There was a Lamut man in the country of Chaun who went to East Cape to look for some thong-seal hides. He moved and moved, and so came to the very end of the country. He had with him his wife and also a son, young and active. All around the country was wholly deserted. Not a single trace of man was to be seen anywhere. The young man said, "I will go and look for people." The father retorted, "Do not go! You will lose your way, and in any case you will find nothing."--"No, I shall find them. And I shall even take a wife among them."
He went away on snowshoes, and after a considerable time came to a river wholly unknown to him. There was a large camp there. Several tents were pitched in two clusters. In one of them lived a man who had a single daughter. He entered, and stayed with this family as an adopted son-in-law. One day the father-in-law said to him, "Let us go to the river to catch fish!"
There was on the river a large open place. They set off. The son-in-law was very light of foot. He was the first to reach the open water. Without much ado he cast into the water his fish-line, and immediately felt something heavy on it. So he pulled it up, and there, caught on the hook, was a small child, human in appearance. He was much afraid, and threw the child back into the water. After that he again cast his fish-line back into the water, and in a moment drew out another human child. He threw it back into the water, but in the meantime the other people arrived. "Why are you throwing the fish back into the water?" said the old man angrily. If you do so, you will destroy our fishing luck and the fish is our existence. Everything will be destroyed."--"Oh," said the young man, "but I caught a human child! I was afraid."--"I say, it was no child, it was a fish.
[paragraph continues] You are playing jokes on us. Better go away! I was mistaken when I called you a reliable man. Be off! You are no longer my son-in-law." They cast into the water their own fish lines, and after a while they also caught a small human child. They put it upon a long wooden spit and roasted it, before the fire. Then they sat down and made a meal of it. This done, they went back.
The human son-in-law felt very angry. So he also cast his line and angled for fish. He caught one after another, and all his fish were human. In a short time, he had collected a large heap. He covered them with sticks and stones, and went home late in the evening. "Where have you been the whole day long?" asked the father-in-law quite sternly. "I have been angling."--"Caught anything?"--"I covered a large heap of fish with sticks and stones." The old man was very glad. "Oh, indeed, you are the very son-in-law for me!" The spring was coming. The snow was covered with a hard crust. The old man said, "Let us go on snowshoes to hunt wild reindeer-bucks!" They went out on snowshoes, and came to a forest. The old man said to his son-in-law, "You must hide behind this large tree as we will drive the reindeer towards you, that you may kill them one by one." The young man crouched behind the tree, having his bow ready. The other people drove the reindeer toward him. He saw running past him two giant men, all naked, with long hair that reached to the ground. He was so much frightened, that he did not dare to shoot at them.
The other people came. "Well," asked the old man, "have you killed them?"--"Whom must I kill? Two giant men passed by, both naked, with hair hanging down to the very ground. I did not dare to shoot at them."--"Ah!" said the old man angrily, "they were no men, they were wild reindeer-bucks. You spoil our hunting pursuit. This hunt is our very life. Be off! I was mistaken when I called you a reliable man. Cease being my son-in-law! Be gone from my house and family!"
They went home. The young man was angrier than ever. He ran to the forest and looked for some trace of those human reindeer-bucks. He found tracks and followed them. At last he saw those giant naked men. They were sitting on the ground leaning against the trees, and fast asleep. So he crept toward them and tied their long hair around the tree. Then he crept off and made a large fire on their windward side. They were killed by the smoke.
Late in the evening he came home. "Where have you been the whole day long?"--"I found those reindeer bucks and killed both of them." Oh, they were very glad. Now they had plenty of food, but the son-in-law could not eat it. They slaughtered for him real reindeer. One day his
wife said to him, "They are very angry with you because of those everlasting slaughters. They are going to kill you too. You had better flee to your own country."--"And will you go with me?"--"Yes, I will."--"And what will you eat in our land?"--"I shall eat fish and reindeer meat. I want no more human flesh."
Once when she had to keep watch over the reindeer herd, she crept out of the tent quite naked. She took some new clothing from the large bags outside and put it on. They fled, and came to his father. There they made her walk three times around a new fire, and thus her mind was changed. After that they left that country and moved away. They went back to their own land and lived there.
Told by HIrkán, a Lamut man from the desert of Chaun, in the village of Nishne-Kolymsk, the Kolyma country, winter of 1896.
26:1 These tales were collected among the Lamut living on the upper course of the Omolon River and on its affluents in the Kolyma country, a few also among the Lamut of the Chaun desert met with in the Russian village of Nishne-Kolymsk. They were written down without the original texts.
26:2 The Lamut people living on the river Chaun are a branch of this tribe that has migrated farthest to the northeast. They are composed of stragglers from several clans of the Kolyma country, who came to the Chaun desert for various reasons; therefore, they do not form a separate clan. Their ways of living in the treeless tundra of Chaun, however, are different from those of all other Lamut, and are nearer to the mode of life of the Chukchee, among whom they dwell. They number about thirty or forty families.