Brother pairs and twin brothers in Japanese and Circumpacific legends and tales: Possible reflection of the hunting-fishing worldview
The aim of this talk is to further develop the comparison suggested by Obayashi (1965) between brother pair figures in (especially Northeast) Japanese legends and tales on the one hand, and twin brother heroes in Circumpacific (especially American) counterparts on the other. The brother pairs are found in Japanese legends and folktales in two ways: as hunters or as salmons.
In the first cases, they are (often the first) hunters and are named as Banji and Banzaburo with other variations. Their names are interpreted as showing their brother relationship with each other — Banji being the second son, and Banzaburo the third. According to some legends, they were conquered by a Buddhist monk, who seems to symbolize the political power of the central government.
In the second cases, we have a pair of salmon named Osuke and Kosuke (“bigger and smaller man”). They are said to run upriver crying loud in human language, thus letting know of their yearly return.
These brother pairs in Japanese cases can be compared with American parallels. Twin heroes in South American mythology are often hunters or are culture heroes who created game and fish for the mankind (Métraux 1946). Northwest Coast peoples have connected twin brothers or siblings with salmons in their customs and myths (Obayashi 1990). It is known that in many cultures twins have been associated with animal parents or deified with theriomorphic characters (Harris 1913, Sternberg 1916, Lagercrantz 1942). This would suggest that brother pairs and twin brothers partly reflect the worldview of hunting and fishing societies where humans and animals were considered nearer with each other.