La'la was very rich in peltries. Among all the Chukchee people along the border he was known for his costly furs. He was also a great warrior, and lived all by himself; only with his own family. One time the Chukchee said among themselves, "Let us go and make war on La'la! We will take his peltries and kill the people." They went, and they were more numerous than mosquitoes, all young men and strong. La'la's father and mother were quite old. He had also a single brother, a mere lad, not yet full grown. This morning La'la walked on snowshoes and broke the one for the right foot. Therefore, after dinner, he went into the woods with his brother to hew out a new board for the broken snowshoe. While he was working the lad climbed a high tree, and was playing among the thin branches near the top. He played there, and looked homeward. From the top of the tree he could see their house and everything around. He played there for some time, and said suddenly, "Khadya, 3 there are the Chukchee, coming to
attack La'la!" La'la looked up, and asked, "What do you say? Ah, nothing! I am only playing with twigs." After a while he said again, "Khadya, they are coming to La'la's house." La'la looked up, and asked again, "What do you say?"--"Ah, nothing! I am playing with twigs." A third time he said, "Khadya, they are coming!" And indeed, they had come. The old man ran out, and they followed him around the house. He said, "Khadya, they are going to kill him." Three times they chased him around the house, then one of them seized a piece of a sledge runner of birch-wood and struck the old man on the head. "Khadya," said the young brother, "they have killed the old man. The old man is gone." And after a while, "Khadya, they are breaking down the house and are looting the sledges. They are driving a long needle into mother's tongue and make her drag the tent poles. Now they are gone."
At last La'la had finished his snowshoes, "Let us go home!" They went home. "Why is it so quiet here? Not a voice is to be heard. And where is the old man? Why, the tent cover is torn off the poles! Are they going to move to another place?" Then he looked at the sledges, and they were empty. He came to the entrance. His father lay there in the house, close to the entrance. The old man's head was broken, like an egg. The mother was gone. "Ah, sorrow!" said La'la, "was it of this you spoke up in the tree?"--"Just so," answered the lad. "I saw from the tree, how they killed the old man, and looted the sledges, and drove a long needle through the old woman's tongue. Then they made her drag the tent poles."--"Ah!" wailed La'la, "what is to be done?" They thought and thought; but the bow and the quiver, the arrow and the spears,--everything had been carried off. They were unarmed, and he had only the snowshoes which he had mended in the forest. La'la put on the snowshoes, and they set off. His younger brother followed him. They walked on; then they came to a large lake, round and smooth, just like a frying pan. In the middle of it, on the smooth ice, was pitched the camp of the assaulters. They were distributing the spoils among themselves. La'la spoke to his younger brother, and said to him, "Listen! I am going to turn you into a fox. After that I shall go straight to them, and you must stay here and wait. I shall go to them and try to get my bow and quiver. You must watch me; and if I succeed in getting them, at that very moment you must appear, and run within shooting distance. Glide in among the sledges, turn in zigzag directions, and try not to be hit."--"How shall I do it?" said the young man. "Are you not a Yukaghir?" 1 said La'la. You must know how to
avoid arrows and spears. Run down the lake and lure them on, only mind not to lead them too far away, and I shall follow." He made a circuit around the lake, then he took off his snowshoes and left them behind. He went to the Chukchee camp from the north, along their usual way. He waded in the snow, pretended to stumble, and assumed the air of being very tired. Then he went over the beaten path, and boldly approached the camp. "Here, boys! What about La'la? Have you killed La'la?"--"Oh, yes, we killed him with a piece of wood, just like an old woman. He did not lift a hand in his own defence."--"Ah, all! I thought he was a great warrior. I came here from afar merely to have a look at him. I was told several times that people would try to assault him, and he would wind in among the assailers like a wet nettle-cord."--"All, nonsense! he was an old man. He never struck a blow." "True, he did not, but at least his peltries were numerous."--"As to that," said the Chukchee, "there is no mistake about them. The peltries were abundant. We are ever so numerous, and every one of us had a share." After a while he said again, "See here, brothers! They say his bow and quiver are ever so large, and also his snowshoes. Show them to me! I have come from afar in order to have a look at them, because it is said, 'La'la's bow is a three men's bow.' Is it really so heavy and imposing?" They suspected nothing, and so brought forth La'la's arms. Two men were carrying his bow, two others his quiver, and two more his snowshoes. "Ah!" said La'la, "indeed, it is true! They are quite heavy." He took the bow and pretended to drop it. Then he tried the snowshoes and deftly put them on. At that moment, the small fox started off and ran away. All the young people rushed out, and crossed his path, far ahead of him. So the fox returned to the camp, and hid among the lodges. The Chukchee shot at it (as thick as rain fell the arrows), but nobody could so much as graze it. It turned again and ran away up the trail. The young men followed it, shooting and shouting. Two old men were sitting on a pack-sledge looking on at the chase. One said in his mother tongue, "He, he, he! La'la monia'lo khanidula," 1 which means, "Be careful, boys! La'la will tear the stomach out of your bodies." 2 "Why have you given him the bow and the quiver?" His neighbor, however, nudged him with his elbow. "You fool! Hold your tongue!" The young people, however, did not listen to any one, and ran on. La'la followed in the rear, and one by one he killed the Chukchee, beginning with the one running farthest in the rear. He shot and shot. Not a single arrow missed its aim. After that he turned back to the
sledges. These two old men were sitting there. He killed one,--the one: who said, "Be careful, boys!" He struck him on the head with a piece of wood. He took the other one along and married him to his mother. He also turned his brother back into a man. To these three he gave everything he took from the Chukchee.
He went away from there, and arrived at another village. There he married the pretty daughter of the chief. He lived there with his pretty wife. They had two children,--a boy and a girl. The children were growing up. The girl already could carry water from the river, and the boy could fetch fuel from the woods. One time the father brought home a large heath cock, and said to his wife, "Cook that heath cock!" She cooked it, and they had a meal. After the meal she carried out the bones and the odd pieces in a large frying-pan, and then she vanished. They waited for her, but she never came back. La'la went out to look for her; but she was nowhere to be seen. There were left only traces in the snow, as if a giant bird had brushed it with its wings. From this he knew that someone with wings had carried her off.
One night passed. In the morning, he said to his children, "I will go and look for your mother. You must stay at home and not show yourselves outside. In three days, I shall come back. Whether I find her or not, I shall come to you." After that he left. On the way, he met a Buzzard. "Here, Buzzard! have you not seen my wife?"--"I will not tell you. Every time you meet me, you shoot at me. Why, then, should I tell you the truth?" After awhile he met a Bluejay. "Here Jay! who carried off my wife?"--"I will tell you. When you lived with your wife, you used to bring home all kinds of meat and other food. When I came and pecked at the food, you would not hinder me; so I will tell you the truth. He who carried off your wife is Raven-Son, with beak of iron, and tail of grass. You must go straight ahead in this direction, then you will find him." La'la thanked the Jay and set off. He walked straight ahead, and came to a place where there was a round hole in the ground, just like the furrow of a fox. He looked in. A small old woman, wearing an apron of summer skins, was there, skipping about like a grasshopper. As soon as she saw him, she tore off a narrow shred from her apron, cut it into small pieces,--which she put into the kettle. She hung the kettle over the fire; and after a while she took it off and invited La'la to eat, saying, "The meal is ready. Sit down and eat!" He tasted of the food, and it was fat meat of the mountain-sheep cooked with edible roots.
He went on, and after a while he came to another place. Smoke was coming up out of the ground. He looked down the hole. An old woman clad in a coat of autumn skins was skipping about like a jumping hare.
[paragraph continues] As soon as she saw him, she cut off a narrow piece of her coat, chopped it up fine, and put it into a kettle. She cooked it and invited him to partake of the meal. He ate of the food, and it was fat meat of wild reindeer. When he wanted to go away, the old woman said, "Go straight ahead, then you will reach a place where the ground is smooth as ice. There you will see a village. A number of children will be playing near the houses. Many of them will call after you. You must not answer, or go near them. Far off, alone by himself, a small boy will be standing, all covered with scabs. You must go to him. It is your own son."--"How can it be my son," shouted La'la. "My son is at home. I left him at home." "You did," said the old woman, "but meanwhile the Raven went back there and carried off your boy. You must wait there till sunset. After sunset, in the pale light of the night, when the moon is rising in the sky, Raven will be asleep. Then three women will come out of his house. They will walk around and cry softly in the moonlight. You must go to them. They are his wives, all carried off from their husbands." La'la went on and found the village. In the evening, when the three women appeared, he went to them. They saw him, and cried more bitterly than before. "Oh, cease crying! Better let us talk over what is to be done! Is there anyway to kill Raven-Son?"--"How can you kill him? His body is iron. Unless, you succeed insetting fire to his house, so that he may burn with the house, being asleep, and unable to wake from fatigue."--"All right, let us try it!" They went to fetch fuel, and carried it to the house quite noiselessly, like so many mice,--green wood and dry wood, branches and sticks--all kinds of fuel. They surrounded the house with a wall of wood as high as the vent-hole. Then they set fire to it. The whole blazed up, and Raven-Son with it. He had no time to wake up and groaned only once in his sleep. The fire subsided, the coals burned out, and even the ashes grew cold. La'la gathered the ashes and let them fly to the winds. Then he went home, taking along the three women. He kept his own wife and sent the other two away to their former husbands. After some time he gathered all his goods and set off for his own country. The end.
Told by Nicholas Kusakoff, a Russian creole, in the village of Pokhotsk, the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
90:2 This story is very interesting, because it treats of La'la, the tribal hero of the Chuvantzi, whose name is known to the present day among the last remnants of this tribe, and also speaks of the wars between the Chuvantzi and the Chukchee. It is probably only a fragment of a longer tale. The episodes composing it reappear in several other tales among the Russianized natives, Chukchee, and Yukaghir. The Kolyma version of this story, however, calls La'la and his brother Yukaghir. The interchange of these two tribal names, adds to the probability that the Chuvantzi were a branch of the Yukaghir tribe (Bogoras, "The Chukchee," 15).--W. B.
90:3 This word was indicated as belonging to the Chuvantzi language. It is supposed to mean "elder brother".--W. B.
91:1 But the word "Khadya" a little above was indicated as Chuvantzi. Cf. Anadyr version, footnote, p. 95--W. B.
92:1 These words were also said to belong to the Chuvantzi language--W. B.
92:2 In dressing the hunting-quarry, the belly is ripped up, and the stomach and other intestines are immediately pulled out--W. B.