A Journey in Southern Siberia, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
THE Iron Hero cut open his side, and found a book in his liver. He read this book three days and nights, without stopping; at one time he laughed, at another he cried, at a third he sang songs.
In this book it was written that there were seven noble Dongins, that the eldest of the seven had a beautiful daughter whom the Iron Hero was to marry; the other six brothers were childless.
Before he set out to find this bride the Iron Hero turned his horse into flint, and placed him inside his own midriff. Then he boiled the flesh of ten sheep in one kettle, and made it as small as the flesh of one sheep. He distilled ten pots of tarasun and redistilled it till one kettle held all, and the liquor had ten strengths. After that he put the meat and drink into an iron car, and set out on his journey. When going up hill he gave the car a push and it went to the top. When going down he mounted the car, and rode in it pleasantly.
The Iron Hero hurried directly southwest. He reached the boundary of a new country, crossed it, and traveled on till he came to a bronze and silver square on which man had never stepped. In that square there was a spring as dark as liver, a spring from which horse had never drank. When the Iron Hero had drunk water and smoked, he said: "Thou art such a land that when the mountain wind blows downward thou art waving like a beaver fur, and when the valley wind blows against the mountain side thou art like a sable fur. When I return with my bride I will settle here; this will be my place."
After that he descended all the time. It was a sloping region, and he went swiftly. He heard ahead the panting, as it were, of ten men, and the tramp, as it were, of ten horses. He knew not what to do, he was frightened, but he said to himself: "If a wolf hunts a deer two days he will die of hunger. If a man does not carry out what he plans he would better perish. If a woman does not sew what she has cut, better that she cut off
her fingers." Then he made his breathing as great as the breathing of ten men, and the noise of his car as loud as the noise of ten carts.
Soon he met a twenty-five headed Mangathai. When he saw him in front he added to the speed of his car, and went so fast that he carried off the bottom of the Mangathai's stirrup and twisted up what was left of it. He cut off a part of the Mangathai's right cheek, and went forward a while, then turned his car around toward the Mangathai, saluted, and asked him:
"What place dost thou wish now to ravage and ruin?"
"I am going far to the northeast," said the Mangathai; "I have heard that Gesir Bogdo has a brother called the Iron Hero; I want to test his strength. While he is young, while his voice is thin, and his bones are soft, I wish greatly to kill him."
"Oh, thou wilt not let people come to their age, and gain strength. Thou wilt kill and ravage!" cried the Iron Hero, and springing from the car he gave the Mangathai a blow on the forehead.
"Oh, it is thou, then, thou art the Iron Hero, going to look for a bride!" cried the Mangathai, mocking him, and he sprang down from his stallion.
The two approached looking sidewise at each other, like two bulls going to battle. They were as dark as two gloomy clouds; both were raging. They rushed at each other to wrestle, and soon the ground under them became hills and valleys.
The Iron Hero tore all the flesh from the Mangathai's back with his fingers, and all of it from his breast with his teeth. At mid-forenoon of the next day he killed the Mangathai, put his head toward the northwest, his feet toward the east, put a mountain on his head and his breast, and another across his feet and legs, leaving a road between by which people might travel.
Now the Iron Hero went farther, saw an iron yurta, the top of which touched the sky. He was frightened; he turned the car into a flint, himself into a skunk, and went toward that iron yurta underground. He ate a hole through the floors, and peeping up, saw a hundred and eight headed Mangathai, his feet against one wall, his head against another. This Mangathai was breathing very heavily. Out of one corner of his mouth a blue
flame was quivering, out of the other corner a red flame gushed forth.
Seeing that the Mangathai was sleeping soundly, the Iron Hero crept up and stole his axe, which hung there, made it small, took it away underground, came back and gnawed through the Mangathai's throat quickly. The Mangathai sprang up, and cried: "Cunning people have robbed me! Sharp arrows have hit me!"
He stumbled around through the place, could do nothing, lost his senses, blood flowed from his nostrils, his breath failed, and life left him.
The Hero turned the great iron building bottom side upward. He made small trees for elks to eat, for deer he made brush. He made black ravens to croak on the place, and a yellow fox to race around it. He commanded that on fallen snow there should never be tracks in winter, and that grass should not be broken or crushed in the summer, so that everything might be secret; all things lone and deserted.
He made a fire from flint, and began to smoke. The highest flame from his flint rose through every heaven to the ninth, and the lowest flame went down through all regions of the earth to the seventh. He invoked the thousand Burkans. He sent out his smoke first with a roaring whistle, and then he let it go of itself in deep silence.
When his smoke was finished he set out again with his car, going southwestward continually. When he came to a hill he gave the car a great push and it went to the summit. When going down he mounted the car and rode along swiftly and in comfort. At last he saw a fifty headed Mangathai riding on a horse black as the earth. The Mangathai wore a mantle of goat skin, and he shouted from his horse to the Iron Hero: "Thou hast killed my father and my younger brother, and now thou hast happened into my hands very luckily!"
He sprang from his horse, the Iron Hero leaped from his car, and the two went toward each other like two bulls, or like two black threatening clouds, and they closed in a desperate struggle. Each tore the flesh from the back of the other with his fingers, and bit it away from his breast with his teeth. Three days and
nights did they fight. They made hills and valleys. Where there had been a hill there was a valley and where the valley had been there was a hill. But neither could conquer the other. They agreed then to hurl weapons from opposite mountains. The Mangathai from a mountain on the western border of the sky, the Iron Hero from one on the eastern border.
They disputed long, and with hot words, as to who should shoot first. The Mangathai demanded the first shot because he lived there. The Iron Hero claimed it because he was a stranger. He insisted, but yielded at last to the Mangathai, and took his place on the eastern mountain, where he turned into a jade stone before the Mangathai's axe could reach him.
The Mangathai hurled his axe, hit the stone but could not harm it. The Iron Hero took his own form again, seized the axe, struck it into his car, and shouted: "Thou hast a fine aim, to hit my car. How now am I to travel? Stand up in thy own size, and let me shoot at thee."
The Iron Hero took his bow, bent it to a half circle, and spoke to the arrow, as he drew the string to the arrow head:
"Go thou, my arrow, into the side of my enemy, tear around through his heart, lungs, and liver. Come out then, break his forearm, and crack his spinal column at the neck, then come back to me."
The arrow did all this, and came back to the quiver.
The Mangathai's black steed called to the Iron Hero: "My mother is in the Milk Sea, my father is on a high mountain. I have no fear of thee. I will go to them!" and he sped away.
The Iron Hero took out the flint, and turned it into his blue stallion of the sky. The blue stallion rushed after the black steed of the Mangathai, calling out as he started:
"When thy two hind feet are in the second valley my fore feet will be there; when thy four feet are in the third valley my three feet will be there, when all thy feet are in the fourth valley my four feet will be in the same valley, and in the fifth valley I will bite the great muscle of thy leg, catch thee by the bridle bit, and bring thee back here."
The blue stallion did this. He brought the black steed of the Mangathai to the Iron Hero. The Iron Hero killed the steed
with the Mangathai's axe, put a hill on the dead Mangathai, another one on his steed; then he put his blue stallion into his breast as a flint, and pushing his car went into a cold place, a land so cold that horse droppings froze solid and were as ice when they touched the ground.
"Pfu! pfu! how hot!" cried the Hero, and he opened his bosom; he was sweating. Then he went into a country so hot that horse droppings dried up, and scattered into dust before they touched the earth. "Pfu! pfu! what a cold place this is!" cried the Hero, as he drew his cap down and buttoned his shirt very closely. "Oh, how cold; I am almost frozen!"
After he had driven out of the hot land he came to a forest so dense that the thinnest snake in the world could not squeeze through between the trees, and so vast that no eye could see side or end to it. He begged the thousand Burkans to give him an axe with a blade one ell wide. He got the axe and began to hew and cut, but all that he cut in the day time grew up again during night hours. He cut three days and each night all the trees grew up again, and were there in the morning. Seeing no good in the axe he took his arrow from the quiver and spoke to it, saying: "Cut thou the trees level with the earth; cut a road so wide that a laden camel might go through this forest easily, and a pied ox with a sleigh might pass without trouble. When all is done come back to the quiver."
The arrow did as commanded. The trees thus cut never grew again, and the Iron Hero passed through the forest without difficulty. Then he went to a high place and looking down saw a broad valley, and he thought, "To spring over this valley—no hero could do that; to pass through will be difficult; there are so many serpents here."
The serpents saw the Iron Hero, and said, "We must not let that man pass under us, or over us, or through us!"
There was nothing to be accomplished by pushing ahead, so the Iron Hero turned his car into a flint and put it into his pocket, then turned himself into a yellow, spotted serpent, and went into that valley. He passed up and down, passed three times through the valley so as not to be suspected, then slipped out on the opposite side, took the flint from his pocket, made
it into a car again, and became himself,—was the Iron Hero again.
When the serpents saw this they fell to asking each of some other one, "What didst thou see?" The other answering, "What didst thou see?" "We promised not to let this man go over us, or under us, or through us, and now he has gone through us." They grew so angry that they bit one another, and fell to fighting savagely. There was a terrible uproar, some bit others to death, and were themselves bitten to death.
After that the Iron Hero traveled on till he came to a lake. Beyond the lake was a narrow strip of land, and beyond that a second lake, a lake of poison. He took out his horse, and asked: "What are we to do? How are we to cross these lakes?"
"Go back one day's journey," said the horse, "and I will spring over the lakes. Hold fast to me."
They did so. The blue stallion sprang over both lakes; the end of his tail and the tips of his hind hoofs touched the poison water of the second lake, and fell off immediately.
The Iron Hero whipped his horse, and pulled the bridle till blood came. "Why not spring through clean? Thou mightst have fallen into the poison lake, then both of us would have perished!" cried he.
"Till this day thou art a fool," answered the stallion, "and knowest not that it would have been a sin not to touch the water. We are living people, and must touch things as we pass them."
"True, I did not know this till now," replied the Iron Hero.
Then he made the stallion into flint again, and journeyed on, pushing his car before him. He approached Red Mountain and saw there a hill of men's bones, a hill of beasts' bones, a hill of flesh, and a stream of blood. He saw a multitude of blind, a multitude of lame, people without hands, people without feet, and all, great and small, rich and poor, striving to climb the mountain. The great and the rich went on horseback, they rode up some distance and then fell back, with their horses. The poor and maimed climbed up on foot, or crawled up as best they were able. They wore all the flesh from the front part of
their bodies in climbing up, and tore all the flesh off their backs in falling down. All who climbed fell, and every one who fell perished.
The Iron Hero went near. He looked at the hills of bones and the multitude of people, and wept for three days and three nights. He took out the flint, changed it to his steed, and the steed wept. Then the Iron Hero made his steed flint, put him in his bosom; made the car flint, put it in his pocket; turned himself into a skunk, and went one third of the way up the mountain, climbed till his claws were gone; then he became a squirrel, and went from the limb of one tree to the limb of another; went from place to place. He was dreadfully tired, but he climbed till his claws were gone. At last he became a falcon, and with great effort flew to the top, fell there, and lay for three days and three nights without moving.
At the end of the third day he revived, took the horse and the car out, gave his horse water, and let him graze. Two deer passed there; these he killed, roasted on spits, and ate.
After he and the stallion had eaten he took an immense iron barrel, with ninety-nine hoops, which he found there, filled it with the Water of Life and of Youth, and rolled it down the mountain.
The barrel broke; the water ran out in a broad stream, and the people and horses at the foot of the mountain came to life. One old man begged all the Burkans to prosper the Iron Hero. "May he live," said that old man, "till a stone as large as a bull turns of itself into ashes, and a stone as big as a stallion drops out of a solid mountain."
From Red Mountain the Iron Hero saw on the edge of the horizon an enormous white yurta which touched the sky, that was the yurta of his father-in-law. From the mountain he came down to a brass and iron hill which no foot of man had ever touched, and he sat down on that hill. Then by his magic he made big boils on his neck and on his back, and on his hands and feet sores disgusting to look at. He made himself old, sick, and wretched, made his car worn and battered, and then pushed it ahead toward the yurta till he entered the courtyard.
In the middle of that courtyard was a pillar with branches, and
on those branches were ninety-six hitching rings. Seven splendid horses were tied to seven of those hitching rings. Each horse was of a different color; on the saddle of each were the arms of its rider. The riders of those seven horses were suitors for the maiden whom the Iron Hero wished to be his wife.
The Iron Hero pushed in his car, put it between two of the horses; then going over silver stairs and through golden doors he entered the yurta as a nasty, malodorous old man covered with sores. When inside the yurta he saw the seven splendid young suitors sitting at a table, and with them sat the bride's father.
"A greeting to thee, O my father-in-law," said the old man, tottering in and approaching the khan.
"What father-in-law am I to thee? May thou drop into pieces! The one of the seven who throws thee out will get my daughter."
One of the suitors sprang up to seize the old man and throw him out, but he could not raise him from the floor; the old man was as if fastened down, no one could lift him.
"If all of you seize him you can throw him out!" cried the father-in-law. "Some demon has come to me!"
All seven took hold of the old man. One grasped a leg, another an arm; but the seven could not stir him. He pushed them away, hurled them in different directions. One fell in a corner, another under a table, a third into a third place, and soon all seven of the suitors ran out to the courtyard in fright and confusion, untied their horses and rode off at a gallop.
The old man dragged himself through the chambers. Sitting down here and there in each chamber, he soiled all the floors and the seats. The khan could do nothing,—could not frighten, entice, or drive him out, so he sent for two heroes who lived in the southwest. It was necessary to ride three days to get to those heroes. When the messenger reached them they said: "We must make ready our weapons and armor. Go home; we will follow and overtake thee."
Five days the old man was left to himself, and during that time he soiled all the chambers of the yurta. Then he crawled into the courtyard, took his car and went to the Iron and Silver
[paragraph continues] Square on the hilltop; there he made a fire and lay down to sleep quietly.
The day that the old man left the yurta the two heroes came. They shouted at the entrance, and the khan went out to meet them. "Where is he who is troubling thee?" asked the heroes.
"He left here just before ye came. Fifteen women are washing the rooms which he soiled. He went away when he heard that I had sent for two great heroes. The seven suitors could not drive off the wretched old man, but he has fled now to the north-east, with his car."
Straightway the heroes followed in the direction which the khan pointed out to them. They came to the Iron and Silver Square on the hilltop and found the old man there sleeping soundly and snoring loudly. They shouted at him. He stopped snoring, opened his eyes, and sat up. The heroes came down from their horses, and asked:
"What wounds and sores are those on thy hands and body? Why lie there? What art thou doing?"
"If ye had been bitten by a venomous, yellow serpent as I have, ye would be as sore as I am," said the old man. "Why are there boils on thy neck and back?"
"If Hohodai Mergen (thunder) had struck you, ye would have boils."
"Thy life is hanging on a red silk thread," said the heroes, "and thou art speaking to us insolently. We will break thy back for thee and pull off thy head!"
They sprang then to finish the old man. He rose. They rushed at him, and wrestling began. He did not give way. He limped and struggled. Nine days and nights did the conflict last. Wherever a foot pressed a hole was made, wherever a hole was made a pillar of dust rose. A hill of flesh was formed from the pieces which the two heroes tore from the old man, and which the old man tore from them. Crows came in clouds from afar to seize the flesh; they came from all sides. "May ye fight on for years!" croaked the crows. "It is pleasant to look at you."
On the tenth day the old man began to grow weak, and toward evening he fell to the earth, powerless. The two heroes
put him in an iron barrel with ninety-five hoops on it, and rolled him into the Black Misty Sea. But before he fell into the water the old man said:
"In the place from which I started there is a promontory, on that promontory is a white cuckoo as big as a horse's head. Between the Bronze and Silver Square and that promontory are seventy mountain ranges. Along those seventy ranges ninety mad wolves are prowling. That cuckoo will come with the ninety mad wolves to save me;" then he fainted. Those were his last words.
The white cuckoo heard those words and set out at once, and the ninety mad wolves followed her.
Only when three days and nights had passed did the cuckoo and the ninety mad wolves appear on the shore of the Black Misty Sea. The cuckoo flew three times along the shore singing loudly; and the whole Black Misty Sea vanished, went into the earth before the power of the cuckoo, and the grass which grew around on every side of that sea dried up and withered at sight of her.
When the sea was almost dry the iron cask was seen on the bottom. The ninety mad wolves rushed at the cask and gnawed its ninety-five hoops off. When the hoops were gone the cask fell apart, and they found the skeleton of the Iron Hero. The wolves took the skeleton up carefully and carried it to the cuckoo at the seashore. The cuckoo began to sing, began at the Iron Hero's feet. When she reached his head the first time flesh began to come on his bones; the second time he almost breathed. When she reached his head the third time he sprang up. "How long have I slept?" cried he. Then he remembered what had happened. He washed, and thanked the cuckoo and the ninety mad wolves. He was in the same form as before, a wretched old man with sores on his body.
"Why art thou so foolish?" asked the cuckoo. "Why not go to the khan in thy real form?"
"If I went in youth, as I am, the khan would give me hard tasks to do,—tasks which might kill me. It is better to act in this way. My bride knows all that I am doing." Then he said to the wolves and the cuckoo: "Ye have served me well; good
thanks to you, go home now, in peace." The wolves dragged the car from the bottom of the sea. The sea took its old form and grass appeared again along the shore.
The Iron Hero went a second time to the khan for his beautiful daughter, but in a worse form than before.
There was a wedding that day at the yurta. The khan was giving his daughter in marriage to the younger of the two strong heroes who had put the old man in the iron barrel and rolled him into the Black Misty Sea to stay there.
When the two heroes saw the old man coming rolling his car on in front of him they rushed out, mounted their steeds, and rode away swiftly. They had thought never to see that old man again, now they felt sure that they would never get rid of him.
The old man walked into the chamber which he had soiled on the first day, and said, "A greeting from me to thee, father-in-law!"
The khan was terrified. "What does this mean?" cried he. "The thirteen khans have all become wizards, the seventy-nine languages are all used for sorcery! I am frightened! I know not why any one comes to me, whether for good or evil reasons."
"Give me entertainment though I am poor and wretched," said the old man. "It is due me."
"Give entertainment to this old man," commanded the khan.
They brought him milk, but in a trough from which dogs drank. He took the trough, raised it as if to drink, and let the milk run down all over him. The milk reached the floor and soiled the chamber.
What was to be done? The khan sent five days' journey for Milén Buhé, an immensely strong hero; wrote to him to come quickly, that some terrible wizard in the form of an old man was tormenting him greatly, that no one yet had been able to conquer him. "If thou conquer him," wrote the khan, "thou wilt have my daughter. The old wizard soils my yurta, and thirty-three women are all the time cleaning chambers after him."
In nine days and a half the strong hero came, half a day before
his time. When the old man heard of the hero's coming he went away with his car to the Bronze and Silver Square on the hilltop and fell asleep as before.
When Milén Buhé reached the khan's yurta he shouted and the khan went out. "Is that demon here now?" asked the hero.
"No, he has just gone from here," said the khan, "but come in for entertainment."
Milén Buhé followed the khan, but when he saw the vile remnants the old man had left at the entrance he halted. "I will not go in!" said he. "Come through other doors," said the khan, and they went in elsewhere. "I know not who it is that has come to me," said the khan, "an old man with good intent, or with evil. I know that if thou kill him I will give thee my daughter."
The hero ate and drank quickly, then hurried off. He came to the hilltop, saw the old man, dismounted, woke him up, and asked, "Why hast thou such vile hands and feet?"
"If poisonous yellow serpents had bitten thy hands and feet they would be as mine are."
"Why are those boils on thy neck and back?"
"If Hohodai Mergen had struck thee thou wouldst have boils also."
"Thou art on the sharp edge of death, and answer me rudely in this style! I will tear thee to pieces!"
They rushed at each other like two bulls, and were as fierce and gloomy as two clouds filled with thunder. They closed and wrestled,—wrestled two days so desperately that the third morning their lowest ribs were bare. Each seized the other by the last rib, each threw the other, and each pulled out a rib in the struggle, but remained in his senses. They lay on the ground, each holding a rib in his hand.
The thousand Heavenly Burkans called together a wise assembly. "These two are brothers," said they. "We made them both, why do they fight?"
The Burkans threw down a written message. It fell between the two wrestlers, and it said: "Ye are brothers. The Iron Hero is the younger." Milén Buhé took the message and read
it, then the Iron Hero read it, read that they were brothers created by the thousand Burkans. The two were reconciled at once. Each gave the other his rib, put it in place, and both were well again.
The Iron Hero took out his steed and was ready to ride back to the khan's yurta, when his brother asked:
"Why didst thou make thyself old? Why not go in thy real form? Let us both go to the khan."
They set out together.
"That old man was a terrible sorcerer," said Milén Buhé to the khan. "He had immense magic power. I was not able to conquer him alone, so I summoned from northern regions my brother, this Iron Hero. He helped me, we conquered the sorcerer, and finished him. Thou wilt never see that old man again. I am married, so give thy daughter to my younger brother, this Iron Hero here."
The khan consented. He sent men to kill rams, and held the feast which is given at the asking in marriage. "Go now to see thy bride," said the khan when the feast was over.
The bride was in the seventieth chamber, and was such a beauty that her neck had the brightness of sunrays. When she looked toward the west her right cheek shone so that all western people said, "The sun is rising!" When she looked toward the east, all eastern people said, "The moon is rising!"
When the Iron Hero entered the seventieth chamber the maid met him, and said: "I know all that has happened since you left the home of Gesir Bogdo to come to me. Many of the difficulties were made by me. I raised them to test thee, to learn if thou wert able to overcome them. You came as an old man, and ridiculed my father."
"If I had not come as an old man your father would have killed me. Had I come as a young man he would have given tasks that are impossible. I had to conquer him, and that was the only way."
The Iron Hero rose just at sunrise and hurried to the khan. The khan, Milén Buhé, and he drank together." I have been delayed so long," said the Iron Hero, "that we should have the wedding immediately."
Click to enlarge
OUR BURIAT FRIENDS IN THE SACRED ISLAND OF OLKHON IN LAKE BAIKAL, SIBERIA
The man and woman who gave up their house to us
The khan invited all his people to the wedding feast. There were mountains of meat and a sea of drink; amusements of all kinds and dances. Nine days and nights did the feast last. When it was over the bridegroom mounted his steed and the bride mounted hers, a golden bay of great beauty. The bride begged a gift of her mother. The mother gave her golden scissors, which had the power to multiply cloth. When the owner of the scissors began to cut, she could cut all day without using up the cloth.
The khan had six brothers; he himself was the eldest of seven. "What will my six uncles give me?" asked the bride, as she turned to them.
The eldest uncle gave her a red kerchief, which had the power to make a dead man alive. The second uncle gave a silver cup. "When thou hast a son thou wilt drink soup with bits of meat from this cup, and be strong," said he. "Here is a golden horn," said the third uncle. "When thou hast a son he will suck milk from this and never suffer from thirst." "Here is a silver bracelet," said the fourth uncle. "It will protect thee against all weapons and attacks of every kind." The fifth uncle gave a ring, which had the power to make a poor man rich. The sixth gave good wishes for health and wealth, nothing more.
Milén Buhé wished his brother health and great prosperity. The Iron Hero invited all the people to a feast at his own house. "When the road is straight," said he, "you will travel on; when you see a circle, that is your camping place, spend the night there."
He took a larch tree, tied it to his horse's tail, and rode away in front of his guests. The Iron Hero came to the mountain which he had climbed with such difficulty, that Red Mountain on which was the Water of Life and Youth, and there he waited for the company. The bride knew another road down. All drank of the water, and then went down by an easy road, which no person in the world but the bride knew of.