There lived an old woman who had neither son nor daughter. One time after cooking her supper, she climbed to the roof of her house to stop up the chimney hole. Then she heard from within a small child's voice. She was much frightened, but still she descended hastily and ran into the house. An infant boy was lying on the floor. She swathed him in swaddling clothes, and prepared food for him. She fed him on blood soup and minced meat, and he grew from year to year. She gave him the name Alder-Block. He was an excellent carpenter, and made excellent canoes of boards and of hollowed tree trunks. One time he said to his foster mother, "Mother, give me permission to leave. I want to visit all the wonders of earth and sea." The woman said, "How can that be? And who will then procure food for me? You are almost full-grown. All my hope lies in you." Nevertheless, he left in the night time and went away along across the sea. He traveled and traveled, and at last he saw an island. On the island there stood a house. In it lived the witch, Yagha. 2 She had three daughters, one Five-Eyes Girl; another, Six-Eyes Girl; and the third, Eight-Eyes Girl. She herself had ten eyes. The witch Yagha saw the canoe, and said to her daughters, "Here, girls! get ready! a small reindeer is coming from the sea. Do try and lure it hither." The eldest daughter cooked flour-cakes. She filled a birchbark vessel as big as a man with them, and put it on the shore as a decoy. She hid herself near by in order to catch the boy as soon as he should land. The boy saw the birchbark vessel full of cakes. He came close to the shore, and said aloud, "First eye, fall asleep! second eye, fall asleep! third eye, fall asleep! fourth eye, fall asleep! fifth eye, fall asleep!" The girl fell asleep. He emptied the birchbark vessel into his canoe. He threw the vessel into the water, approached the girl, and, taking off his breeches, he defecated upon her head. After that he struck her back with the paddle, and broke her back. That done, he
paddled away across the sea, back to his mother. So he brought to his mother all those cakes. She was much astonished. She asked him, "O child, Alder-Block Boy! where did you get all these cakes?"--"At such and such a place." The boy told her everything. The old woman was very much scared. "Now," she said, "I will not let you go even one step from my side. The witch Yagha will devour you." That very night, as soon as the old woman had fallen asleep, Alder-Block descended toward the water, boarded his canoe, and set off again. The girls saw him, as before. They prepared a vessel with cakes, and put it out on the shore. The second sister hid nearby, ready to catch him. He paddled to the shore, and called out aloud, "First eye, fall asleep! second eye, fall asleep! third eye, fall asleep! and fourth and fifth and sixth eye fall asleep!" Again, the girl fell asleep. He emptied the vessel into his canoe. Then he defecated upon the girl, and broke her back with a blow of his paddle. Then he paddled back across the sea with his booty. The girl, however, came to, and crawled to her mother. The mother sprinkled her with the water of life and youth, and the girl became as sound as before.
The boy's mother took the cakes, but she reproached him. "O, child, you go away secretly in the night time. I shall lose you and shall not know where to find you. The witch Yagha will devour you. Do stop these awful doings!" The very same night the boy went again. This time the youngest daughter tried to catch him. She also put upon the shore a vessel full of cakes, and hid near by. He paddled shoreward, and counted aloud, "First eye, fall asleep! second eye, fall asleep! third eye, fall asleep! Fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh and eighth, do fall asleep!" He took the cakes and defecated upon the girl. Then he struck her with the paddle upon the back and paddled away. The girl could hardly crawl back to her mother. The next day he came again. This time it was Yaghishna herself who tried to catch him. She put the vessel upon the shore and hid near by. He counted aloud, "First eye, fall asleep! second eye, fall asleep! third and fourth, fall asleep! fifth and sixth and seventh, do fall asleep! eighth and ninth, do fall asleep!" but he forgot the tenth eye. He took the vessel and emptied it into his canoe, but the witch did not stir. He took off his breeches and wanted to defecate upon her; then she caught him by the breeches and carried him. home. "There you, dogs, you could not catch this small reindeer, but I have caught him." They had an oven dug in the ground. The Yaghishna said, "I will call my brother; meanwhile cook this reindeer for our meal. When brother and I come back, we will have a meal of him." 1 She set off. The eldest daughter brought an iron shovel,
and said to the boy, "Well, Alder-Block, sit down on the shovel." He spread his legs and stretched his arms. She tried to put him down into the oven, but could not do it. "Why," said she, "Alder-Block, you hold your body too clumsily. Sit down on the shovel, then draw up your legs and keep your arms together."--"How together? I do not know how. You had better show me how."--"Look here, you booby!" She took a seat on the shovel and held her body quite close. So he thrust her into the oven, snatched the shovel back, and shut the oven door. In this way he killed the eldest daughter of Yaghishna. The second daughter came and asked him, "Oh, Alder-Block, what makes it smell so strong here of something singed?"--"It does indeed," said Alder-Block, "Your sister singed a leg of mine, and also an arm, but in the end took pity on me and allowed me to live."--"I will show you what pity is. Sit down on the shovel, go your way down into the oven." He spread his legs and stretched his arms just as before. By no means could she thrust him down the oven. "Oh, there! Alder-Block, you hold yourself quite in a wrong way. Draw up your legs and keep your arms together."--"How together? I do not know how." "Even so, you booby!" She sat down on the shovel and drew up her legs. He immediately thrust her down into the oven and shut the oven door. There she was roasted. The third one came too, the youngest one. "You, there, Alder-Block! why does it smell so here of something singed?"--"Yes, it does," said Alder-Block. "Your second sister singed a leg of mine, and then also an arm. Then she took pity on me and let me live."--"Oh, I will teach you what pity is! Sit down on the shovel, go your way down into the oven." He spread his legs and stretched his arms. She could not thrust him in. "Oh, there, Alder-Block! You do not hold yourself right. You must draw up your legs and keep your arms together."--"I do not know how. You must show me how." She sat down on the shovel, and he thrust her into the oven. After a while all three were done just right. He took them out of the oven, and drew them up to the ground. Then he prepared the meal, cut the meat, and laid it out on dishes and in troughs. All these he arranged on a large table. He put the table near the large bed of Yaghishna, where she usually took her meals and concealed all three heads under the bed near her seat. He hid himself behind the chimney and waited for Yaghishna. After a while she came back. She was driving the mortar, urging it with a pestle, and effacing the traces of the sledge with a big broom. 1 She had not found her brother at home. So she came all alone. She entered the house, and saw the food all ready for a meal: so she felt gratified, and exclaimed, "See there! my daughters have prepared the meal, and they themselves are gone, perhaps for a little walk." She
took a seat near the table and tried to eat, but the first mouthful stuck in her throat. "Oh, oh, oh!" said the witch, "what is the matter? Why does even the first mouthful stick so in my throat? Is it possible that Alder-Block is a kinsman of mine?" She took another morsel, but could not swallow it at all. She spat it out, and looked down under the bed, and there were the three heads of her daughters. She clapped her hands and wailed aloud, "Ah, you hound, Alder-Block! You have eaten all my daughters, and none has stuck in your throat." She looked around, and found the boy behind the chimney. "Ah, ah, now I have you." She caught him by the nape of the neck and hurled him across the room and back again. After a few kicks and pushes, he felt nearly dead. Then he called aloud, "O, granny! that is enough. I want to ease myself before I die."--"Go, then, and ease yourself." He ran to her storehouse. She had there two wells,--one full of water of life and youth, the other full of water of death. He drank his fill of the water of life and youth, then he changed the places of both wells. After that he came back. He caught Yaghishna and threw her across the room and back again. After a few kicks, she felt very feeble, and asked of him, "O, Alder-Block! I want to ease myself."--"All right, you may go." She went to the storehouse, and wanted to drink of the water of life and youth, but instead she drank of the water of death. After that she went back, hardly being able to move. As soon as she stepped over the sill, her belly burst, and she dropped down stone dead. The boy gathered all her wealth--the costly furs, dried meat and fish, and all kinds of provisions--and took it to his mother. He also took along the water of life and youth. His mother drank of the water and became quite young, like a fresh berry. He became immensely rich. The end.
Told by Katherine Rumiantzev, a Russianized Yukaghir woman, in the village of Pokhotsk, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1895.
55:1 This tale represents a version of the well-known European story. Several details, however, belong to the native life. The underground oven is a primitive device, although it is not used at present in northeastern Asia, being superseded by the so-called Russian oven, made of bricks or of beaten earth. In more ancient times, the oven dug in the ground may have been used by the natives.--W. B.--E. Cosquin, l. c., vol. 1, 246--F. B.
55:2 witch Yagha (Баба-Яга literally, "(old) woman Yagha") is a she-monster often appearing in Old-Russian folk stories. It is presumed that in the Star mythology the witch Yagha was the personification of winter. Yaghishna is, properly speaking, the name of the daughter of Yagha, formed with the Old-Russian suffix shna, vna. Daughters of Yagha often appear in Russian tales; but their name, Yaghishna, Is known only in the Kolyma stories. And, by the way, those stories confuse the mother and her daughters, and call the witch Yagha also Yaghishna. Yagha, Yaghishna of the Russian tales of northeastern Asia, often appears as a being more like the American Snenek than the Old-Russian Yagha (See, for Instance, No. 9 (p. 133) of the Markova tales).--W. B.
56:1 Bolte und Polívka, l. c., 115.--F. B.
57:1 Details usual in all Russian tales.--W. B.