There was an old man with his wife. They had one daughter. After some time the old woman died. He married another woman, and also had a daughter by her. The woman hated her stepdaughter and ill-used her in a thousand ways. As soon as the father was gone, the stepmother abused the girl with words and blows. Then she would push her out of the house, unfed and unclad. In the evening, the father would come home, and say, "O daughter! why have you such a tired look? Perhaps my new wife does not act quite fair toward you?"--"No," the daughter would say, "she does nothing wrong to me." Thus she would refuse to complain. They lived in this way, and the young girl suffered much. At last she could
endure it no longer; so when the father came back in the evening, she said, "O father! take me away! I cannot live here any longer. Take me rather to the Unclean Idol." 1 The father said, "Why, my child, if you feel so badly, I will rather stay here and watch over you. Perhaps then life will become more bearable for you." So the next day he did not go hunting, but stayed at home. His wife, however, was so angry with him, that she began to ill-use both him and her stepdaughter. She even beat the latter worse than ever. The old man tried to stop his wife, but she struck him also. Then he said, "O child! you were right, I cannot bear to look upon your distress, and I have no power to help you: rather than have you stay here I will carry you away to the Unclean Idol. He shall eat you all at once, and there will be an end to this sorrow."
In the morning he attached his dogs to his sledge, and said to his daughter, "Now get ready! We will go to the Unclean Idol." His wife was very glad, and helped her stepdaughter get ready to depart. The old man said to the girl, "You must take from the fireplace some ashes and a few coals, and put them into a handkerchief. When you feel hungry, take a kettle and put into it some of these ashes and coals. This will serve you as food." So they went away and drove for a long time. They came to the house of the Unclean Idol. He was not at home. So the father said, "O child! I will go back and you must stay here and wait for the house master." He went away. The daughter stayed there, full of sorrow. Evening came, and she felt hungry: she took a kettle and put into it some ashes and coals. She put the kettle near the fire. After some time she looked into it, and it was full to the brim of cooked fat and meat. She put the food into a bowl of birch wood, on a shelf she found a horn spoon and went to eat. All at once a board of the flooring was lifted up, and from there appeared a great number of mice and toads, ermines, and all kinds of small vermin. They piped, "We are children of the Unclean Idol. Our father has not come back for several days, and we feel hungry. Give us some food too from your birch bowl with your horn spoon! We know those things very well. They are of our own house." So she fed the whole pack, giving to one a spoonful, and to another half a spoonful, and in the end nothing was left for herself. The vermin had enough, and went back under the flooring, and the girl lay down to sleep quite hungry.
Early in the morning there was heard a great noise and clatter. The Unclean Idol came flying with his broad paper wings, alighted, and entered
the house. "Oh, oh, oh! We heard nothing, we saw nothing, the little Russian bone came to the house of its own free will." All at once a board was lifted, as before, and his vermin children spurted out in all directions; and they piped, "O father! do not do her any harm! She treated us kindly, and gave us food to eat. You must reward her for this. Otherwise, we might have died of starvation." "Ah!" said the Unclean Idol, "she is clever." He brought a sable overcoat and a bagful of silver money. "This is my present to you. When your father comes again, you may take this and go home with him." He stayed for a while and departed again. In the meantime her father felt very sorry about her, and at last said to himself, "Let me go, at least, and have a look at the little bones of my dear daughter." So he set off, and came to that house. The Unclean Idol was not there. He entered the house, and his daughter was sitting there quite ready to depart. She was clad in a sable overcoat and had in her hand a bagful of silver money. She said, "O father! let us go back to our house!" They set off. The stepmother waited for them at home. Her small bitch, however, also waited near the entrance, and then she began to bark: "Bow-wow! the old man is coming, and he is bringing his daughter and her money is rattling in the bag." The woman struck the dog with a stick, and ordered, "You little fool! you had better say, 'The old man is coming and is bringing his daughter, and her bones are rattling in the bag.'" But the dog was quite firm. She would cease for a little while, but as soon as the woman stepped away, she would bark louder than before: "Bow-wow! the old man is coming; he is bringing his daughter, and her money is rattling in the bag." At last the old man came to the house, and the woman saw the sable coat and the money of her stepdaughter. She looked on with much envy, and then said to the old man, "Now, you must take my own daughter also, and carry her to the Unclean Idol's house. Let him give her too similar presents." He took the daughter of his second wife and carried her over to the Idol's house. He left her there and returned home. Evening came. She felt hungry: so she put some ashes and coals into the kettle, and put it near the fire. In due time the kettle was full to the brim with cooked fat and meat. As soon as she was about to eat, a board of the flooring was lifted up; and the vermin children of the Unclean Idol appeared from there, more numerous than ever. She grew very angry; and struck at them in all directions. She even broke the legs and arms and backs of several. So they scurried back, piping and crying. In the morning, the Unclean Idol came home. He asked the animals, "Well, now, children, and this one, how did she act toward you?"--"Ah! she beat us mercilessly. Our legs, arms, and backs are dislocated or broken. All of us are suffering." The Unclean Idol grew angry. He caught the girl and tore her in two. Then he swallowed
both parts, and vomited the bones into the corner. After a while her mother said to the old man, "Now, go and bring my daughter back. Take care lest you leave behind any of her presents." The old man went to the house of the Unclean Idol who was not at home when he arrived. He opened the entrance, but the girl was not to be seen. Only some bones were heaped in the corner. He looked at them, and recognized them as the remnants of his daughter. So he put them into a bag and started home. Her mother waited on them with great impatience; but the little bitch barked again: "Bow-wow! the old man is coming back, and the girl's bones are rattling in the bag!" "Ah, you little fool! rather say 'The girl's money is rattling in the bag.'" The old man came. She rushed out and caught the bag. It was filled with bones. "Ah, ah! where is my little girl?" "I found only her bones, so I brought them home." The woman wailed aloud, but it was too late. The end.
Taken down by Innocent Beresken, a cossack of Kolyma from the words of a Russian creole woman, Mary Beresken, in the village "Crosses" ("Кресты") in the Kolyma country, winter of 1895--W. B.
83:2 This is a version of the well-known Russian tale, but with some details of local life.--W. B.
84:1 "Unclean Idol" (Russian идолъ поганый) is usually applied in Russian stories to representations of heathenism. The word поганый (unclean) is derived from the Latin paganis ("pagan"). Here, however, it is simply a monster.--W. B.--See Bolte und Polívka, l. c., vol. 1, 207--F. B.