There lived a man who was very poor. He used to walk along a small river near his house, constructing deadfalls for hares. Sometimes he would catch one hare, another time he would catch two. With these he fed his family. One time he said to himself, "What does the Wood-Master look like? I should like to see him." The whole day long he walked about, and thought of the Wood-Master. The next morning he set off to examine his deadfalls and all at once there came a heavy snowstorm. He lost his way and struggled on not knowing where he went.
At last he felt very tired, so he found a cavity under a steep bank of the river. Then he made a fire and crouched before it, waiting for better weather. All at once, not far off, he saw a huge iron sledge. An iron reindeer-buck just as big was attached to the sledge, and a black-faced man as tall as a larch tree was walking along with enormous strides. He asked himself, "What are these? I wanted to see the Wood-Master. Goodness! Is this not the Wood-Master himself, with his appurtenances?" He was so frightened that he cried aloud, "God help me!" In a moment the iron sledge broke into a number of small pieces, and the iron buck was scattered to ashes. The tall man, however, did not fall at all. He looked at the man, and called angrily, "You, man! come here!" So the man went to the Wood-Master and awaited his words. "What have you done to my property?" cried the Wood-Master. "You have broken my sledge, you have destroyed my driving-reindeer, and you have even frightened me. I was frightened no less than you. And now you want me to walk on foot! I will not. You must repair my sledge, and restore to life my driving reindeer-buck. This is the task that you must perform."--"How can I perform a task like that?" said the man. "Ah!" said the Wood-Master, "why have you been thinking about me so steadily? You were calling me in your mind, so I came. Now you must make good your evil action."--"Ah, sorrows!" said the Lamut, "I will try my best, but then you must let me walk alone. I cannot achieve anything in the presence of another being, be it man, forest-owner, or evil spirit"--"All right," said the Wood-Master, "you may walk alone."
Then the black giant set off. The Lamut walked around some small bushes, saying "Sledge, O sledge! be whole again! Buck, O buck! be whole again!" And, indeed, the sledge and the buck were whole, as before. Then he touched the reindeer-buck with his right hand. "Buck, O buck! come to life!" But the buck remained without life and motion. He touched the buck with his left hand, and said likewise, "Buck, O buck, come to life again!" And, indeed, the reindeer-buck, gave a start, and came to life. "Ah, ah!" said the Lamut, "where are you, black giant, Forest-Owner?" At once the black giant appeared. "Oh, it is all right! What do you want me to pay you for this? I can give you immense wealth."--"I do not wish any wealth at all. I want plenty of food for all of my life."--"All right, go home! You shall have as much food as you want. Have no care.
"Go home and sleep! Tomorrow morning go into the forest, and set there five large self-acting bows. They shall give you ample food."
The Lamut went home. His wife said to him, "O husband! I thought you would never come. It is several days since I saw you last."--"I was caught in a heavy snowstorm, so I sat crouching under the steep bank,
before a small fire."--"What snowstorm?" asked the old woman in great wonder. "We have not had the slightest trace of any storm."
The next morning the Lamut went into the woods and set five self-acting bows; and that very night five big elks were killed. He took them home. After that, he would catch five elks every time. He collected a great mass of meat and a number of skins, and so became very rich. He lived in plenty until his death.
Told by John Korkin, a Tundra Yukaghir, on the western tundra of the Kolyma country, spring of 1895.
10:1 This tale is Tundra Yukaghir, though the hero is called a Lamut. For Masters and Owners, cf. Bogoras, "The Chukchee" (Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, vol. 7), 285.