A Journey in Southern Siberia, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
ONCE there were two brothers,—the elder Albat Mergin Hubun, the younger Varhan Tulai Hubun. The elder had a wife named Deri Sisin (Steel File), the younger was not married.
"Let us try and see which of us is the stronger," said Varhan to his brother one day.
They went to the shore of the Yellow Sea, and there found a stone as big as a great stallion. The elder brother raised this stone to his girdle and sank in the ground to his waist. Varhan, the younger brother, raised the stone, swayed it thrice, and hurled it into the Yellow Sea. Then they went home and began to shoot with arrows. Albat Mergin took an arrow with forty edges and said to it:
"Beyond the thirteenth mountain is an elk and his mate. If I am to live, kill them; if not, let them live."
The arrow did not strike the elk, but chanced on a hundred and eight headed and thirteen horned Mangathai, went in at the side of his sixth rib, and killed him.
Varhan, the younger brother, sent his arrow beyond the twenty-third mountain and killed two elks there.
"Thou hast conquered," said Albat Mergin, "thou mayst not live on as hitherto."
Varhan cut his forehead, opened it, and took out a book. In the book he read that the most beautiful woman in the world was Shandagan Sagai, daughter of Esege Malan, and that she was to be his bride.
Beyond a certain mountain, where she pastured with thirteen asses, was a milk-white mare, with her colt going after her. The colt was ninety fathoms long and dark gray in color. Varhan Tulai led home this colt, fed him for thirty days, saddled him, and started to ride to the sky and find there the yurta in which lived Shandagan Sagai, the beauty of all the world above and below.
He rode long and fast till his horse was wearied; then he turned him into flint, put the flint in his pocket, made himself a wolf, and raced on and on. Traveled as a wolf till he was tired; then he took his own form again, and rode on the dark gray colt till at last he reached an opening, the door through the highest point in the sky. This door is called Sinbur Ulai Tolgai.
Varhan Tulai went through and saw on the other side the end of a great yurta; then he went farther and saw the whole yurta. It was splendid and so immense that it reached up till it touched a second sky. When he came to this beautiful yurta he went in, and there in the seventy-fifth chamber found Shandagan Sagai.
"Whence hast thou come?" asked she, "and whither art thou going?"
"I am the son of Galtun Umri. I am going to find a bride, I am looking for Agin Nogón." Shandagan Sagai made tea then from a silver kettle, and they drank together.
"I have traveled far," said Varhan Tulai, "I am tired; something troubles; something irritates my head. Look in it." He put his head on her knees. Her fingers, searching through his hair, gave him wonderful pleasure, and he fell asleep. All at once she screamed. Varhan sprang up and rushed out. There were seventy-four doors besides the outer door, seventy-five in all. He shut these, and there were ninety-five chambers before him. He closed every chamber tightly; then made the house very small, as small as a little box, put it on his horse, and with Shandagan Sagai inside raced away swiftly.
Esege Malan had three Shalmos (invisible spirits) in his service, three attendant spirits, who went around through every place, watching all the time and looking in all directions very quickly. These Shalmos saw that the house was gone, the daughter gone, all things gone. They hurried to Esege Malan and told him.
Esege Malan opened his doors and saw Varhan Tulai stealing his daughter away,—saw him far off, hurrying, racing with all speed. He called the three Shalmos and sent them to bring to him a perfect fool. They brought the fool quickly, and Esege Malan said to him: "I brought thee, thou fool, for this purpose. A man came and stole my yurta, with my daughter and all
her property. Do thou hurry, hasten, overtake him, catch him, kill him, and bring back my daughter."
"Give me means and help," replied the perfect fool.
Esege Malan sent three hundred champions with clubs, three hundred more with hammers, and three hundred with sharp swords, to help the fool. They went swiftly and were gaining on Varhan Tulai. He was on earth now, hurrying always. His horse was untiring, but the fool and the champions were gaining, coming nearer each moment; so Varhan rose in the air with his horse and rushed to a high country at one side.
The fool and his men lost the trail, but the fool knew what to do. He rose in the air also. "I will fly too, but stay ye here," said he to his nine hundred helpers. They passed the night at the place where he left them. During the night they burned up all the trees in the forest around, and their horses ate up all the grass, and since that day nothing has grown there.
The fool saw Varhan at a great distance. When he had almost caught up with him Varhan turned himself into an old man and sat down near a spring of pure water. He had made a hut there, and a woman was sitting inside; the woman was Shandagan Sagai.
Varhan, with a girdle of the inner bark of a larch tree around his middle, seemed very poor. This trick did not mislead the fool, however.
"What manner of man art thou, who has stolen the daughter of another and with her his house and goods?" asked he. "What right hadst thou to do this?"
They sprang at each other, closed, and began to fight, and they fought for nine days with little rest for breathing. At last the fool threw Varhan Tulai over three mountain ranges, then rushed after him, and when he came up, he asked:
"With such small power how couldst thou think to be a hero?"
Varhan had sunk to his waist and was hardly living, but when he heard these jeering words he grew terribly angry; he rose out of the earth, and as he rose he overturned one hundred and fifty acres in a circle around him.
"Though thou art a perfect fool, thou hast thrown me across three mountain ranges," cried Varhan; "now I will throw thee
so far that thou wilt never be seen again!" That moment he seized the fool and threw him over seven mountain ranges. He sank eighty fathoms through the earth and stayed there.
Varhan Tulai returned to his hut by the spring, took Shandagan Sagai with all her property, and went home. He found nothing there; his yurta was gone, his cattle gone, all was gone. There was nothing where the yurta had been save one black raven and one yellow fox. Near by was a hitching-post with these words on it: "Under this post are ten pots of tarasun and the flesh of ten sheep. Eat the meat and drink the tarasun. We have been taken from our home, and are captives of a hundred and eight headed Mangathai. Find us, and save us."
Varhan ate and drank and then went to rescue his people. He traveled till he came to a bottomless swamp and a dense forest. He passed both. Beyond the dense forest he saw his brother's stallion, with one eye out and a broken leg. He made his own horse poor, a little, gray, wretched creature, and himself a miserable, starving old man with hair sticking out a whole foot through his cap and finger-nails growing out through his gloves.
He went farther and saw seven hundred of his brother's bullocks, six hundred sheep, five hundred goats, and only one he-goat. Farther still he saw two dogs; two wolves ran up to fight with the dogs. Varhan killed both wolves and went farther. Next he met four young men on four red horses. Each man had an iron whip.
"Whither are ye going?" asked Varhan.
"We are herdsmen," said they; "we run after cattle."
Varhan waved his whip thrice; the horses were fettered and the men were tied to their saddles. Farther on he saw the hundred and eight headed Mangathai walking along.
"Whither art thou going, old man?" asked the Mangathai.
"I am one of Tudai Khan's herdsmen looking for his cattle. I have come to see if they are with yours. I am dry; hast thou nothing to drink here?"
"Thou knowest much," said the Mangathai, "knowest thou where Varhan Tulai Hubun is? If thou knowest tell me."
"Of course I know. He was killed long ago by the perfect
fool. What a great man Varhan Tulai was, a bony fellow! It would take three days to walk over his bones."
"This moment I will spit something," said the Mangathai. He spat out a big stone. "I will give you this stone to keep. Go home and put it away carefully," said he. "While you have the stone no one will offend, no one will harm you. I must go after my cattle."
Varhan Tulai broke the stone against a tree, and a box covered with tin fell out. He opened the box, sixteen little birds were in it; thirteen he killed and three he put in his pocket. Then he went to find the Mangathai's yurta while the Mangathai was off hunting for his cattle.
The Mangathai's wife was at home, an angry woman with an ugly face. On one of her knees Varhan's brother was sitting; on the other was Deri Sisin, Albat's wife. Whenever the Mangathai woman went out they had to go with her.
"Why did you make my brother and his wife your servants?" asked Varhan, as he pushed the woman over and caught hold of his brother and Deri Sisin.
"My husband will come quickly and pay you for this!" screamed the Mangathai's wife.
"He will not come to me, for I am going to him," said Varhan. Then with a horsehair rope he bound her securely, and leaving his brother and sister-in-law, went to find the Mangathai. While he was going he squeezed to death the three birds that he had in his pocket. When he reached the Mangathai he found him dead.
Varhan brought dry trees and burned the body. Then he made a wooden mill and ground up the larger bones of his enemy, turned all into ashes and scattered the ashes everywhere.
"Which will you have, seventy tree tops or seventy good horse tails?" asked he of the Mangathai's wife.
"I could make firewood of the tree tops," said she; "I could make ropes of the horse tails."
He took seventy tree tops, made a stake of them, put her on the stake, impaled and killed her; then he brought her to life again. Next he took seventy horses, tied her to their tails, and
tore her into seventy pieces. After that he put the seventy pieces together and made her alive a second time; then he impaled her on a stake again and left her there. He searched the house carefully. In one chamber he found an iron cradle; in the cradle an infant, the son of the Mangathai. Varhan seized the boy and threw him against a corner of the chamber to kill him.
"Oh, no!" cried the child, "you cannot kill me to-day." Varhan threw him to the second corner.
"No," cried the boy, "you cannot kill me to-day." He threw him into the third corner.
"Oh, no!" said the child, "you cannot kill me to-day."
"What shall I do to kill this creature?" thought Varhan. "Dig me a hole twenty fathoms deep," said he to his men, and put all the wood into it that you can find about here."
It was done, and down deep in the hole a great fire was built; then they threw the young Mangathai into it.
"Oh, how pleasant and comfortable it is here, so warm and nice!" cried the boy; and he began playing with the hot coals.
As nothing could be done to kill the child, Varhan went to take counsel of the thousand Burkans. They gave him four chains. "Fasten these chains," said they, "to his hands and feet and take him to a place in the forest where there are four trees; chain him to those trees. Near the trees build a house. Inside the wooden house make an iron one, inside the iron house a lead one. Pack all the space between the wooden, the iron, and the lead houses with ice; when you have done that stay inside the lead house for nine days. During these nine days we will make a dreadful heat, and the boy will burst."
Varhan built the houses; then he and his brother and his brother's wife took refuge in the lead house, while the Burkans made such a terrible heat in all the country around the Mangathai's house where the boy was that he became dreadfully swollen and at last burst.
When the nine days were over Varhan and his brother came out of the lead house, burned the body of the Mangathai child, scattered the ashes, took all of the cattle and wealth of the Mangathai, and went home. When Varhan reached his yurta
his wife was gone; she had fled back to Esege Malan, her father.
Varhan started on a second journey to the sky. While he was on the way up Shandagan's father saw him, and going to Hohodai Mergen (thunder), he said, "Strike that Varhan with a thunderbolt and kill him." Hohodai did as Esege Malan commanded, and Varhan fell to the earth; the sun and the moon fell with him, and it became dark in every place.
The thousand Burkans held a council and said to Esege Malan "You must send messengers to bring back the sun and the moon. We cannot live in this way."
Esege Malan sent three hundred heroes with three hundred horses and three hundred crowbars to raise the sun and the moon, but the heroes could not raise them and went back.
Esege Malan now called the seven heavenly smiths from the sky and sent them down with their forges; he sent also the three hundred heroes, and this time each hero carried a hammer ninety ponds in weight. The smiths were to heat up and the heroes to hammer. They worked a whole month, but accomplished nothing; everything they did was useless.
All this time there was darkness everywhere. At last the thousand Burkans held a second council. There was one very great sage, Zarya Azergesha (hedgehog). They sent this wise old Burkan to Esege Malan, and he said:
"Bring to life Varhan, whom thou hast killed, and delay not; give Shandagan Sagai to him. Are the sky and the earth to be in darkness because of thy daughter?"
Esege Malan said, "I will give him my daughter immediately." And that moment he summoned Herdik Shubun (the eagle), and said:
"Take my daughter to the place where Hohodai Mergen struck her husband with a thunderbolt. Take with you. a bottle of the Water of Youth and Life. Pour the water on Varhan's body and bring him to life again."
Khan Herdik did all that Esege Malan commanded. Varhan Tulai Hubun sprang up alive and well, and that instant the sun and the moon rose to their places in the sky.
Varhan went home with his wife, collected all the people, killed sheep and cattle, and made a grand wedding-feast.
"I have been traveling for a long time," said Varhan to his wife; "I am tired and want to sleep. I want to sleep four days and four nights. Do not rouse me, unless evil people come and there is great need; then strike me on the left thigh with your fist."
He lay down and was soon sleeping soundly. After two days a woman rushed up to the door. "I am afraid of your dogs!" screamed she. "Let me in! let me in! I am your neighbor!"
She was a Mangathai woman who had come to steal away Varhan; but Shandagan Sagai, thinking that she was a neighbor, let her in, brought a silver kettle, made tea, and gave her honey, then went out for a moment to get tarasun, leaving the woman with Varhan, who all this time was sleeping behind seven curtains.
When Shandagan came back the strange woman was gone. Varhan was gone also. Albat Mergin, his brother, went in search of him. He followed the woman's trail till he came upon a sixty-three headed Mangathai.
For seven years Albat Mergin fought with this Mangathai, and during those years Vardan's wife had two sons; the elder was called Altin Shagoy, and the younger Murgun Shagoy.
The boys grew very fast. When they were nine days old a ten-year-old ram's skin was not large enough to make a coat for either one of them. Soon they became wonderful marksmen and great hunters. There was a company in the country near by, youths who arranged to shoot at a mark three versts off; no one could hit at that distance except the two brothers. "We hit! we hit!" cried the others. "Why say that when ye know that it is we who hit?" asked the brothers.
The youths were confused and angry. One of them spoke up and said:
"If ye are such men to shoot why not rescue your father from the Mangathai?"
The brothers had never thought about having a father, but now they went home and asked their mother if a Mangathai woman had carried off Varhan Tulai Hubun, and was. he their father?
"Vorhan Tulai was your father," answered Shandagan Sagai, "but he died before you were born."
They did not believe this, and when they could not find out where their father was they went to the field and made a plan there.
"Go into the house," said the elder brother; "the kettle is boiling. I will cry from outside that the calves have sucked the cows dry; our mother will hurry out. Then you cry from the house that the water is boiling over. We will run in, take the cover off the kettle, seize her and hold her hands down in the water till she tells where our father is."
The younger brother went into the house and was talking with his mother, when suddenly the elder brother, who had remained in the field, cried: "Mother, come quickly! The calves are sucking the cows dry, we shall have no milk!"
The mother hurried out, but had not reached the field when the younger brother cried from within the house: "Oh, mother, come quickly! The water is boiling over and putting out the fire!"
Shandagan Sagai rushed back, and the elder boy followed as though to help her. When she was inside the house the two brothers seized her hands and held them in the hot water. "Tell us where our father is," said they.
"Thy father's ashes are where his sons' ashes should be," replied she angrily. They put her hands into the water a second time, and she told them everything, for the water was very hot.
Then the two brothers took their weapons and started away on foot. They went to the boundary of their father's land, took twelve tapers in their hands, and implored the Burkans for horses. They prayed one day and night, holding the twelve tapers. The second night they put twenty tapers on the ground and prayed for three days and three nights. On the fourth day, in the morning, they saw four bay horses near them, and on the saddle of each horse was a hero's outfit. They mounted two of the horses and rode away, leading the other two. After riding for a long time they met their uncle, who was on his way home.
"I have killed the sixty-three headed Mangathai," said Albat
[paragraph continues] Mergin, "but have seen nothing of my brother, Varhan Tulai Hubun."
"Varhan Tulai is our father," said the two brothers, "and thou art our uncle." The uncle turned back then and went with his nephews, and they rode straight to the house of the Mangathai. They saw no one there, but found tracks going into a forest. They followed the tracks, went on and on, till at last the boys found their father. On his head was a wheel ninety poods in weight, and eight iron spikes were sticking into his body, four in his right side and four in his left side.
Albat and his brother seized seven young Mangathais and bound them, bound their mother also. Then they took the wheel from Varhan's head and drew the spikes out.
Near by was a great, broad, level-topped mountain where four roads crossed. At the crossing were eight immense larch trees. To this place they brought the young Mangathais and their mother and tied each, with a strong hair rope, to a larch tree. Then they nailed their heads, feet, and hands to the tree trunk and took the ropes away.
A barrel was placed before each Mangathai, and by each barrel hung a blunt knife and a pair of dull scissors. On each tree were these words: "Whoso passes, man or woman, must cut a bit of flesh from the body of each of the eight hanging here. Let every woman cut with the scissors and every man cut with the knife. Whoso fails to cut will be nailed to a tree as these eight are nailed."
They left the Mangathai woman and her seven sons at the cross-roads, turned the Mangathai's house bottom upward, took all that she had, went home with it, and lived there afterward, rejoicing.