There once lived an old man and his wife. They had an only son. They lived together for a long time. One day the old man came home from the woods and said to his wife, "O wife! I am going to die tomorrow morning. Here in the neighborhood is a small abandoned hut. Put my body there; and take with it a kettle and an ax, a strike-a-light, and some food." The next morning the old man was as if dead. The old woman cried over him; then she put his body, with everything required, upon a sledge, and hauled it to the funeral place. The boy went along, and helped his mother haul it. On the way they came to a brook. The old woman pulled across it with all her might, and at last broke wind. The old man giggled. The boy noticed it, and said, "There, mother, father is laughing!" The old woman grew
very angry and struck the boy. "He is dead. How could he laugh?" They continued hauling the sledge, and after a while they came to another brook. Again the old woman pulled with great force and broke wind. The old man giggled again; and the boy said, "See here! father is laughing." She struck him again. "Why, you liar! our father is dead." They came to the abandoned hut, and put the old man inside. They shut the door and went away. After a few days the boy passed by the house, and he saw smoke ascending from the chimney-hole. He ran to his mother. "Mother, come! There is smoke over that hut." She went, and saw the smoke. Then she approached with great caution and looked in. The old man was making a fire. He was cooking some fat meat over the fire. Before he feigned death he had killed a big fat elk, and had hidden it in the hut; and he now was eating it all alone. The old woman went home and said to the boy, "Go and set some snares for ptarmigan. I want some ptarmigan." The boy set his snares and caught a ptarmigan and brought it to his mother alive. The old woman took the ptarmigan and plucked it well, leaving only the wings. Then she spoke to the ptarmigan as follows: "O ptarmigan! you have wings, and your talons are sharp and pointed. Now fly off to my old man, enter his hut through the chimney hole, and scratch his body with your sharp talons. Draw blood from his body with your talons." The ptarmigan flew to the hut, and dropped into it through the chimney hole. It attacked the old man and lacerated his body with its sharp talons. The old man was much frightened. He left the hut and ran home to his old woman. He came to the house, but the door was shut tight. He said in the Yukaghir language, 1 "Oh, there, old woman! Open the door!"--"Why should I open it? You are not my old man. My old man is dead."--"No," said he, "I am really your old man."--"How can that be? From which world, then, did you come,--from this one, or from the other one?"--"So help me God! I am really your old man." She opened the door and then snatched the poker and beat him on the head. "Mind you do not eat alone without your old woman!" The old woman swore that he should never do that again. He brought home the elk carcass, and they continued to live together. That is all.
Told by Katherine Rumiantzev, a Russianized Yukaghir woman, in the village of Pokhotsk, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
48:1 Compare various versions of this well-known tale about Raven feigning death: Bogoras "Materials for the Study of the Chukchee Language and Folk-Lore collected in the Kolyma District" (Edition of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, part I. St. Petersburg, 1900), 403; Jochelson, "The Koryak" (Publications, Jesup North Pacific Expedition, vol. 8), 326 (a Kamchadal story collected by W. Bogoras); etc.--W. B.
49:1 Probably in an earlier version of this story the following words were really told in the Yukaghir language.--W. B.