Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kojiki (part four)

Kojiki (part four): Susanoo actually does something kind of useful for once

Previously on the Kojiki, Susanoo got thrown out for being a poop-flinging jerk.

There's then a chapter which probably was just randomly thrown into the Kojiki.  It's the killing-the-food-kami story I wrote about here, except instead of Tsukiyomi doing the killing, it's Susanoo.  Basically, Susanoo showed up at Ukemochinokami's house, asked for food, and Ukemochinokami started pulling food out of her nose, mouth, and rectum.  Yum.  Susanoo was pretty understandably grossed out and stabbed her.  Her corpse then turned into various kinds of food, which one of the kami took and used as seeds.
The Tsukiyomi version of the story, by the way, is the one which appears in the Nihon Shoki.  Some scholars believe that Susanoo wasn't actually involved in the original story, but the author decided to make him the one to kill Ukemochinokami in order to reinforce his violent and dangerous nature.  There's actually a version of the story where nobody gets killed, and the food-producing kami just dies of old age!  But dying quietly of old age is so BORING compared to STABBING, and also doesn't involve pulling food out of one's rectum.

So, anyway, once Susanoo was done senselessly killing people, he descended to Izumo.  Yes, that Izumo.  He saw a chopstick floating down the river, and figured that there must be people upstream, so he went to look for them.  Sure enough, he found an old woman and an old man with a young woman.  All of them were crying.
Susanoo asked what was wrong, and the old guy replied that he used to have eight daughters, but the eight-tailed* dragon, whose name was Yamato no Orochi,**  had come every year to eat one of them, and now he was down to the last one.
Susanoo then asked what the dragon looked like, because apparently "eight-tailed" wasn't sufficiently descriptive.
The old man then gave a description, which involved a lot of renditions of "eight" (the dragon has eight tails and eight heads and spans eight valleys AND eight mountain peaks).
Then Susanoo asked, "Will you give me your daughter?"
The old man answered, "Awed as I am, I do not know your name."
And Susanoo replied that he was Amaterasu's brother, conveniently leaving out the whole part where she threw him out and kind of disowned him.
And apparently this was good enough for the old man, 'cause he gave Susanoo his daughter...who Susanoo then turned into a hair comb and inserted into his hair bunch.
UH.  Right-o.
So then Susanoo told the old man and old woman to distill "thick wine of eight-fold brewings," which is apparently a special kind of wine that is used in religious ceremonies.  He then told them to build a fence with eight openings in it, and place a barrel of the wine at each of the doors and wait.
You probably already know where this is going.
So they did as Susanoo said, and the dragon showed up and drank from the barrels and got drunk and passed out.  And then Susanoo hacked the dragon into pieces with his sword, and the river flowed red with the dragon's blood!  But when he cut the dragon's middle tail, his sword broke.  He inspected the tail and discovered that there was a sword inside the tail.  He took the sword and presented it to Amaterasu, which, if you think about it, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since he just got thrown out for flinging poop around her house.  Some scholars think the whole bit with him presenting the sword to Amaterasu is just tacked on to the regular story, but nobody really knows!  Anyway, the sword was Kusanagi, which doesn't mean anything to most of you, but will become important later!

In the children's version of the Kojiki I'm reading, Susanoo then pulls out all his body hair and throws it into the wind, where it turns into a bunch of different kinds of trees!
If you were wondering, his butt hair turns into maki, which my dictionary informs me means "yew plum pines."
He then announces what each of the trees will be used for!  The butt-hair trees are supposed to be used for making things for living in this world, which I guess means implements for daily use?
Then Susanoo pulls out his hair comb and announces that it will be his wife, and the hair comb turns back into a lady.  And apparently the lady is so calm and nice that she stops Susanoo from being such a hot-headed poop-flinger, which I guess is a good thing!

Note that none of this section is actually in the original Kojiki, which continues the story this way:
Susanoo picked a place in Izumo to build his wedding palace, and apparently was so thrilled with building his palace that he decided to sing.
I bet you didn't think this was a musical, huh?
Anyway, his song is about how he's going to have a many-fenced palace and live in it with his wife.  That is literally the entire song.
So then he called over the old man and asked him to be his headman, and then commenced procreation with his wife...who, by the way, in this text, is still a comb.  Oops.
And then there's a full page listing all his descendants and that's the end of the chapter!

On a final semi-related note, Jason, who was my classmate at Brown AND on CLS and is now working as a CIR in Shimane Prefecture, went to see a kagura performance of the tale of Susanoo and Yamata no Orochi.  You can click here for a picture.

Next time: Ookuninushi discovers that if you tick off your bros, they may kill you...a lot.

*It's worth noting, once again, that "eight" may actually mean "a lot" in this context.

**If you've ever seen or read Naruto, Orochimaru is based off of Yamato no Orochi.

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