Some Lamut were living in three tents. One of them had two sons. They had set their deadfalls at distant places: so the father sent his sons to visit these traps. They came to the traps and walked along all day. They stopped for the night at the farthest traps. Then the elder brother said to the younger one, "Oh, I wish we could find here some girl to be our assistant! It is tedious work to cut firewood and cook food. Have we not enough to do with the traps?"--"Do not say so!" said the younger brother. "Why do you wish for a girl? We are in the wilderness. If anybody comes, it will be some monster or spirit." The first brother replied, "Be it who it may, I should like to have a girl for an assistant." In the middle of the night a girl came, handsome, like the sunrise. The older brother took her for his wife. When day was coming, she went away, but the next evening she came again. They lived in this manner.
A week passed. Then the younger brother said in the morning, "How long shall we remain here? Our father and mother must be anxious on our behalf." But the other one refused to listen. He said, "You may go home, but I shall stay here." The younger brother went home on his snowshoes, and told his parents what had happened. His father called together several neighbors, all men, and they went to bring the young man. He refused to come and cried for vexation; but they bound him hand and foot, tied him to a reindeer-sledge, and took him home. The father said, "Now, I shall stay and see who lived with him,--a human being or some impure creature." So he remained there for a night., made a fire, and waited. After sunset the girl came. When she saw that another man was in the house, she wailed aloud, and went back into the heart of the woods. She was wailing all the way back, till at last her voice died out. Next morning the father followed in her tracks. He came to a small river, which he followed upstream. At last he found on the bank an ancient wooden grave-box. The tracks of the girl led to that grave-box, and then vanished. The old man opened the box and saw a skeleton. The bones held together only by the dry sinew.
[paragraph continues] He cut the skeleton, disjointed all the bones, and laid them down in four separate places. 1
After that the young man began to droop and pine and suffer. When walking, he would even stumble over the grass. When near to death, he said, "As you have done to my love, so do also to me." So they took his body to the grave-box, gathered the bones of the girl together, and laid him by their side. After that they left the country and went far off. The end.
Told by Katherine Rumiantzev, a Russianized Yukaghir woman, at the village of Pokhotsk in the lower Kolyma country, summer of 1896.
73:1 Grave-boxes made of wood were used by the Yukaghir. They are met with in the country of the Kolyma, chiefly in deep woods, on the banks of some lonesome little river, as described in the tale. This tale expresses the superstitious fear of the ancient grave-boxes common to all the peoples of the country, the remainder of the Yukaghir included.