief was exceedingly profound and he went and moaned by the shore of the sea. There he met Shiho-tsutsu no Oji. 2 The old man inquired of him saying, "Why do you grieve here?"

   He answered and told him the matter from first to last.

   The old man said, "Grieve no more. I will arrange this matter for you."

   So he made a basket without interstices,and placing Hoho-demi no Mikoto in it, sank it in the sea. Right away, he found himself at a pleasant strand where he abandoned the basket and, proceeding on his way, suddenly arrived at the palace of the Sea-God.

   This palace was provided with battlements and turrets, and had stately towers. Before the gate there was a well, and over the well there grew a many-branched cassia-tree, with wide-spreading boughs and leaves.

   Now Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto went up to the foot of this tree and loitered about. After some time a beautiful woman appeared, and, pushing open the door, came forth. She at length took a jewel-vessel and approached. She was about to draw water when, raising her eyes, she saw him, and was alarmed. Returning within, she spoke to her father and mother, saying, "There is a rare stranger at the foot of the tree before the gate."

   The God of the Sea thereupon prepared an eight-fold cushion and led him in. When they had taken their seats, he inquired of him why he had come. Then Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto explained to him all the circumstances about the lost hook. The Sea-God accordingly assembled the fishes, both great and small, and required of them an answer concerning the lost hook. They all said, "We know not. Only the Red-woman has had a sore mouth for some time past and has not come."

   She was therefore peremptorily summoned to appear, and on her mouth being examined the lost hook was actually found.

   After this, Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto took to wife the Sea God's daughter, Toyo-tama-hime, 3 and dwelt in the sea-palace. For three years he enjoyed peace and pleasure, but still had a longing for his own country, and therefore sighed deeply from time to time. Toyo-tama-hime heard this and told her father, saying, "The Heavenly Grandchild often sighs as if in grief. It may be that it is the sorrow of longing for his country."

   The God of the Sea thereupon drew to him Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto, and addressing him in an easy, familiar way, said, "If the Heavenly Grandchild desires to return to his country, I will send him back."

   So he gave him the fish-hook which he had found, and in doing so instructed him, saying, "When you give this fish-hook to your elder brother, before giving to him call to it secretly, and say, 'A poor hook.'"

   He further presented to him the jewel of the flowing tide and the jewel of the ebbing tide, and instructed him, saying, "If you dip the tide-flowing jewel, the tide will suddenly flow, and twith this you will drown your elder brother. But in case your elder brother should repent and beg forgiveness, if, on the contrary, you dip the tide-ebbing jewel, the tide will spontaneously ebb, and with this you will save him. If you harass him in this way, your elder brother will of his oun accord render submission."

   When the Heavenly Grandchild was about to set out on his return journey, Toyo-tama-hime addressed him, saying, "Your servant is already pregnant, and the time of her delivery is not far off. On a day when the winds and waves are raging, I will surely come forth to the sea-shore, and I pray that you will make for me a birthing house, and wait for me there."

   When Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto returned to his palace, he complied implicitly with the instructions of the Sea-God, and the elder brother, Ho-no-susori no Mikoto, finding himself m the utmost straits, of his own accord admitted his offense, and said, "Henceforward I will be your subject to perform mimic dances for you. I beseech you mercifully to spare my life."

   Thereupon he at length gave in to his petition and spared him This Ho-no-susori no Mikoto was the first ancestor of the Kimi of Wobashi in Ata.

   After this Toyo-tama-hime fulfilled her promise, and, bringing with her her younger sister, Tama-yori-hime, bravely confronted the winds and waves, and came to the sea-shore. When the time of her delivery was at hand, she besought Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto, saying, "When your servant is in labor, I pray do not look upon her."

   However, the Heavenly Grandchild could not restrain himself, but went secretly and peeped in. Now Toyo-tama-hime was just in childbirth, and had changed into a dragon. She was greatly ashamed, and said, "Have you not disgraced me, I would have made the sea and land communicate with each other, and for ever prevented them from being sundered. But now that you have disgraced me, how shall friendly feelings be knit together?"

   So she wrapped the infant in rushes, and abandoned it on the sea-shore. Then she barred the sea-path and passed away. Accordingly the child was called Hiko-nagisa-take-u gaya-fuki-ahezu no Mikoto. 4

   A long time after, Hiko-hoho-demi no Mikoto died, and was buried in the Misasagi on the summit of Mount Takaya in Hiuga.

Translated by W.G. Aston, Nihongi (London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1896), 92-95

Edited by Richard Hooker



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