There were three brothers. One time they traveled together in lonely places. The first night they stopped at a way house. 1 They made a fire,
cooked some bread-soup, 1 and had supper. While they were eating, a board of the floor was lifted up. There appeared a monster 2 with iron teeth, two feet long. The eldest brother said to the other two, "Go out and get the dogs and sledges ready. I will stay here. And you must wait outside for me." They took their bread-soup and went out of the house. They could hear the eldest brother within fighting with the monster. They did not know in what way, but could only hear great noise and gnashing of teeth. Before sunrise their brother came out of the house. They started off on their sledges. They drove till dark. Then they saw another log cabin. They entered, made a fire, and prepared some soup. As soon as they had swallowed a spoonful or two, a board was lifted in one of the front corners of the house and up came the Monster with Iron Teeth. The oldest brother made the other two go out and he fought the monster alone. The next morning, when he came out, they saw that he had turned into a quite different being. All his blood, and his face, were no longer human. He was more like a devil. The second brother said to the youngest one, "Look at him! He has iron teeth at least half a foot long."
They drove onward again until evening. It had grown quite dark when they came to another log cabin. They made a fire and prepared soup. When they were half through with their meal, there appeared a woman with iron teeth, covered with blood, who rushed at them. The eldest brother: also fought the woman. The other two exchanged looks, and slipped out of doors. Then they turned their sledges back and drove homeward. They traveled the whole night and the next day. Then they came to the log cabin in which the second fight with the Monster of Iron Teeth had taken place. They made a fire and prepared their soup. Then they heard outside the shuffling of snowshoes. They were so much frightened, that neither dared to go out. Then the door opened of itself, and the oldest brother entered. He was very angry. "Why are you making so much trouble for me? If you want to leave me behind, why do you stop in this very place?" He had hardly finished these words, when the Monster with Iron Teeth appeared. They fought again; and the eldest brother said, "Go away! Do not wait for me any longer! But mind you do not stop at the first log cabin. When I am through with this fight, I shall give chase; and if I catch you in the first log cabin, I shall fight the first monster, but I shall also punish you."
They drove away from there, crying for fear. They traveled throughout the night and the next day. After sunset they came to the log cabin, and of course wanted to pass it, but they could not induce their dogs to pass by. All the dogs rushed in and fought as if they were worrying somebody to death. No one was to be seen, however. They wrangled with the dogs far into the evening, and at last dragged them out of the house. They were quite tired and hungry; and the second brother at last proposed, "Let us stay here over night!" The youngest answered, "How could we do that? The monster will appear, and then our brother; and he warned us beforehand that he will punish us." The second brother answered, "Curse him for a fool! I do not fear him at all. I myself have become as bad as he." The youngest brother looked up, and saw that the second brother also had iron teeth half a foot long. He was so badly frightened that he could not speak. Meanwhile the shuffling of snowshoes was heard outside, and there entered a being similar to their brother in face and body; but they did not recognize him. He said not a single word, but rushed at the second brother. They fought like wolves. The youngest brother slipped outside, took his dogs, and fled. He drove on until midnight, and heard nothing. After midnight, however, he heard a voice like a distant shaman's call. The voice said, "A man is pursuing his own brother. He wants to gnaw at his bones, to eat of his meat, to drink of his blood!" The youngest brother out of fright, urged his dogs on with all his might. In the meantime he said to himself, "When he overtakes me, how shall I defend myself?" He remembered having heard from older people, that, when pursued by a monster, one may defend oneself by striking the monster with an old kettle. Then the monster will fall down and will be unable to follow for a couple of hours, which at least will give respite at the most critical moment. So he loosened the kettle, and made ready for the blow. Kettle in hand, he watched when the monster should reach the sledge. When it was at hand, he uttered an incantation and struck its face with the blackened kettle. The monster fell face down, and cried aloud, "Oh, you are too clever for me! I shall catch you, nevertheless. The village is yet far off. I shall rest for a couple of hours; then I shall catch you, drink of your blood, eat of your meat and gnaw your bones." The other one urged his dogs to the limit of their strength. He knew, that the village was not very far away. They moved on. The monster gave pursuit again. Then they heard the bell in the church belfry ringing. He crossed himself, and said, "Thank God, I am safe now!" And the monster shouted from behind, "You are safe; but I shall catch you somewhere in time to come." The young man reached the village, and straightway went to the priest. He said that in such and such places in the woods there were monsters; that
these monsters were probably unburied corpses, which walk abroad and attack human beings. The priest listened to him, and then laid a curse of the Church upon the monsters; that they should cease to appear and make trouble. After that all the people traveled about without fear or danger, and they met with nothing extraordinary. The end.
Told by Nicholas Kusakoff, a Russian creole (cossack), at the village of Pokhotsk in the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
69:1 Small log cabins, or houses of other types, are built in various places for the use of travelers, especially along the trading or official routes. They are called in local Russian иоварня ("cooking-house").--W. B.
70:1 Затчранъ, a kind of soup prepared of bread-crumbs or flour roasted in butter, and then boiled in water. In former times it was generally used in these regions for breakfast or supper. At present brick-tea is substituted for it.--W. B.
70:2 In local Russian it is called "heretic" (еретикъ). In colloquial Russian, in Europe and Asia, "heretic" is used as a synonym for "devil" or "evil spirit. "--W. B.