A shaman was living with some other people. One time he took his drum and began to practise. Then he died suddenly. Now, the ancient Yakut had the following custom: Whenever a man of importance died, every one would leave the village, and move to another place. So the people went away. The shaman was left in an empty hut, stone dead, drum in hand. In midwinter, on the twelfth day after the shortest day, the young men of the Yakut were in the habit of gathering and playing games. One young man suddenly said, "Why comrades, who dares to go to the dead shaman and cut off his braid? He must bring it here as proof that he has been there." The others said, "Who will go? That is too much to ask; and, by the way, at what time of day do you want us to go?"--"To be sure, about midnight, in utter darkness."--"We shall not go. Better go yourself."--"I should go on a good wager. Then I should cut off his braid and bring it here."
They argued among themselves. The one said, "Let us bet a horse
each!" They consented, but secretly they proposed to send a man along. This man was to lie down behind the shaman; and when the daring one should stretch out his hand for the braid, the other one was to make a noise and clatter, and so frighten him off. Then the one asked, "Is it time to go?" They said, "All right, go!" and he rode off. He arrived at the empty hut, tied his horse to the post, and entered the hut. When he was opening the door, he heard in the darkness a ringing of iron and a clattering of the drum, as if the shaman were stirring about; but he said, "There, uncle, you may ring and clatter, but I shall take that for which I came." So he approached the dead body, and, catching hold of the braid, cut it off at the very roots. Then he went out. Behind him something rang and clattered again, but he paid no attention to it. He came to his companions and showed them the braid; the other man arrived later, and said, "Indeed, he is quite undaunted. I made a noise and beat the drum, but he paid no heed at all. He cut away the braid and carried it off." So that man won the wager, a horse from each of the partners. That is all.
Told by John Parin, a Russianized Yakut, in the village of Bystraia, in the, Kolyma country, summer of 1896.