There lived a man who did not know where he was born. We think, however, that we were born of this man. He was rich in everything. One time a She-Monster came to him and wanted to be his wife. The She-Monster said, "You must take me for your wife. Otherwise, I shall devour you." So he married her, and they lived together. After some time he felt sorrowful and thought to himself, "Is it fair, that I being a man, so strong and rich, must have for a wife this unclean monster?"
He came to a water-hole, and sat down there. For three days and three nights he cried from vexation near the water-hole. One time, when he was crying there, a girl appeared out of the water. He said, "I am lonely. Sit down by my side and cry with me?"--"How can I sit by your side? Your Monster Wife will surely kill me." The man spoke fair words to the girl. Three times she appeared out of the water-hole and talked to him. The She-Monster said, "What is the matter with you? For three nights in succession you have stayed near that water-hole. Did you not find another woman there to spend your nights with?" The man answered, "Where should I find a woman better than yourself? And why should I look for another woman?" They lay down and slept together.
Early in the morning the woman arose from the bed. She threw her thimble upon the man; and his sleep grew sound and strong, almost like death. He slept throughout the day, and on until midnight. The Monster-Woman took his bow and arrows and went to the water-hole. She lay there in ambush, holding the bow strung and ready to shoot. At last, the water-woman appeared out of the water-hole. The Monster-Woman shot at her, and hit her straight in the heart. She fell down, and sank to the bottom.
The Monster-Woman came home and picked up her thimble from the man's bed. The man awoke instantly. He looked around, and said, "Ah! how long have I slept?" So he put on his clothes and ran to the water-hole.
[paragraph continues] It was full of blood. He saw the blood, and cried bitterly. "Ah!" said he, "it is my wife who has spilled this blood." He plunged into the water-hole head foremost.
When he reached the bottom, it was like another earth. He looked about, and saw that every bush had, instead of leaves, small copper bells, and the tussocks were covered with sableskin instead of moss. "What a fine place!" thought the man, and he walked onward along the beaten track. After a while, he came to a river. On the other shore stood a tent of Lamut type, 1 made of silver. He came nearer and heard voices within. So he entered.
A woman lay on the bed of skins, moaning with pain. Two strong men were sitting by her, right and left. The men jumped up and laid hands upon the visitor. They shouted, "This man has killed our sister!" And they wanted to kill him on the spot; but the woman said, "Do not kill him! He did me no harm. His wife killed me." He looked at her more closely. An arrow was sticking out from her heart, and the woman was ashen from pain. She moaned pitifully, and said, "Bring him nearer!" They brought him close to the woman, and he took his place by her bed. She cried, and he cried with her. He wanted to pull out the arrow; but the woman said, "Leave it alone! I shall die at your first touch. But if you want to restore me to life, go off across two stretches of land. In the third country you will see a silver hill and three she-storks are playing on it. You must creep close to them, and catch one of them. Then you must bring her to me."
He set off, and after passing through these two countries he saw the silver hill. Three she-storks were playing on the hill, and amusing themselves with their stork-play. He tried to creep nearer, but after some time the storks noticed him. He fell to the ground full of despair, and in his despair he turned into a little shrew. Then he heard the storks talking to one another, plainly, in the Lamut language. The youngest one raised herself on her long legs, stretched her neck, and asked, "O sisters! where is that man? And what is coming now, so small and mouse-like?" The other said, "Why do you stretch your neck in such a manner? This is no man at all. Otherwise we should have noticed him sooner than you." They flew up and circled around the hill.
In the meantime, the man had reached the top of the hill. The storks descended again; but the youngest said, "Ah! my heart misgives me. This man is hidden somewhere." But the two others retorted, "Ah, nonsense! We should have noticed him sooner than you." The two eldest ones descended
to the hill; the third was still circling around in the air. All at once the shrew turned into a man, who caught one of the storks by her long leg. "Ah, ah, ah!" blubbered the stork, "and how does our other sister at home fare? Is she still living, or is she dead?" He told them everything. They were greatly moved and said, "Go home, and we will follow you." He went home, and the three storks followed him on high, with much talking and many songs. He reached the house and entered it; but the storks were circling on high, singing their incantations. They wanted to pull out the arrow. The oldest said to the youngest, "Do try and pull out the arrow!"--"You are older than I. You have more skill than I."--"No, we are unable to pull it out. Do try to get it out!" Then the youngest stork flew upward, and for a moment stood still directly over the vent hole of the silver tent. Then she dropped down like a stone; and when half way down, she soared up again. They looked up, and the arrow was in her beak.
The patient sat up directly and wiped away the tears of pain. Then she said, "Indeed, our youngest sister is a shaman." She entered the house, and also praised the man. "Your heart is true. Will you take me for your wife?" He took her for his wife, and on the bridal night they slept in the silver tent; and the three female storks were circling above all night long, keeping watch over them and singing incantations. In the morning, the storks said to their two brothers, "You must send our brother-in-law, together with his wife, back to his home."--"All right," said the brothers. "Let them stay here for one day more, and then we will get them ready for the trip; but you must fly first, and see that everything in their home is in order."
The storks flew off, and came to his house; and that very evening they came back. The man said to them, "How shall we go home? I have great fear for my young bride." The storks answered, "Have no fear. We caught your old wife, and threw her into the sea. She turned into a big sea-worm." The next morning they started on their journey; and the youngest stork warned them, "Be sure not to sleep on the way!" They moved on, he in front, and his young bride close behind him, both on reindeer-back. Half way along he was overpowered with sleep. Do what he would, he could not keep awake, and at last he fell from the saddle like one dead. The wife tried to wake him and said, "Did not our sisters warn us against sleeping in the way?" But he did not hear her words.
In the meantime, while she was busy over him, nudging him, and pulling him up, a big Eagle-Man with two heads came, and shouted, "I have been making suit for her since her earliest years." The Eagle-Man caught her by her tresses and threw her upon his back. Then he flew off, and carried
her along. After a while the man awoke, and his wife was nowhere to be seen. He cried from grief, and then looked around. No trace was left upon the snow, he saw only their own tracks made when they were coming to that place.
The three storks arrived. The youngest one said, "Did we not tell you not to go to sleep? Now what is to be done? The giant Eagle-Man is the mightiest of all creatures. They flew away in pursuit of the Eagle-Man. The young man followed behind on foot. After a while they overtook the Eagle. He was flying on, carrying the woman. Then the two elder storks told the youngest one, "Why, sister, we can do nothing. You alone must try your skill and good luck. All we can do is to aid your efforts." "I will try," said the youngest stork. She flew straight upwards, and vanished from sight. Then she fell straight down upon the Eagle, and snatched the young woman from his talons; and he still flew onward, noticing nothing at all. The youngest stork put the young woman upon her back and carried her back to her husband. They prepared for the journey again. The youngest stork said, "Now, you must go home. Nothing evil will befall you. You shall live there in wealth and good health. Children shall be born unto you every year. Take our blessing and go away." They went on, and came to their country. There they saw that the silver Lamut tent was standing in their own place. They entered. They lived happily and quietly.
Told by Innocent Karyakin, a Tundra Yukaghir man, on the western tundra of the Kolyma country, winter of 1895.
21:1 See p. 124.
22:1 The Lamut cover their tents with well curried reindeer skin. The Tundra Yukaghir use partly birchbark, partly reindeer skin clipped short and well smoked, bought chiefly from the Chukchee.