A Journey in Southern Siberia, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
YERENTE was ninety-five years of age, and his wife, Untun Duryai, sixty. Though they lived in an immense stone yurta, they had neither son nor daughter.
Yerente owned thousands and thousands of cattle, but for fourteen years he had not thought to number them. At last he went to count all his herds, and on counting found that he had lost one light bay stallion and eighty-five mares with colts and without colts. When he learned this he began to shed tears.
"I am old, I have no children," lamented he, "and now I have lost my best horses. At Dalantai lives a Mangathai of seventy-seven heads. He is the thief; he it is who has stolen my horses." And Yerente went home weeping.
"Why art thou weeping?" asked his wife, Untun Duryai.
"I am not weeping," replied Yerente. "The wind made my eyes smart and made the tears flow."
They sat down to eat and drink.
"Though I was not weeping," said Yerente, "I have lost many mares and a stallion. I must look for those horses at once, I must find them."
"Why do that to-day?" asked Untun Duryai. "You must not go now, you must stay with me."
"I will go without delay," said he; "soon I shall be too old to go, I shall not have the strength to travel."
He made ready immediately, put on his trousers of bull-skin (there were seventy-five skins in that one pair of trousers); then he drew on boots of fish-skin, put a silver belt around his body, a silk shuba over his shoulders, and a sable-skin cap on his head. Next he took a quiver and all that belonged to it, ninety-five arrows. Then he drank spider oil. He had no need of food for ten years after drinking that oil. When ready, he opened his iron storehouse and led forth a red bull with horns sixty fathoms long, took a rope of rawhide, put it through the bull's nose, sat on the beast's back, and rode away westward.
Yerente rode far, rode to a certain mountain beyond the boundary of his land, and there found his mares and his stallion. The right eye of the stallion had been dug out, his right front leg had been broken. Yerente cured the stallion and sent the beast home; with him went the eighty-five mares with colts and without colts. Then the old man rode farther on the red bull to find the Mangathai and take vengeance.
After a time he met two young men on horseback; they had iron staffs in their hands and were looking for a herd of lost horses. He called to them and said, "I can tell ye where that herd is."
"How couldst thou know, old man? Thou art lying." And the two laughed at him as he sat on the long-horned red bull.
Yerente was enraged at their ridicule. He sprang from the bull, seized the young men, tied each to the tail of the horse which he had been riding, lashed the horses, and sent them rushing homeward over the sandy steppe.
Then he rode farther on his red bull. When he reached the top of the mountain he stopped there and looked around on all sides very sharply, thinking where it was best to go. He saw on the horizon a yurta which seemed to touch the blue sky; it was shining and splendid. Near the yurta stood the Mangathai's stallion. This stallion was black, except a white spot on the right side of his rump.
"Rise up!" called the stallion to his master. "Some one is on Onhoy Undir Ushin; it must be that an enemy is coming."
The Mangathai came out in one shirt to look; then he sprang on the stallion and rushed to the mountain.
"Why didst thou take a herd of horses from me in my old age?" asked Yerente.
"Thou art old; so I was free to take them and keep them, and now I will tear thee into small bits!" said the Mangathai, springing from his black stallion and rushing toward the red bull.
Yerente slipped off the bull and went toward the Mangathai. They approached each other sidewise and came together fiercely. Each with all his ten fingers tore bits of flesh from the other. The stallion ran at the bull and bit his spine. The bull drew
back, freed himself, and rushed with his long horns at the stallion, fought with him, pierced him through the breast. Then the bull rushed at the Mangathai, pierced him, raised him on his horns, and killed him.
On the bull's back was the horse's head. The horse had bitten into the bull so fiercely that he could not let go, and when he died his head was torn from his body. Yerente took the head away now.
"The Mangathai's property is of no use to me," said he, and he rode home on the back of his red bull.
All were well at his coming, but two days afterward Untun Duryai gave birth to a son and a daughter. Yerente summoned the people. He put tarasun and meat before them on the first day; on the second day he placed the infants in a cradle and asked for men to name them.
A gray-haired old man from the North named the boy, called him Sokto Khan. A gray-haired old man from the South named the girl Agüi.
Yerente sent home the first old man with honor, gave him trousers and a shuba, gave him the marrow bone of an ox. The gray old man gave Sokto a cane. The second gray old man received trousers, a shuba, and a marrow bone, and he gave Agüi a magic stick. Each of the midwives got a silk shuba and a carcass of beef. To the woman who received his son he gave a gold ring; to the woman who received his daughter he gave a silver ring. The two women gave each child a silver ring. All the people went home then, well satisfied and happy.
When ten days had passed the children were as if ten years old, and a ram's skin was too small as a coat for the boy to wear. At this time Duryai said to her husband:
"Go and get for me the flesh of a wild goat. I am tired of common meat."
The old man had a red stallion ninety fathoms long. This stallion was far from the yurta, pasturing, with thirteen wild deer, in the mountains. Yerente took his flute and played on it very sweetly; with this music he summoned the red stallion, and it ran home quickly. Yerente put a silk saddle-cloth on the stallion, then a saddle of silver; he put a silver bit in its mouth
and silver trinkets on the saddle. Then he mounted, took bow and quiver, and went to hunt.
The first day he found nothing, the second day no more. That evening he prepared to spend the night in the forest. "I am old," said he to himself; "that is why I see no game!"
The third day he killed many goats, took fifteen of them on his red stallion, and started homeward. When halfway to the yurta the horse sank to the earth on his knees and began to listen. The old man grew angry at the stallion; he thought he was lazy and began to beat him. "Why stop half-way?" cried he.
"Thou hast lived to old age without gaining wit or wisdom," said the stallion. "Why beat thy horse?"
"Why dost thou stop?"
"I stopped for a reason, and now I will tell it. While thou wert away hunting game thy wife went to Orhoy, raised the Mangathai to life, and brought him with her to thy yurta. At this moment he is hidden there behind seventy-seven closed doors. They have pots of poisoned tarasun to give thee. Thou art to drink first of good tarasun; in the second pot will be poison. Thou wilt be drunk from the first pot and poisoned from the second. The moment thou art home let me out, take off the bridle, saddle, and all that is on me. Let not thy wife touch my bridle. Thy wife wants to kill thee and me. Drink not what thy wife gives. If thou drink thou art dead. More good I cannot do thee. Thy fate is told. Later on I will help thy son and daughter."
When they reached the yurta Untun Duryai came out to meet Yerente. "How long thou wert gone! Thou hast wearied thyself for nothing. Give me the horse. I will help thee, I will tie him to the hitching-post."
"I have never let any one tie my horse; I will do that myself," said Yerente.
He unsaddled the horse quickly and let him out. "Be as fat as possible," said he to the stallion. Yerente went into the yurta. Duryai took him by the hand, commanded to skin the goats and dress them. All things were made ready; tarasun was brought in quickly. Duryai gave Yerente one cup after
another, and soon he was drunk. "Let me have more drink!" said he.
"I do not know that there is more tarasun," said the woman. "If there is I will bring it."
Duryai was in high spirits; she brought another pot of tarasun. Yerente drank all from the pot and was senseless. The poison came out in blue and red flames through his mouth and his nostrils. As her husband lay there, Duryai called to the Mangathai: "Thy enemy is dead now, come out to me!"
The Mangathai came out, but Yerente was not dead. He sprang up, and the two fought; the old man fought his false wife and the Mangathai as well. They struggled for three days and three nights. Yerente was beginning to overcome the Mangathai.
"Why didst thou raise me?" cried he to Duryai. "Better lie where I was if I must suffer a second time. Better lie dead in peace than be punished in this way."
Duryai took blue grains of barley and threw them at the feet of the Mangathai, chanting words while she scattered them. The Mangathai grew stronger; then she threw red barley grains at the old man's feet and chanted; he grew weak and stumbled.
On the fourth day Yerente was very feeble, and the Mangathai finished him, choked him, killed him. The two put his body in a cask with ninety-five iron hoops on it and rolled the cask into the Hara Dalai (Black Sea); then they feasted.
"Thou must kill thy son and daughter," said the Mangathai; "they may avenge their father's death on me."
"I cannot kill my own children," said Duryai. "If thou wish thou mayst kill them."
"I have not the strength in me to do it, I have fought so many days with thy husband. I will rest, and then I will see to them."
In the night the red stallion broke into the yurta, stole Yerente's son and daughter, and ran away southward to the flat top of a high mountain.
The Mangathai and Duryai went in pursuit.
The red stallion galloped far and very fast. They could not overtake him, and he saved the two children. On the top of that mountain was the Water of Life.
"Let us go back," said the Mangathai. "What can that horse do alone? What good is a horse without a master? What good is a knife without a handle?"
The red stallion gave living water to the children. He found there by the spring an iron horn, from which they drank. He kept them three whole years on the mountain. From the north came rain in summer, and for that reason the right side of the stallion was covered with moss; on his left side the hair fell off from heat. For three years the children played; after that the horse said to them. "Ye are large enough now, I may take you down to the valley. If ye are lucky ye will prosper."
They went down the mountain, and then hand in hand wandered farther. Soon they came to a large open place, where there were eighty-five immense pine trees. Beyond the trees was a splendid yurta which shone like silver. Near the pine trees Sokto made a shelter for his sister. "Stay here," said he, "till I come"; and he went to the high silver yurta. Inside he saw a Mangathai with a hundred and eight heads, and his wife, a very tall woman.
"Whence dost thou come? From what country?" asked the Mangathai. "Thou must be some khan's son."
"People say, I know not if truly, that I am the son of Yerente Khan, that I was taken from my father when an infant."
"Thy father was my great enemy. I am glad that thou hast come. I have need of thee."
Straightway the Mangathai struck Sokto twenty-five strong blows; then he shut him up in a stone storehouse and gave him a little strip of black bread to eat. Sokto had passed many days in that storehouse, when some khan, a friend of the Mangathai, was taking home seventy-five casks of tarasun. The khan gave tarasun to the Mangathai. He drank and grew talkative.
"I have the son of Yerente Khan shut up here. I gave him twenty-five blows of a rod and a bit of black bread. This will do for him daily till I kill him."
"I have no sons; better give him to me," said the khan. "Such a little fellow can do no harm."
"If I do not kill him he may become my enemy."
The khan gave the Mangathai half a cask of tarasun to drink and begged again for the boy.
"Let me have all thy casks of tarasun and take him," said the Mangathai at last.
The khan took the boy home and shouted at the gate, "I have brought a son with me!" His wife was very glad; she took the boy into the yurta and said:
"I will summon the people to a feast and adopt him."
All the people came, and while the feast was going on the boy began to cry. They fondled him and tried to quiet him. On one side stood the new father, and on the other the new mother. "Why cry?" asked they.
"There were two of us," said the boy, "I and my sister. I left my sister in a shelter; I know not whether she is dead or alive."
The khan had four black horses brought, and he went with men to find the sister. Sokto went with them. They rode swiftly, and never stopped till they reached the shelter. Agüi was not there. They found ashes which were warm, and Sokto cried, "She must be alive, and not far from here."
They looked for tracks and found them. The time was early morning. The tracks led to a valley near by. There was dew on the grass, and they found Agüi drinking dew, which she gathered on her palms. Her face and body were covered with sores from the bites of insects; she had no clothing whatever. They gave her milk from home, one spoonful. The khan took her in his arms and carried her; when half-way to his yurta he gave her a spoonful and a half of milk. At the gate he cried out:
"I have brought thee a daughter!"
The khan's wife was very glad. She ran out, took the child in her arms, and carried her into the yurta. Then they called all the people and had a new feast, which lasted nine days and nine nights. During that time the brother and sister grew large and beautiful.
In the stable was a splendid gray colt. "This colt will do for my son," said the khan; and he made a bridle of red cloth, and reins of the same stuff. Sokto cared for the colt; he was fond of horses. When a year had passed he said to his new father:
"Show me thy shuba and trousers; I want to see thy clothing and weapons."
The khan brought his trousers made of seventy elk skins, and boots made of fish-skin. Sokto was two inches thinner than his father, but the boots just fitted. Next they brought a splendid silk shuba, a silver girdle, and a sable-skin cap, as big as a haycock.
"Now bring my bow and all my weapons," said the khan.
Sokto put on the clothes and stood there in his father's splendid outfit. "Be not angry," said he to the khan. "I must go to see the place where I was born; after that I will come back."
"Thou art too young," replied his mother. "Thy years are not many. Thy steed is young also. Better wait one year, even."
"Once he has planned to go, let him go," said his father. "We should not stop him."
Sokto mounted, and started on his journey. He rode far; at last he let his horse out to graze. Then he prayed to the thousand Burkans. "Why create a man and leave him without a proper steed?" asked he.
Immediately the Burkans gave him a steed ninety fathoms long, with ears nine ells high, an outfit of arms, and a splendid dress. He turned out his little horse, put his father's dress and weapons under a rock, and mounting the great new steed, went straight to the hundred and eight headed Mangathai who had flogged him.
Sokto was now a hero, and the Mangathai was terrified when he saw him.
'Thou hadst power and didst flog me," said Sokto. And he caught the Mangathai by his waist and throat and pushed him toward the pine trees. He took ninety-nine spikes and spiked him to the biggest pine; then he took ninety-nine hoops and bound him to the pine with them.
"Thou wilt neither die nor be free. Thou canst never free thyself, and another will not free thee. Thou wilt stay here forever," said Sokto. Then he left him and went toward the yurta; when one verst from the place he sent an arrow at it, saying to the arrow:
"Destroy the yurta and kill the wife of the Mangathai." The
arrow went through the center of the yurta and hit the woman. She gave premature birth to a son and died. The child sat on the floor and cried, "Only three days from now was the time for my birth."
Sokto threw the boy into a furnace and made a big fire there. The next morning he was playing with live coals. "In what a nice, warm sleeping-place thou didst put me," said he.
Sokto got more wood, made a bigger fire. The child was alive the following morning. The third night Sokto watched and saw water flowing into the furnace on to the infant and keeping him cool. A tube came from the sky to the furnace.
"Three days were left me to be born," complained the boy, "and nine days later I was to be ready for battle."
The fourth night Sokto cut the tube and the child was consumed by the fire.
The young hero then took the Mangathai's property and went home to his father's yurta. All was silent there. He left everything he had brought and went off to the great house where his mother and the seventy-five headed Mangathai lived. He called to them from outside. Untun Duryai recognized his voice.
"Whoever has a son," said she, "will never perish! My son has come!"
She touched the Mangathai with her cane, and both went out. "Which do you prefer," asked Sokto, "a sharp stake or a square stone?"
"We want nothing of either," replied they. "We wish thee for our son to take care of us."
"Come," said he. "Walk out here before me. I will find a good place for you." He took them to where three roads met; on one side was a great pine, on the other an immense larch tree. He nailed the Mangathai to the larch tree with ninety-five spikes, and his mother to the pine tree with ninety-five other spikes. He left two great casks near them; by one cask was a dull knife, and by the other a blunt pair of scissors, and on the trees he wrote these words: "With the dull knife every man who passes must cut a piece of flesh from each of these two who hang here, with the blunt scissors every woman who passes must
cut a piece of flesh from them also. If not they will be treated like this Mangathai, and this woman."
He turned the Mangathai's yurta bottom upward, and drove away all the cattle. When he reached his father's yurta he saw no one. He went straight to his birthplace. The snow that had fallen there was untouched and unmelted. No living thing was in sight. An iron storehouse stood near the great yurta. "What can be in there?" thought Sokto, the hero.
The red bull was in that iron building; he had lived on his cud all the time he had been confined there.
"Thanks to thee," said the bull. "But for the son of my master I should have perished."
Sokto let the bull out to graze; then he went to Hara Dalai, the Black Sea, where his father's body was in a cask. He turned himself into a large fish, and soon he met a still larger one and asked: "Why is this water so muddy, and why does it smell of blood? If thou wilt not clear the water Abérga Zgohun will summon thee."
"Whence art thou?" asked the larger fish.
"I live near the Gazada Dalai," replied Sokto.
"Go home; when thou art gone I will cleanse this sea."
Sokto took his own form again. Near the seashore was a mountain. He went to that mountain and waited. The sea stormed thrice in three days; the third time it hurled the cask out, threw it a whole verst from the water.
Sokto came to the shore and beat the cask open, but found nothing in it save bones. He brought water from nine springs, washed the bones with nine waters. From nine places he got juniper and burned it for incense. Next he took Water of Life from the spring on the mountain and washed the bones three nights with that water; then Yerente became alive and as well as ever. On the way home they met the red stallion.
"Through thee," said the red stallion, "I have suffered much, and thy son and daughter have also suffered greatly. Though I advised thou wouldst not listen; from this came all the trouble."
The stallion seized Yerente by the neck, and shook him three times fiercely. Then they went to the khan's yurta.
"I never thought that thou wouldst be such a hero," said
the khan's wife to Sokto. The next morning all came together,—two fathers, one mother, one sister, and one brother.
"If I say a word will ye be willing that I accomplish it?" inquired Sokto.
"We will listen to all that thou sayest," answered his mother.
"Once my father was a khan. I should like to have all my buildings on the boundary between the lands of both my fathers."
"It is difficult to do that," said the khan. "The buildings on both dominions are large and numerous. Thou wilt be old before thou canst move them all."
"No, I can do it in one night if ye say so."
"Do what may please thee," said the mother.
That night Sokto sat at home, went nowhere. From evening until midnight he prayed to the Heavenly Burkans. At midnight he fell asleep. When he woke the next morning every building was on the boundary. The khan assembled all the people at the new place and feasted.
"Now I wish to find a bride," said Sokto.
"Without a wife it is impossible to be," replied the people.
"Thou shouldst read thy book of life," said his mother.
He opened his midriff and found the book in his liver. He read this book for three days and nights,—at night by torch-light, in the day by sunlight. At times he cried, at times he sang songs.
"In the south country lives Gul Khan, and he has a daughter, Goye Gohûn Duhe; she is thy bride," said the book.
Sokto began preparations for the journey. He kept his horse, the red stallion, standing on ice for three days and three nights, gave him hay and a little water. This was to make his hoofs strong. Then during three days and three nights the horse stood on sand. "Now we may go!" thought Sokto.
"Brother," said Agüi, "thou art going far away; give me some sign by which I may know how thou art, whether dead or living, slain or in health."
"I will give you this sign," said he. "Outside, at the southeast corner of the yurta, grows a golden-trunked aspen tree with silver leaves. On the twigs of that aspen tree thousands of little birds will be twittering. These birds will speak in their own
way; from them news may be heard through knowledge of their speech. If I die the tree will rot and fall, and the birds will fly away. If I am well the tree will be green and beautiful, and the birds will increase in it. Here is another sign," said he, taking; an arrow and putting it by his sister's bed: "if I am well this arrow will be red and increase in beauty; if I die it will fade and grow ugly."
"Thou hast done well," said Agüi. "By these signs I shall know all about thee. I will give thee a sign." She handed him her gold ring. "If I am alive and well, this ring will glitter; if dead or ill, or married in spite of my wishes, the ring will be ugly and dim."
Sokto assembled all the people, placed before them drink and meat in plenty, and asked them to wish him success and remember him. "I will bring a bride home to you," said he, in parting.
An old man, gray bearded to the knees, wished him good health and success on his journey.
Sokto set out on a gallop, rode till he reached another kingdom, then halted, for right before him was a spring. He took out his pipe and burned tobacco to the spring; then he threw tobacco into the water. He named all the thousand Burkans and asked for a favoring journey.
Then he rode farther, rode beyond the boundary of the kingdom. Soon he heard the tramp of ten horses and the voices of ten riders. He reined in his steed. "Are those enemies or good people? A man should accomplish his purpose," said he to himself. "Why should I fear? Those are people like me!"
He hurried on, turned himself into eleven young heroes on horseback, made just such a tramping and sound of voices as that which he heard, only greater.
Soon after he met a big red-faced man. Each tooth in his head was as large as a spade, and in his ears were rings as big as a cart-wheel. He was riding on a light bay horse, whose body was eighty fathoms long and ears sixteen inches high. When they drew near they gave greeting and passed; then they halted and turned toward each other.
"From what place art thou?" inquired Sokto.
Click to enlarge
CONTENTS OF ''GOD BAGS.''
Pieces of cloth and silk no which are sewn tiny figures of men cut our of tin
Click to enlarge
BURIAT HOUSEHOLD GODS.
Andrei Mihailovitch's house gods
"I am going to Yerente Khan," said the big man. "I have heard that he has a daughter, Agüi Nogun Duhe; I want her for a wife, but though I have heard of her, I know not where to find her. I have been told that a hero is her brother. Whence art thou, and what is thy name?"
"I am Nashin Huimer Hubun. I have also started to find my bride, Geye Gohûn Duhe, but she is far away."
They took a friendly farewell. "Go thy way; I go mine," said each to the other. "May we succeed, and our wishes be accomplished."
The big man found Yerente's yurta at last, and declared his wish without waiting.
"I am not willing to marry thee," said Agüi. "My brother has gone for his bride. I will not marry before he does. I will marry thee when the time comes, if thou wilt do one thing that my brother does. Off in the field is a stone the size of a bullock; throw that stone over thy shoulder, from the place where it lies to this yurta. If thou do that, I will marry thee; if not, I will never be thy wife."
He went straight to that stone, raised it to his waist, but could raise it no farther, and let it fall, then he mounted his steed and went home without speaking to any man.
Sokto rode on till he came to a great iron yurta. In front of the yurta were twenty-five horse skulls on stakes; crows had eaten the flesh from each one of them. Outfits, weapons, and dress were fastened there also. He stopped, changed his horse into a flint chip, put the chip in his pocket, changed himself to a weasel, burrowed under the house, passed through the floor, and came up to see who lived in that great iron yurta. He saw a hundred and eight headed Mangathai sleeping; near his principal head lay an axe, his feet were fixed against the wall firmly; from his mouth blue and red flames were quivering.
The weasel stole up, hid the axe, sprang at the throat of the Mangathai and cut it through; he crept out, then became Sokto again and the flint chip became the red stallion.
"Boast not of killing the Mangathai," said the stallion, "no blood is sold cheaply by any man. This will be a great Shaman place hereafter."
Sokto mounted his steed, rode farther and met a twenty-five headed Mangathai on a gray stallion.
"How didst thou ride by my father's yurta, which no man ever passes on foot or on horseback?" asked the Mangathai.
"As I rode past I saw twenty-five horse skulls on stakes. A black raven was croaking, and a young fox was walking about there. The place is deserted."
"Is it long since you left your father's yurta?"
"Three years ago I had the first wish to marry. I am going for my bride, Geye Gohun Duhe."
"I should like to know who killed my father. I will find him wherever he may be," said the Mangathai as he rode away.
Sokto took an arrow and shot it behind himself saying: "As sure as I am alive and well do thou slay this twenty-five headed Mangathai and his horse." The arrow killed the Mangathai and his horse and came back to the quiver.
Sokto went farther, and saw three roads. Between two of them was a shed and in it a terribly wrinkled old woman. She had but one eye and one tooth in her head.
"If thou art the son of a good father," said she, "stop. If the son of an evil father pass on without stopping."
Sokto halted, looked in, and saw tarasun in a silver goblet. "I am tired, O my grandmother, give me tarasun to drink. I am on a long journey, I am weary and thirsty."
She gave the tarasun. He saw worms in the goblet, hundreds of them, but did not like to refuse the tarasun given him. "What good tarasun!" said he, "but give me more, O my grandmother. There is not enough for a drink here, give a good large gobletful. Be generous. Why so stingy? O my grandmother, give me more, give me a plenty."
She smiled and went to the rear of the shed. This time she brought out three gallons in a strong roomy vessel. He placed the vessel on the saddle. "I am at fault," said he. "Before I drink bring your pipe, I will give you tobacco." When she turned to go for the pipe he threw all the tarasun on her, then galloped off very swiftly.
She hurled after him a scraper twenty fathoms long which was used in tanning leather. Then she fell down and that
moment seven acres of land were covered with foul worms. All the land covered by the tarasun was burned up immediately. The scraper followed Sokto; he felt it coming. He made a great stone mountain behind him and waited on the other side of that mountain to see what would happen.
He waited three days and nights, then the scraper pierced through the mountain and came out on the other side. Sokto seized it and broke it. Then he traveled on till he came to a light bay stallion eighty fathoms long and ears eight ells high; near the stallion lay a young man whose flesh was almost eaten off by worms from his body. The horse had dug the earth deeply and was very lean. Sokto let out the horse to graze. The rider lay still and motionless, though he was not dead yet.
"Thou art my comrade," said the stranger, "thou wilt bury me. I passed an old witch at the roadside, drank of her tarasun, and the worms from it have almost devoured me. I am the son of Shur Galgûn Khan. I set out to find a bride. My name is Shurak Taiji Hubun."
Sokto brought water from nine springs, washed the young man, burned juniper from nine places, and cured him. The two were great friends now. Sokto went farther and came to a meadow. In that meadow was a multitude of frogs, some of them as large as a three-year-old bullock.
"Do not let that traveler pass," said one of the frogs to another. Sokto turned his horse into a flint chip and himself into a black frog as big as a young bullock, so that the others should not know him; then he moved forward slowly. He moved for nine days and nights through that frog-covered meadow. When he was on the other side he took his own form again. "Why did ye let him pass?" asked some of the frogs when they saw him safe beyond their boundary, and they were very angry.
Farther on was a second meadow covered with snakes of many kinds. "Let not that traveler pass," said the snakes to one another. "If he crosses this meadow we will kill those snakes which let him pass."
Sokto went back some distance, made his horse a flint chip and himself a snake like the snakes of that meadow. He spent seven days and nights among those hostile, venomous snakes,
passed by them unobserved and then became a man again. The snakes were terribly angry and had a furious battle when they found that Sokto had crossed the meadow.
He went farther till he saw a mountain which touched the sky. He rode to the foot of it and found many bones there and skeletons. He measured the horse bones; they were three times as large as the bones of his own steed. He measured men's bones; they were three times the size of his own. He wept for nine days and nine nights. The mountain was so steep that no man could climb it. At last his stallion said:
"Be calm, there is no use in weeping! Go back one day's journey and tighten my saddle girth. There is a hair on the end of my tail from which three hairs grow. Take that hair and put it under thy arm. It has magic power in it. Hold to me firmly."
Sokto went back one day's journey. "Now," said the horse, "I will rush with all the might in me, and spring to the top of that mountain."
He did so. On the top, at the very edge, was a stone as big as an ox. The horse's forelegs were beyond that stone and he held to the edge of it. It was easy to fall and hard to hold. "Throw that hair out in front of me," said the horse.
Sokto threw the hair. That moment the stone disappeared; out in front was a good level road through a valley and farther on a broad forest. They passed the valley and were soon on the mountain top, where there was a golden-trunked, silver-leafed aspen tree. At the foot of the tree was the Water of Life, and a silver cup was hanging from a branch of the tree. Without the cup no man could drink at the spring or take water out of it. Sokto drank and gave water to his horse. Then the horse began to graze, and Sokto kindled a fire, made a bed of the saddle-cloth, a pillow of the saddle, lay down and slept soundly.
The next morning when he rose his horse had changed greatly; he was fat and strong. Sokto himself felt stronger and better and planned how he was to finish his journey. Beyond the mountain were the lands of his father-in-law. He mounted and rode toward them.
On the boundary Sokto made his horse gray and lean, made
himself decrepit, white bearded to the knees, old, and wretched. Then he rode toward the yurta. Five horses of various colors were tied to the hitching-post. Five splendid young men had come to get brides and had entered the beautiful yurta. Sokto tied his poor, miserable, gray horse to the hitching-post, and walked into the yurta.
"A greeting, father-in-law!" said the wretched old man.
The five young heroes laughed as he said this. "What sort of bridegroom art thou, poor old fellow?" asked they.
"Who art thou, old man?" asked the khan.
"Why talk to me in this way? What a strange father-in-law! Thou hast five daughters, they should choose their own bride-grooms. Assemble the people to-morrow, let each daughter choose the man who pleases her."
The daughters were behind seventy-seven doors at this time. The next day the khan assembled the people and entertained them. He gave his daughters five marrow bones. "Choose thy bridegroom," said he to each daughter. Each was to give a marrow bone to the man whom she selected.
The five sisters went out together and four gave bones to four of the five young strangers. The fifth, who was the youngest sister, would not give hers to the fifth stranger, but threw it toward the old man, and ran away quickly. All wondered at this and were sorry for the fifth young man who was left without a bride.
The khan gave four fine yurtas to the four young strangers, to the fifth bridegroom, the old man, he gave a shed made of hay. "Ye will live here," said the father-in-law.
The next morning he called out the four sons-in-law and said: "I am tired of eating common meat, kill some wild goats for me." To the old man he said nothing. The old man's bride went to her father:
"I will send my husband to hunt," said she.
"Why send that old fool?" asked her father, "he will knock against a tree and kill himself."
"Let him kill himself if he wishes, I am ashamed to be the bride of that old man."
The four went out to hunt wild goats, and the old man went
also. He made his horse lame. The beast could hardly move he was so crippled and wretched. They reached the forest. The four young strangers hunted all day, but found no game. The old man killed only one goat; when he shot it he said: "Let the whole body be poison except the entrails; let the entrails be the cure." Then he sat down in the forest by a fire which he had made. The four came to him. "Have ye killed anything?" asked he. "No, hast thou?"
"One small goat and I don't know how to skin it." They skinned it for him. "Divide the meat into five parts," said they. He divided it; gave them the clear meat, and kept the skin and entrails. They carried the flesh to their father-in-law. The old man's bride cooked the entrails and took them to her father. She found him sick, swollen, very ill, and complaining:
"I ate meat and am sick from it. Why bring entrails? Dost thou wish to kill me?" cried the khan in anger.
"Thou mightst even taste, even catch the odor!" urged the daughter.
He took a spoonful; found it good, took a cupful, was cured, became well altogether.
The next morning he called the four bridegrooms and said: "Go again to hunt but bring me the entrails this time." Before they left the youngest daughter came to her father. "I will send the old man to hunt," said she.
"Do not send him, his horse is lame. That old fellow can kill nothing."
"Let him go," begged the daughter; "if something happens to him I shall not be sorry."
The four young bridegrooms laughed, ridiculed the old man.
He grew angry at their laughter and jokes and when they reached the forest he kindled a fire and sat down by it. "Go ye to hunt," said he. "I will stay here by the fire." He killed another goat. When he sent the arrow he said: "Let the entrails be poison and the meat the cure."
"What have ye killed?" asked he of the four when they came in the evening. "Nothing," said they.
"Though I have killed one big goat I will not divide this time," said the old man. They insisted on division till at last
he said: "I will divide if each of you will give me a finger's width of skin from his neck to the end of his back." They agreed to this. The old man cut the strap, then they took the entrails and left him the clean meat.
The four daughters cooked the entrails and gave them to their father. He ate them, and grew very sick; was swollen to the size of a three-year-old bullock and began to cry: "My end is coming, my end is near! I must die this time!"
The old man's bride cooked clean meat and brought it to her sick father. "Why bring me meat?" asked he. "I do not want it." She bowed down to him, entreated: "Try a little." The meat was very savory. The moment the khan ate a mouthful he was well again.
On the third morning he called the four bridegrooms and said:
"To-night my big gray mare will have a colt. Will ye watch her? She has had three colts in three years and each one was stolen from me."
The four agreed to watch. The old man's bride heard of this and said: "I will send my husband to watch with them."
"No need of him," said the father. "Why send that fool?"
"I can spare him," answered the wife. "I am not sorry for him. Let him kill himself if he wishes." "Send him then," said the father.
The herd was in a valley, and the five bridegrooms went there. A heavy frost came down in the night and the air was very cold. They built a fire and the four sat by it shivering. The old man was not cold.
"Warm yourselves," said he to the four, "I will go to the other side of the valley." He went, found the gray mare, turned himself into a reed and watched to see who it was that stole the colt each year.
At midnight a fifty-five headed and fifty horned Mangathai came. The mare had her colt. The reed shot the Mangathai with an arrow, killed him, took the colt and placed it with the mother. Then he collected sticks, made a fire and burned the Mangathai. The ashes from his bones filled ninety-seven bags. Then the old man made a windmill, ground all the ashes in the ninety-seven bags and let the wind bear the ashes away. All
was finished by morning. The four bridegrooms knew nothing of what had happened. At dawn the old man was by their fire. They were nearly frozen, almost dead from cold. Ile gathered wood, warmed them, then asked:
"What have ye seen during the night? What have ye been doing?"
"We have seen nothing. What hast thou seen?"
"I have seen a fine thing. I have seen who it is that steals the colts, but I will not tell you." They urged and begged. At last he said: "Give me four straps from the flesh of your thighs, then I will tell."
They looked at one another. "We must give the straps," said they. They cut the straps and gave them. "I saw," said the old man, "only this—that a shadow, a bird or something, I know not exactly what, took the colt and swallowed it. That is all I saw."
The four returned, appeared before their father-in-law and said: "At midnight came a shadow, or a bird, or something of that sort, we are not sure what, and swallowed the colt. We could not shoot it."
"For three years the same thing has happened," said the khan. "Go home now and eat." When the four had gone the old man came.
"What are thy four sons-in-law doing?" asked he. "Are they shooting? Do they kill anything?"
"My four sons-in-law saw last night how a shadow swallowed the gray mare's colt. But thou, old man, what art thou doing?" "Nothing, but getting straps."
"Let me have them," said the father-in-law. "What kind of straps are these?" asked he, as he looked at them.
"I got those straps from thy four sons-in-law. They went to kill goats, killed none. I gave them clear meat, and kept the entrails. Thou wert sick from the meat, and wert cured by the entrails. Then I gave them entrails for straps from their backs; thou wert sick from entrails, and wert cured by the clear meat."
"Thou art wiser, it seems, than the four, and have better understanding than any one of them. How didst thou get the other four straps from the bridegrooms?"
"For telling them that a shadow, or bird, seized the colt. I did not tell them what really happened. I will tell thee the whole truth. A Mangathai came in the night; I shot that Mangathai, and killed him. The colt is alive now, and any one may see it at the place where I killed the Mangathai."
"Thou art the son of a khan, and thou art young," said the father-in-law. "Be kind and take thy own shape." The father-in-law bowed down a whole day, and begged: "Tell the truth. Tell what thy name is." At last the old man said:
"My name is Khan Sokto, and I am the son of Yerente Khan."
"Why didst thou not tell me thy name?"
Sokto gave no answer. The father-in-law summoned the four bridegrooms, made them show their backs and thighs, tried the straps and saw that they fitted.
"Ye cannot be my sons-in-law," said he. "Ye cut up your own bodies, and might cut up my daughters." And he drove them away that same evening.
The next day a splendid feast was given and it lasted nine days and nights, for Sokto was young now and had his own form.
"Prepare the wedding quickly," said Sokto. "I must go home to my father, my mother, and my sister."
"Near the Gazada Dalai," said the khan, "is Yellow Dog. Get that dog for me, and we will have the wedding immediately. If not we will not have it at any time."
Sokto went to his bride and told her all. "What does thy father wish to do with me?" asked he.
"No hero can get Yellow Dog," said the bride. "Better go home than try. It is impossible to get it. Though many men have gone for it no man has ever come back. Find some other bride; there are many maidens in other lands."
"I will not go home," said Sokto. "I will go for Yellow Dog. It is unknown whether I shall die on the way, or come back, but I will make the trial." Then he went to consult with his horse.
"Thou must go to the sky," said the horse, "and tell Esege Malan; take advice of him. The seven heavenly smiths may help thee."
Sokto made his horse into a flint chip, and went to the sky as a gray falcon.
"What hast thou to do?" asked Esege Malan. Sokto told what the task was.
Esege Malan ordered the seven smiths to make an immense chain for the dog's neck, heavy fetters for his feet, and two iron hoops to confine his mouth.
Sokto went to the smiths and they made all that was needed. While they were forging Sokto chanted: "As I live and am well this chain is to give Yellow Dog to me." He went through the heavens to where Yellow Dog was; he could not go on the earth, could not find him. He saw the dog from the sky. When above the shore of the Frozen Ocean he threw the chain, fetters, and hoops, and chanted: "If I am victorious let this chain fasten around Yellow Dog's neck, let the fetters fasten on his feet, and these two hoops confine his mouth. If I am not victorious let them drop to the earth and be harmless." As he spoke they fell on the dog and captured him. Sokto then rushed down to the earth. The dog whined, dashed about, but could do nothing. Then he stopped, and said:
"In all the world there was no magic that could harm me. I have heard that Khan Sokto is born; a great hero must he be, for no other could bind me in this way. O Sokto, if thou wish to conquer, conquer quickly. If to kill, kill me now. If to help, help this minute."
That moment the chain became laxer, the fetters dropped off, the hoops loosened. Sokto sat on his horse; led the dog to his father-in-law's yurta, and tied him to the hitching-post.
"Such a dog is not needed here!" screamed the khan. "Take him back to where you found him!"
"I cannot take him back," said Sokto. "He eats a whole bullock at a meal."
The dog heard the conversation and said to Sokto:
"Give me enough to eat, and I will go back to my own place alone. I fear nothing on earth. For ten years I shall be a great friend to thee. If any trouble happens between thee and thy father-in-law I will be on thy side."
Yellow Dog ate much; he ate a whole ox and went home to the edge of the Frozen Ocean.
At Sokto's wedding all the people feasted nine days and nine nights. "What will you give me as a present?" asked the bride of her father. He gave her a bay horse, ninety fathoms long, his ears nine ells high, with a saddle of silver and housings of silk. They mounted, and the people followed them. Sokto showed the road to the company. He tied to his horse's tail a larch tree so thick that nine men could not encircle it. "When I halt on the road," said he, "it means that we are to smoke, when I make a circuit with the tree it means a night camp.
He traveled swiftly and in nine days was at home. All were well there, and they were waiting for him. He summoned the people; meat and drink were set out for all; but they waited for those who followed. In three days they arrived and then every one feasted for nine days and nine nights. At the end of that time the guests went home, and Sokto and his wife lived on as people live usually.
Now Narin Huimer Hubun, the big man, who could not hurl the great stone, came a second time for Sokto's sister.
"What is thy business, and why hast thou come?" inquired Sokto.
"I have come to ask for thy sister."
"What is thy reason for thinking to get her?"
"Esege Malan said that I was to have her as wife."
"I believe thee," said Sokto. "But thou must remain three years with me, help me in making lists of my people, and counting my herds and cattle. I am terribly tired. For twelve years I have been traveling and struggling. I need thy assistance."
Narin Hubun agreed to this, and aided in counting the herds. At the end of three years Sokto said to him, "It is time for thee to have thy own yurta." Then he invited the people and the next day began a wedding which lasted nine days and nine nights; at it ravens and magpies ate all they wanted. The whole world ate, and was glad.
"I took care of thy yurta for twelve years," said the sister, "what wilt thou give me for a present?"
Sokto had a bay horse eighty fathoms long, which had been trained for eight days.
"Take this horse," said he, "and ask nothing of another person. I thank thee for thy care of my yurta while I was struggling with Mangathais, and winning my bride."
Sokto's sister mounted and rode away with her bridegroom, contented and happy.