There were two brothers, one married, the other unmarried. The married one lived in one place; the unmarried one, in another. They did not want to live together. One time the unmarried brother wanted to visit the married one. When he approached his house, he listened, and thought, "Why, my brother and his wife are talking and laughing quite merrily." When he came nearer, however, he noticed that the man's voice was not that of his brother. So he crept along the wall very cautiously, and then looked through a rent in the skin covering. A strange man was having quite a merry time with his sister-in-law. They were hugging and kissing, and talking and playing with each other. He thought, "My brother is not here. Probably he is off hunting wild reindeer." The others meanwhile took off their breeches 2 and made love right before him, though unaware of his presence. At the most critical moment the young man entered the house. The woman, however, shook herself free, swifter than a she-ermine, and in a moment the man too was hidden beneath the blanket. The young man said nothing. He simply sat down and waited for the evening. The other man, the one hidden under the blanket, having nothing else to do, also waited. Late in the evening, the married brother came home.
The unmarried brother said nothing to him about the strange man hidden in the house, the woman also said nothing; but both were silent and very anxious. The married brother said, "Listen, wife! Our brother has come to visit us. Cook plenty of the best meat and reindeer-fat, and we will have a hearty meal . The visiting brother said nothing, and waited, as before. The woman cooked some meat, and taking it out of the kettle, carved it with great care and spread the meal. The married brother said, "Come on! Let us eat!" The other answered, "How can we eat, since a strange man is hidden in our house?" The married brother said, "Then I shall look for him in every corner, and certainly I shall find him." He did
so, searching all through the house, but found nothing. Then he said again, "So it was a joke of yours. Come on! Let us have a meal!" The unmarried brother said, as before, "How can we have a meal? A strange man is hidden in the house." The same happened three successive times. At last the unmarried brother said, "Leave me alone! How can we have a meal? A strange man is hidden in your bed, and covered with your own blankets." The married brother pulled off the blanket. The strange man was lying there, face downward. His head was under the pillow. The married brother felt very angry. He drew his knife and with a single blow, cut off the head of the adulterer. Then he came to himself and said with great sorrow, "Oh, brother!--and you, woman! You ought to have warned me in time. Now, what is to be done? I have killed a man. What will happen to us?" He sat down and cried most wretchedly. The other brother said, "What of it? There is no need of crying. He has been killed, and we cannot change it. It is better that I carry off the body and dispose of it."
He took the body and carried it off. After sometime he found the tracks of the killed man and followed them up. He came to a beaten road, and then to a large village. It had numerous houses, some of them Tungus, and some Yakut. They had herds of reindeer and also of horses. In the middle of the village stood a large house just like a hill. It was the house of the chief of the village. The unmarried brother arrived there in the night time and soon found the house of the killed man. He entered at once, carrying the corpse on his back. The parents of the killed one, an old man and an old woman, were sleeping on the right hand side of the house. The bed of their son was on the left hand side. He went to the bed, put down the body, and covered it with a skin blanket. He tucked in the folds with great care, and then placed the head in its proper place, so that he looked just like a man sleeping. The old man, and the old woman heard a rustling sound and thought, "Ah, it is our son! He has come home." Then the father said, "Ah, it is you! Why are you so late?"
In another corner slept the elder brother of the killed man and his wife. He also said, "Why are you so late? You ought to be asleep long ago." The man who had carried in the corpse crept softly out of the house and went home. He came to his married brother, who said, "Ah, it is you! You are alive. And what have you done with the body?"--"I carried it to the house of his parents and put it down on his own bed. He ought to have slept on it long ago."
After that they had a meal. Then the unmarried brother said again, "I will go back and see what happened to the dead body."--"Do not go! This time they will surely kill you."--"They will not kill me. I shall go
and see." He would not listen to his married brother, and went back to the house of the dead man. He approached, and heard loud wailing. The relatives of the killed man were lamenting over the body. He entered and saluted the old man. Then modestly he sat down at the women's place. The old man said, "I never saw such a face in our village. Certainly, you are a stranger, a visitor to our country."--"I am," said the young man. "And why are you lamenting in this wise?"--"We have good reason for it," said the old man. "Two sons we had, and now we have lost one of them. He used to walk in the night time, heaven knows where. Then he grew angry with us and in that angry mood he cut off his own head. After that he lay down, covered himself with a blanket, and then he died. So you see we have good reasons for lamenting."
They had a meal and then some tea. After that the old man said, "We have no shamans in our village, although it is large. Perhaps you know of some shaman in your own country?"--"Yes," said the young man, "I know of one." He lied once more. He did not know of any shaman. "Ah!" said the old man, brightening up, "if that is so, go and bring him here." He asked them for two horses,--one for himself, and another for the shaman whom he was to bring. "I will ride one horse, and the other I will lead behind with a halter for the shaman." He rode off without aim and purpose, for he knew of no shaman. After a long while he came to a lonesome log cabin. Some wolflings were playing before the entrance. He entered. An old wolf-woman was sitting on a bench. Her hair was long, it hung down and spread over the floor. A young girl was sitting at a table. She was quite fair, fairer than the sun. This was the Wolf-girl. The wolflings outside were her brothers. The old woman looked up and said, "I never saw such a face in our own place. No human beings ever came here. Who are you,--a human creature, or something else?"--"I am human."--"And what are you looking for, roaming about?"--"I am in great need. I am looking for a shaman, having been sent by a suffering person." She repeated her question, and he answered the same as before. The old woman held her breath for some time. Then she said, "I am too old now. I do not know whether I still possess any power, but in former times I used to help people." He took hold of her, put her upon his horse, and rode back to the old man's home.
He took her into the house, and said, "This is the shaman I have brought for you." They treated her to the best dainties, and all the while she was drying over the fire her small, strange shaman's drum. After that she started her shamanistic performance. According to custom, she made the man who had taken her there hold the long tassel fastened to the back of her garments. "Take care!" said the old woman, "do not let go of this
tassel!" He grasped the tassel, and the old woman wound herself around like a piece of birchbark over the fire. The house was full of people, housemates, guests, onlookers. After a while the young man said, "I feel very hot. Let somebody hold this tassel for a little while, and I will go out and cool myself."
He went out of the house. The moon was shining brightly. A number of horses were digging the snow for some tussock-grass. He caught them all. Then he cut down some young willow and prepared a number of willow brooms--one for each of the horses. He tied the brooms to the tails of the horses. Then he set them afire, and set the horses free. Seeing the glare and scenting the smell of fire, they ran away in every direction. He went back and took hold of the tassel again, as though nothing had happened. Then some other person went out, and hurried back, shouting, "O men! the country all around is aflame!" And, indeed, the horses were galloping about, waving high their tails of fire. "Who lighted this fire?" said the people. "Perhaps the spirits." Everyone left the house. They stood outside, staring upon that living fire fleeting by. "Ah, ah!" said some of them. "It is our end. This fire will burn us down." Not one of them thought any more of the old woman. The young man, however, quietly slipped back into the house.
The old woman was drumming more violently than ever. She was so full of inspiration, that she had noticed nothing at all. He looked about. No one was there. The old woman drummed on. Then he lifted from the ground a big kettle full to the brim of ice-cold water and all at once he overturned it over the old woman's head. After that he put the kettle over her head and shoulders. The old woman shuddered, and fell down dead, as is the way of all shamans when frightened unexpectedly. The young man left the house, and mingled among the people outside, looking most innocent.
After some time, however, he said, "Why are we standing here looking at this blaze, and meantime we have left the shaman alone in the house? That is wrong." They hurried back, and the wolf shaman was lying on the ground, wet and stone dead, half hidden in the kettle. The old man was in great fear, and wailed aloud, "Alas, alas! I lost a son, and that was bad enough; but it is much worse that this Wolf-woman has died in our house. Her children will surely come and wreak vengeance upon our heads. We are already as good as dead. O God!" he continued, "we are in a bad plight. Somebody must go and carry the Wolf-woman to her own house."
The people were full of fear and nobody wanted to go. Then the old man tried to induce the young visitor to convey the body of the Wolf-woman to her family. The young man said, "How can I do this? They will tear me into bits." The old man had a young daughter who was very
pretty. He said, "Please toss this old woman away! If you come back alive, you may marry this young girl as your reward."--"All right," said the young man, "but still I am not sure. Perhaps, even if I come back alive, you will break your word and give me nothing."--"No, never!" said the old man, "I will deal honestly with you."--"So be it," said the young man. "Now please kill for me two ptarmigan, and give me their bladders filled with fresh and warm blood." He took the bladders and placed them under his armpits. Then he drove some iron nails into his heels, into the very flesh. He took the old woman and put her upon the saddle. Then he bound her fast, though not very strongly. She looked, however, quite like a living person riding a horse. They set off and reached the house of the wolves. "Oh," the wolflings raised a yell, "Mamma is coming, mamma is coming! "Easy," said the young man. "My horse shies easily. Take care lest you cause some great misfortune." And he secretly spurred his horse with the nails of his feet. The horse reared and threw him down. The other horse did the same. The body of the wolf-mother fell down like a bundle of rags. The bladder burst, and all the blood was spilled. They lay there side by side, swimming in blood. The wolf-children said, "O brother! our mother is dead; but that is as nothing. We have killed that stranger by our imprudence. He is near unto death, and no doubt his brothers and sisters, and all his kith and kin, will come here to have revenge."
They went near and looked at him. The blood was streaming down his arms and legs. "Oh, oh!" said the wolf-children, "How can be live?" In despair they took him by the hands and feet and shook him and said to him, "Please, man, do not die here! We will give you our pretty sister." They worried him, howled over him, and entreated him, and by and by he acted as though feeling a little better. He sighed low, "Oh, oh!" In the end he fully revived and came to. "Ah!" said the wolflings to their sister, "see what good luck we have. A man was dying, and we said, 'We will give you our sister,' and he revived."
So he took the girl and went home. "Be sure," said the wolf children on taking farewell, "when you return to your own place, not to tell your kinsmen that we had nearly killed you!"--"I will not tell," assured the man, and galloped off with his bride. They came to the old man. "I have come back and am alive!" shouted the young man. "Where is the girl?"--"Here she is," said the old man. "Thank god, you have come back safe!" He took the other girl, and went back to his brother with two women and three horses. The brother said, "How long it is since you were here! I thought you were dead but I see you have brought some girls."--"I have," said the young man. He entered the house, and without much
ado, cutoff the head of his sister-in-law. "There you are!" said he. "You shall have no more paramours." He gave his brother the old man's daughter and took for himself the old woman's daughter. After that they lived on. 1
Told by Innocent Karyakin, a Tundra Yukaghir man, on the western tundra of the Kolyma country, winter of 1895.
14:1 This tale represents a mixture of some Russian and Yakut episodes adapted to the ideas and customs of the tundra inhabitants. Some details are curious enough; such, for instance, as nails driven into the flesh of the heel, which undoubtedly represent spurs, etc.
14:2 Women also wear breeches among the Chukchee, the Lamut, the Yukaghir, etc.
19:1 See Bolte und Polívka, l. c., vol. 2, 1.--F. B.