Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Okinawan Folktale: Cattle Became Whales

Commonly Known as Water Buffalo



Prior to the introduction of machinery, animals were employed in the fields.

From distant islands in the Ryukyu Archipelago there are different versions of this story.

water buffalo, water, tethered

Hateruma Jima



There is no inhabited island farther south in the Ryukyu Chain, than Hateruma.

During rainy season water buffalo were used to prepare the rice fields.

Farmers would walk one through the fields and their hooves would soften the ground.

A lazy but, clever individual dreamed up a way to prepare his fields faster.

Rather than use one cow, he lashed together eight of them.

For sure, his fields would be finished in less time than those of neighboring farmers.

He cracked the whip and had the bulls churning up earth during a big rainstorm.

Preoccupied with finishing in a hurry, he didn't notice a tsunami approaching.

The neighbors, using one cow, quickly evacuated to high ground and survived.

The lazy farmer and his cattle were washed out into the ocean.

He drowned but, the water buffalo survived and, turned into whales.

During the fall migration, whales may be heard mooing near the island of Hateruma.

Local legend teaches, it is the sound of the cows, trying to come home.

whale statues, Zamami-jima, port

Kerama Islands 

The Kerama Island Group is situated to the west of Naha, Okinawa.

Here, locals believe water buffalo were lazy and escaped from working the fields.

They became whales, thinking life would be easier in the ocean.

At sea, they were also employed as beasts of burden at a sea palace and, escaped, again.

The God of the Sea, became disappointed and sent Orcas to eliminate them.

Whales, near the Kerama Islands are heard bellowing, "Moo."

They fear the Orcas, coming to eat them !


Folktales of Okinawa ISBN4-947654-05-8 P.27

How The Whale Came To Be

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