A Journey in Southern Siberia, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
ONCE there was a khan named Buruldai Bogdo. He was seventy years old and his wife was sixty, and they had no children.
One day the khan took a book out of his head and read in it. In that book it was written that he had not counted his cattle for fifteen years. So he set out to find and count them.
In one place he discovered that the cattle had not increased, that they were thin and hungry, and had but little water to drink. He went farther and came to a mare that had a colt. This colt seemed to the khan to be as big as a mountain, and looking at it he began to weep, for in his mind he was saying:
"This colt will be a wonderful steed, but I have neither son nor daughter to ride him." Then he said to the colt: "I am seventy years old, and when thou art fitted for the saddle there will be no one to conquer and ride thee; I am too old and I have neither son nor daughter."
When he reached home the khan was still crying bitterly. "Why art thou weeping?" asked his wife. When he refused to tell her she went out, got a hair rope and declared she would hang herself if he did not tell. Then he said: "I am crying because I am an old man, and thou too art old. I saw a wonderful colt to-day, but when it is fit for the saddle there will be no one to ride it, for we have neither son nor daughter."
"Cry no more," said his wife; "though I am old, I am not without hope of having a son or a daughter; but go thou beyond the mountain to the house of the seven Lamas and beg them to soothsay for us."
Buruldai Bogdo went beyond the mountain, and came to a great square yurta, but could find no door. He walked around the yurta; there was no door to be seen. Then he said to himself, "What a fool thou art; go back ten yards, run, kick the wall with all thy strength." This he did and seventy doors flew open before him. Inside were seven Lamas, but they were silent. The khan begged them to soothsay for him, begged the first day, begged the second and the third day. Then the youngest of the Lamas asked without looking at him:
"Why make so much foolish noise? It is thy wish to have children; there is a child at thy yurta already."
Buruldai Bogdo went home. A son had been born to him, but neither knife nor axe could ciit the umbilical cord. The father took a hair rope, tied one end to the child and the other to his horse, but the rope broke; he cried then, and begged his good steed to tell him what to do, and the horse said:
"Take a hair from the tail of the wonderful colt, tie one end of it around the child, and give me the other end."
The khan rode out to the field where the colt was at pasture, but the colt would not let him come near. At last he found a long hair that had caught on a thorn bush. This he took home, tied one end of it around the child's body and gave the other to the horse. The horse pulled, and the child stood up.
In seven days the skin of a sheep seven years old could not cover the boy. When he was ten months old he minded sheep, and was everywhere. One day he saw a wolf, and he asked his father what it was.
"It is a brave fellow, kill it!" answered the father. The boy asked for an arrow and bow, got them, and killed the wolf. "See what a son we have!" said the old father and mother to each other.
One day the boy came upon a fine open meadow, and he decided to build a yurta there. After it was built he was tired and lay down to rest. He wished to sleep seven months, but in the fourth month his mother strove in every way to waken him; when at last she stuck a file in the sole of his foot he sprang up quickly.
"Whilst thou wert sleeping a sister was born to thee," said
the mother, "but some one came in through the smoke hole and stole her."
"Write a petition to Esege Malan for a horse. What can I do without a wise horse," said the boy to his father. The petition was written, and Esege Malan answered, "Horse and arms are on the flat top of Red Mountain.'
The boy took three casks of tarasun and three sheep, made libations, ate and drank, then went to Red Mountain.
Off at the edge of the sky he saw a horse; it came near, ran around him, but he could not catch it. At last the horse called: "If thou art my right master shoot me in the heart, the arrow will go through without drawing blood; if it draws blood thou art not my master but an evil enemy."
The boy shot and drew no blood.
"Sit on me," said the horse, "thou art my master."
When the boy was on his back the horse ran for thirty days trying to throw him, but he could not. "Art thou fooling with me, thy rightful master? I will kill thee!" cried the boy at last, very angry.
"I had to test thee and thy strength," replied the horse; "now I will serve thee faithfully."
Straightway they set out to look for the sister. They traveled on and on till they came to another kingdom. The boy saw a trail and thought it was his sister's; after following it for many days it came to an end at the foot of a rock. He stopped, took tobacco, threw some to the gods, and then smoked. While he was smoking a young man on a black horse galloped up from the west. He was the son of Khan Zuduk Shin Mergín Xubún Zud. He greeted the boy, and said he was in search of his sister, an infant.
Now a young man from the East came up on a gray horse. He was the son of Gazar Xara Khan. Then from the south-west came a third young man, Nadur Gai Mergín, on a bay horse. Each was in search of an infant sister, each had followed a trail which led to the rock. The four held a council, and decided that their sisters must be somewhere under that great rock.
"Raise the rock," said the first young man to the second.
[paragraph continues] He raised it until he sank into the ground to his knees. The third man raised it until he went into the ground to his waist. The fourth raised it until he went into the ground to his shoulders. Then the first one became angry and said: "Of what use to come so far, if we can do nothing?" And he seized the rock of ninety-nine poods in weight, hurled it beyond seven valleys, and found that it had covered a deep hole.
"Now," said the young men, "one of us must go and order the nine heavenly blacksmiths to make a chain long enough to reach to the bottom of this hole."
No one of them was willing to go. At last Buruldai Bugdo's son went himself and begged for a chain nine hundred sachens long, so long that it took the nine blacksmiths nine days to make it.
He brought the chain to the opening and said "Whoever goes down shall be drawn up as soon as he shakes the chain," then he asked Zuduk to go first.
The young man went down two hundred sachens, then became frightened, and shook the chain. The second young man went down four hundred sachens, then shook the chain. The third young man went down six hundred sachens, shook the chain, and they pulled him up.
"I went to the bottom," said he; "there was no opening there save one little hole as big as the eye of a needle."
Altun, the old khan's son, was angry now, and said to the three young men, "If you have so little power in you why did you come to look for your sisters?" Then he turned his horse loose and said, "Stand at freedom, and wait me, for a time. If I stay very long run home. In every case be watchful of these three men, they may want to kill thee."
He went down the whole length of the chain; it was a hundred sachens short. He thought and thought. At last he said to himself, "To rise is inconvenient. Once I have undertaken I will finish," so he dropped, fell on his side, broke all his ribs, and sank one half into the earth. He had plenty of room, but no one came to him, and he lay there nine years. At last a mouse crept up and made her nest in his clothes. When he saw that he thought, "I am only half alive, if I were altogether
alive the mouse would not build her nest on me." With that he struck at the mouse, and crushed one of her sides. She crawled away, found an herb, ate it, and was as well as before.
Altun crawled along on the ground for three days and three nights, crawled until he found the same kind of herb. He ate of it, and was as well as ever. He walked then till he came to an open place and farther on to a great meadow, and there he saw an old eagle that could not rise. "What troubles thee?" asked Altun of the eagle. "I am so covered with sores," said the eagle, "that I cannot move. Go thou and bring me living water from nine springs."
Altun brought the water, the old eagle drank of it, and rose up in the air. "When thou hast need of a friend," said he, "call me, and I will come."
Altun went on through the meadow, and farther, till he came to a flat-topped mountain; he climbed the mountain, and saw people standing as thickly as planted trees. He went nearer and saw a hundred kettles over fires scattered here and there. In the kettles flesh of both men and beasts was boiling. He turned himself into an old withered man, went up to one of the kettles, and asked of the men standing near, "For whom is all this meat in the hundred kettles?"
"For the Mangathai of a hundred heads," replied they.
Not far away was the yurta of the Mangathai, and behind seventy curtains he was sleeping. On the right were seven curtains, and behind them were the four wives of the Mangathai.
"Whence hast thou come, old man?" asked one of the wives, when he went to the yurta.
"I am Xapmyam Yama's herdsman; some of his cows and horses have strayed away. I am in search of them."
"They have not been seen here," said the woman, but just then she looked into his eyes, and thought: "Though that man is old he might be my brother." As Altun turned away she hurried after him, and said: "I am your sister, but do not worry about me; I am happy here. Do not fight with the Mangathai, for he is a great wizard."
"I am the son of Khan Buruldai Bogdo, I must gain glory, I will fight the Mangathai and free thee," replied Altun. She
could not dissuade him so she said: "I will tell thee a secret. On the right of the door the Mangathai has Water of Life, on the left he has poison water. If thou even catch the odor of the poison water thou wilt die."
"I have magic too," said the brother. "I can change Water of Life to poison water and poison water to the Water of Life, so that when one drinks of the Water of Life it will be as though he had drunk the poison water, and when one drinks of the poison water it will be as though he had drunk of the Water of Life."
On a pillar near the yurta was this inscription: "If any one wishes to fight with me, let him go to the top of the mountain opposite, and wait until I come."
Altun drank of the Water of Life, and went to the mountain. Two goats happened before him, he caught them, twisted their necks, skinned them and put them to roast on spits before the fire. He saw many bones of animals and of people; this frightened him, but he said to himself: "I drank of the Water of Life, the Mangathai will drink of the poison water, I shall conquer him," and he lay down to sleep.
Soon the Mangathai rode up. He had an axe, seventy wedges, and a hammer of ninety poods. "What sort of a hero art thou," cried he, "lying here on my land, and roasting my goats? With one blow I will kill thee!"
He struck at Altun with the axe, but the axe made no impression. Then he chopped at his right side, made a slight gash, and took the wedges to drive them in, but the wedges sprang back, flew up to the sky, and floated away toward the ocean. He struck at him with the hammer; it broke in the middle and flew off to the sea. So the Mangathai was without weapons. "What man art thou on another man's land?" shouted he in a rage.
Altun woke up, shook himself, and said: "How long I have slept! Fleas have been biting me," and he rubbed his side. Then he saw the Mangathai, and at once they began to wrestle. For three days they fenced for a hold, and then fought for thirty days, but neither could overcome the other. At last the Mangathai said: "I am thirsty, let us go down to the yurta and
get a drink of strengthening water." They went down, and Altun drank of the Water of Life, and the Mangathai drank of the poison water, for Altun by his magic had changed them.
They went back to the mountain, then fought for another thirty days; the Mangathai was getting a little weaker.
Again they rested; Altun drank of the Water of Life and the Mangathai drank of the poison. During the third thirty days Altun knocked the Mangathai against one tree after another until the trunks of all the trees on the top of that mountain were bloody. Then in a rage he killed the Mangathai and tore his heads off.
Altun made a mill, ground up the Mangathai's body and his heads, burned the mass into ashes, threw the ashes into the air, and the wind carried them off to the ocean. He went down the mountain then, collected the people, and told them that their master was dead, and they were free. "But he has a son seven sachens under this floor and under a gold cover," said Altun's sister.
Altun raised the floor, raised the gold cover, and brought up the young Mangathai. He made a fire and threw him into it; but the fire did not burn him.
"If he lives ten days he will be able to kill ten thousand people, and in twenty days a hundred thousand could not overcome him. Kill him quickly!" said Agui na Gun, Altun's sister.
Altun built a great furnace and put the young Mangathai into it. It took nine days and nine nights to burn him; then Altun carried the ashes to the mother of the boy, who was herself a Mangathai, and asked, "Which would you rather have, seventy horse tails, or seventy tree-tops?"
"Out of the horse tails I could make ropes, out of the tree-tops I could make wood," said she,
Altun brought seventy horses and tied her to their tails. This frightened the horses; they ran in all directions and tore her to pieces. He collected the pieces and brought the woman to life. Then he impaled her on seventy tree-tops, and she died.
He overturned the house and took whatever pleased him. He drove the cattle ahead, and with him went the four women
to the hole where the chain was. He sent up everything by the chain, and then told the four women to go.
"Go first," urged his sister; "there may be enemies up there."
"I had no enemy but the Mangathai, and he is dead," replied Altun.
They went up then and he followed; but just as he was getting to the top the chain was cut, he fell to the bottom, and went into the earth up to his chin.
Altun remembered the eagle; he called him and he came. "Thou art in deep trouble," said the eagle, "but I will go for living water."
When Altun had drunk of the Water of Life he came up out of the earth and was as well as ever. "I saved thee once," said Altun, "and thou hast repaid me, but canst thou get me out of this underground kingdom?"
"I will take thee out on my back," replied the eagle, "but first get me meat to eat, that I may grow strong."
In the open country Altun found a goat, killed it, and gave it to the eagle. After he had eaten he took Altun on his back and flew up, but when within a few sachens of the top the eagle grew weak, was failing.
Altun cut a piece of flesh from his own thigh and fed the bird, but the moment the eagle ate of the flesh he fell to the bottom.
"I am sick; I may die," said the eagle.
Altun hurried to bring the Water of Life and revive the bird.
"Why didst thou give me thy flesh?" asked the eagle; "I should have exerted my last strength and carried thee out; now thou canst get out of this place as may please thee."
The young man grew very sad; he put his hands behind his back and walked away, saying, "I came down here to save, not to offend. Why am I thus punished?" He went on and on until he came to a shed made of hay. An old man and an old woman were inside the shed counting silver coin. They were disputing.
"I have much," said one. "I have more," said the other. When they saw Altun they called out to him, "Come and divide evenly between us. As thou sayest we will do."
He divided the coin equally, and the old man asked what he
wanted for his trouble. "I wish to go to my home, which is in a country above this," said Altun.
"Follow my advice, do what I say, and thou wilt go. Take dudkí (a kind of cane), bite it, thou wilt be at the hole; bite it a second time, thou wilt be a skunk and climb till tired; bite a third time, thou wilt be a magpie and fly high; bite the fourth time, thou wilt be a raven and fly to the top."
Altun did this, and when he reached the top he took his own form, put the dudkí in his pocket and traveled on. He soon found his horse lying on the ground, its hind quarters terribly gnawed by wolves.
The three young men had tried to kill the steed; he got away from them, and, though they followed on horseback, they could not overtake him. Then they got nine wolves from Esege Malan Babai. The nine wolves chased the horse, sprang at him, gnawed him; but he escaped, and made his way back to wait for his master, or die near the hole.
Altun went to the top of Red Mountain, brought back some of the Water of Life, sprinkled his steed with it and healed him; he was as strong and well as ever. Then Altun mounted and rode toward the west, rode to the home of Zudu, he of the black horse. When near the yurta he made his horse into a flint and put the flint into his pocket. Then he turned himself into a fly and sat on the edge of the smoke-hole. He listened and heard Zudu's sister ask, "Why didst thou throw that good man down into the hole?" and the young man answered, "If thou art sorry, why dost thou not go down after him?" and he scolded his sister.
Then Altun flew away, took his own form, turned the flint into a horse and rode up to the yurta. When the brother and sister saw him they were frightened. One ran one way and one the other.
"Why are ye afraid?" asked Altun. "Who will be above ground, and who below?" and taking the dudkí from his pocket he called Zudu and forced him to bite it. As soon as he bit it he turned into a fox and ran away into the woods.
Altun took possession of Zudu's yurta and people, and sent Zudu's sister to his own home. Then he went to the yurta of
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THE RUSSIAN EXILE AND TWO BURIAT SHAMANS, ONE STANDING ON EACH SIDE OF HIM.
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MY CARRIAGE READY. THE ITALIAN BLACKSMITH.
the man of the gray horse, turned his steed into a flint, himself into a fly, sat on the edge of the smoke-hole, and listened. Soon he heard the young man's sister ask, "Why didst thou treat that good man so cruelly? He saved me from the Mangathai."
"If thou art so sorry thou canst go down into the hole and die with him," said the brother.
Altun turned himself back to his own form, went into the yurta, and said:
"While I was in the underground kingdom I found a present for you." They were greatly surprised to see him, but the brother was glad to receive a present. Altun made the dudkí look very attractive, held it out, and told the young man to bite it; as soon as he bit it he became a skunk and ran off into the woods. Altun took possession of everything and sent the sister to his own yurta.
He went to the third man's house, turned himself into a fly, listened, and heard the sister say, "Why didst thou cut the chain and kill that good man?"
"If thou art so fond of him," answered the brother, "why not go back to him?"
Just then, much to the surprise of the man and the delight of the sister, Altun walked into the yurta. He asked the brother to bite the stick of dudkí, and the young man did so out of curiosity. That moment he turned into a magpie and flew away. Altun took all of this man's possessions and his sister, and went home to his own yurta. There he found the other sisters as well as his own sister.
All the place around had fallen into bad condition, for his father and mother were very old. His parents did not know him, but the sister did, and there was great rejoicing.
He married the three sisters of the three young men. The people assembled, and there was feasting for nine days and nine nights.