There lived a family. They had three daughters and no sons. After some time the father and the mother died. The girls remained alone. They hunted game and caught fish, and in the summer time picked berries and gathered roots. They never knew a man. One time the eldest sister staved at home. The other two went berrying. They came home. The youngest wanted to be petted: so she dropped into the other sister's lap, and said, "O, my sister! I am so very hungry! Give me something to eat." The eldest sister, standing by, said, "Why, then go to the storehouse, and pick out a piece of the very best dried fish. That is the food for you." Then she laughed. The youngest sister looked up at her, and saw pieces of raw meat sticking out all around between her teeth. She felt frightened, and whispered to her second sister, "Why, sister, look about! all our stores of dried meat, reindeer, and elk, are gone! and why are the teeth of our eldest sister filled with pieces of meat?" The second sister refused to believe it; and, still, she also was afraid to look up, lest she should see those horrible teeth. After a few days the two younger sisters went for a visit to the graves of their parents. They invited the eldest one to go with them, but she refused. They arrived at the graves, and found that they had been dug open. The body of the father had been eaten up, and of the body of the mother only a part was left. This was the doing of their eldest sister. They sorrowed and cried aloud. Then they went back, and on the way they talked to each other. "O, sister! we cannot go home. She will finish eating our mother, then she will come for us. Let us rather leave in time! Let us run to the open country, or let us flee across the blue sea!" Just
then they saw on high a flock of wild geese flying. They shouted upward to the geese, "O geese! drop down to us a feather apiece!" The geese, ever so many, dropped down for them a feather apiece. The girls gathered the feathers and stuck them between their fingers. Then they flew up, and followed the geese. The youngest sister said to the second one, "O sister dear! she will doubtless pursue us. Take care, though, if she should call to you, and shout, and ask for an answer, not to take any heed! and especially do not look back at her."
Then the eldest sister actually went in pursuit. They flew on high, she ran below on the ground, and cried out, "O sisters dear! why have you forsaken me? Have we not been nursed at the same mother's breast? Have we not been begotten in the same mother's womb? And now you leave me behind! How shall I live alone, without your company?" The second sister was moved with compassion: so she looked back and down. In a moment the She-Monster opened her mouth, and the girl fell directly into it. The She-Monster swallowed her without chewing. The youngest sister flew on, and did not look back, notwithstanding all her cries and entreaties. She flew onward; the eldest sister ran in pursuit. At last the She-Monster gave up, and at the last only shouted, "This time you do not want to look at me! But later you will be married, and you will have a boy and a girl. The girl will sit on an earth bench, 1 and she will play with her little scissors; and the boy will play with his bow and arrows. Then I shall come to you." The other one flew on. At last she saw a small house, standing all alone. She sat down near the chimney-hole, and looked down through the chimney. A young man was sitting near the fireplace, feathering his arrows. He did this for some time. Then he was lacking a white feather for the last arrow. So he said, "Oh, I wish I had one more feather!" In a moment she tore away one of her feathers and let it drop through the chimney. He caught it, and looked up, but no one was there. So he finished the arrow, and brought some more arrows and feathers, and resumed the feathering. After a while he was again lacking one feather for the last arrow. This time it was a black feather. "Oh," said he, "I wish I had one more feather." And immediately she let drop a black feather. After that she dropped a third feather. Then he said, "Who are you? If you are really human, come down and let me look at you, and if you are an evil spirit, then remain invisible." She took off her feathers and turned into her former self. Then she descended into the house. He took her for a wife.
They lived together for a long time, and she brought forth, first a boy, then a girl. The husband went out every day to go in search of game.
[paragraph continues] The children were growing up. One spring day they were playing on the earth bench in front of the house. Then suddenly appeared her eldest sister, the She-Monster. She hugged the children and kissed them. In doing this she bit off the upper lip of the boy and the under lip of the girl. They shrieked, and ran to their mother. Their faces were covered with blood. O, she became so frightened! "Who has been treating you like this? Or perhaps you have been fighting with others?"--"Oh, no! It was our aunt, who kissed us." Then the eldest sister entered. They did not even salute each other. Then the human sister wanted to go out. "Do not do that," said the Monster. "But I want to ease myself."--"All right! but make the utmost haste. Hardly step out of the house before you are back again." She sat down near the fireplace and waited for her. The human sister went out of the house, and the boy slipped out after her. They ran to one of their storehouses. Standing there was an old wooden box. They squeezed themselves into this box. Then the woman said, "O, wooden box! henceforth be an iron storehouse standing high upon twelve iron supports." The wooden box turned into an iron storehouse with twelve supports, and they were safe within. The boy called for his father, and she called for her husband. The eldest sister went out and saw the girl: so she caught her and swallowed her. Merely the feet stuck out from her mouth. After a while, she spit out her small bones. She came to the iron storehouse and gnawed at the supports, and splinters of iron flew in all directions. Then the iron storehouse rocked to and fro, with only three supports left. All of a sudden the man came up. He struck the She-Monster with his sword and killed her. He chopped her into small pieces and burned her in the fire. She was burning, and every kind of worms and vermin crawled out of her body. He gathered them all, scraped them up with a shovel, and thrust them back into the fire. At last her body was destroyed, and he threw the ashes to all four winds. The remaining bones he threw into the sea. Then they went to another country. They lived there.
Told by Katherine Rumiantzev, a Russianized Yukaghir woman, in the village of Pokhotsk, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
68:1 The Russian log cabin and the Yakut hut are surrounded by a low earth wall up to the window-sills. This wall serves also as a bench.--W. B.