There was a man who lived alone and was poor and destitute. He had no fish nets, nor even a single fish hook. So he went to the merchants, asking for a hook. The first and the second merchant gruffly refused him. A third one gave him an old hook, without point. He took it and prepared a long fishing-rod for it. Armed with this, he went every day to the sea to angle. He was fishing the whole day long, and caught nothing. The next day likewise he caught nothing. The third day he cast his fishing rod, and could not pull back the line, it was so heavy. "Ah!" thought he, "it must be some large fish." He pulled at it with all his might, and at last he brought to the surface Shérkala, 1 the fish-girl. "What is it?" said he to himself. "Is it my good luck, or is it my bad luck?" He was ready to throw her back into the water; but then he bethought himself, and said, "I am very poor. I can lose nothing by it, let me take her home!" He took Shérkala home and laid her down in the corner of his house. The next morning he went fishing again. He caught nothing at all; but when he came home, his house looked quite festive. Everything was well cleaned and in good order; a good meal stood ready on the table; but nobody was there, and the Shérkala-Fish lay in the corner just as before. From that time on everything continued in that manner. He caught no fish; but somebody kept the house in good order, and cooked excellent meals of nothing. When he stayed at home, the dinner would not appear, so that he was obliged to go out every morning. One day he pretended to depart; but, instead of going away, he lay down on the earth bench close to the window. He lay there very quietly; but after a while he lifted his head and looked through the window. The Shérkala-Fish arose as far as her tail, and then turned into a young pretty girl. She ripped up her own belly and took out fish-roe, which she put into the kettle. Then she swept the floor and put everything in good order. The man suddenly rushed in and caught the fish skin of Shérkala, which lay on the floor. He threw it into the fire, and it was burned. "What have you done," said the girl. "We lived so happily, and now I must go away." She fell down and melted away into sea water. The end.
Told by Innocent Korkin, a Russianized Yukaghir man, in the village of Pokhotsk, the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
101:1 In Russian Шеркала. Compare this very curious fish tale with that of the Koryak (Bogoras, in Jochelson, "The Koryak" (The Jesup North Pacific Expedition, vol. 6, 292), also with Indian tales of a similar character (Bogoras, "The Folklore of Northeastern Asia, as compared with that of Northwestern America," (American Anthropologist, Vol. 4, 1902). 658--W. B.