There lived a girl who knew no man. Nor could she tell who were her parents. She was rich in reindeer and other property. So she walked about, singing lustily. She never went to watch over her reindeer. When the reindeer strayed away too far, she would merely sing one of her songs, and they would come back of their own will. She sang and sang; and when she came back to her home, she would find the fire burning, the food cooked, and everything ready. Thus she lived on without work, care, or trouble.
One day she saw that half the sky was darkened. This darkness approached nearer and nearer. It was the evil spirit. One of his lips touched the sky, the other dragged along the ground. 2 Between was an open mouth, ready to swallow up whatever came in its way. "Ah!" said the girl, "my death is coming. What shall I do?" She took her iron-tipped staff and fled.
The evil spirit gave chase, and was gaining on her. She drew from her pocket a small comb of ivory and threw it back over her shoulder. 3 The comb turned into a dense forest. The girl ran onward. When the evil spirit reached the forest he swallowed it, chewed it, and gulped it down. He digested it and then defecated. The dense forest turned again into a small ivory comb. After that he continued his pursuit and was gaining on her, as before. She loosened from her waist a red handkerchief, which became a fire extending from heaven to earth. The evil spirit reached the fire. He went to a river and drank it completely dry. Then he came back to the fire, and poured the water upon it. The fire was extinguished. Only a red handkerchief lay on the ground, quite small, and dripping wet.
After that he gave chase again, and gained steadily on the girl. She struck the ground with her iron-tipped staff, and all at once she turned into an arctic fox. In this form she sped on, swifter than ever. The big mouth, however, followed after, wide open, and ready to swallow her. She struck the ground with her iron-tipped staff, turned into a wolverene and fled swifter than ever, but the evil mouth followed after. She struck the ground with her iron-tipped staff and turned into a wolf and sped away swifter than ever. She struck the ground with her iron-pointed staff and turned into a bear, with a copper bell in each ear. She ran off swifter than ever, but the big mouth followed and gained on her steadily. Finally, it came very near, and was going to swallow her.
Then she saw a Lamut tent covered with white skins. She summoned all her strength, and rushed on toward that tent. She stumbled at the entrance and fell down, exhausted and senseless. After a while, she came to herself and looked about. On each side of her stood a young man, their caps adorned with large silver plates. She looked backward, and saw the evil spirit who had turned into a handsome youth, fairer than the sun. He was combing and parting his hair, making it smooth and fine. The girl rose to her feet.
The three young men came to her and asked her to enter the tent. The one who had appeared in the form of the evil spirit said, "We are three brothers, and I am the eldest one. I wanted to bring you to my tent. Now you must tell us which of us you will choose for your husband." She chose the eldest, and married him, and they lived together. The end.
Told by John Korkin, a Tundra Yukaghir man, on the western tundra of the Kolyma, spring of 1895.
9:1 These tales were collected among the Tundra Yukaghir on the western tundra of the Kolyma country. The Tundra Yukaghir have a mixture of Tungus blood, and call themselves "Tungus" in the Russian and in the Yakut languages. Though the language of the tales is Yukaghir they were written down mostly without the original text. Conversation with the narrators was carried on in the Chukchee language and partly also in Russian. The tales often include well-known episodes of Old World folklore, borrowed from the Yakut or from Russian neighbors. Most of them had no titles. The titles have been introduced by me according to the contents of the tales.
9:2 Altai-Katunja (W. Radloff, Proben der Volkslitteratur der Türkischen Stämme Süd-Sibiriens, vol. 1, 39, 73); Ainu (B. Pilsudski, Materials for the Study of the Ainu Language and Folklore [Cracow, 1912], 205, 240).--F. B.
9:3 Bolte und Polívka, Anmerkungen zu den Kinder-u. Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm, vol. 2, 140.--F. B.