There was a village on the seashore which had ten or fifteen houses. One of the inhabitants had a lazy son. The father could not induce him to bring water from the river or to fetch fuel from the woods. All he did was to walk along the seashore, singing songs. There was no end of his songs. One day he left the village, and walked so far that he lost sight of the houses. He strolled on, singing lustily. All of a sudden, he saw a canoe of iron moving across the sea directly towards him. He stopped and waited for it. A young, pretty girl was seated in the canoe. She had in her hands a large double paddle, also of iron, but she did not paddle at all. Nevertheless, the canoe moved on, cutting the water like a living thing. It came to the shore. The girl extended the iron blade toward the man, and said to him "Here, young man! put your pretty head upon the iron blade. I want to louse you with my gentle fingers."--"No," said he, "I have no lice, and so I do not want to do as you request."--"Ah! at least lay your pretty cheek upon this iron blade. I want to admire your gentle beauty." He felt flattered, and stooped down toward the iron blade. All at once his face stuck firmly to the iron. She drew the paddle back, and pulled him down along with it into the canoe. Immediately the canoe moved off across the sea, going back the way it had come. He prayed to the girl, "Oh, please, let me go! I want to go back to my father and mother, or at least to bid them farewell."--"No," said the girl, "I shall not let you go. In former times, whenever your parents sent you for water and for wood, or tried to urge you to go hunting, you were too indolent to follow their advice: now I shall hunt for you and fetch everything. You shall stay at home and be my husband." He cried aloud, and asked her to let him go; but she refused. They crossed the sea and went to another country. They arrived at a large house on the shore. It had three sets of drying poles, all well filled with human flesh, heads, and whole arms with heads, and legs with feet. He cried still louder than before, and refused to enter. She called to him; but he went away along the seashore, down the village, from house to house. The last house of all was small, a mere hut. A small old man lived in it, quite lean and bowed down. His head was white, like that of a polar hare. The old man addressed him, and said, "O, young man! are you also a human being, as I am? If you are, why did you come here? The people who live here are man-eaters. They feed on human flesh, and they even tried to induce me to do the same; but I refused. Therefore I am so lean, that they
will not even eat me." The old man continued, "This young woman is the worst of all. She feeds on her husbands after their bridal night. Bear this in mind: After supper you will go to sleep and she will try to induce you to lie down next to the wall, while she herself will take her place on the outer side. You must be firm and take the place on the outer side. Even though she should ask you with fair words, and abuse you with bad words, and push you and crawl over you, be firm and hold your place! If you succeed in keeping it, you will live; if not, you will perish, and I shall perish along with you. Then you will copulate. She will try to tire you out and put you to sleep; but you must be stronger than she, and tire her, in your turn, and make her sleep. Then you will know what to do to her. Now go home! It is growing late. She is looking for you, and she may come here also. Rather go of your own will. She will give you human flesh to eat. Be sure not to swallow even a single morsel. Try to hide the meat in your clothes or on your body. Otherwise you will also turn into a man-eater, and will never get back to your native place."
The young man went back to the house of his cannibal bride. She cooked plenty of fat human meat, and gave some to her father and mother to eat. Then she invited her husband to sit down to the meal. He took one morsel after another; but he ate none, and hid every one of them in the bosom of his coat. After the meal they prepared to lie down. Then began their struggle for places. Neither wanted to lie nearest the wall. They crept over each other; the girl scratched him in doing so, and he paid her in kisses. Still each time he returned to the outer side. At last she was conquered by his kisses, and let him stay. After. that they copulated; and he proved so strong and untiring that he exhausted all her strength and made her sleep. As soon as she began to snore, he lifted his head and groped gently in the darkness beneath the pillow. He found just beneath the pillow, at the outer side, which the woman wanted for herself, two iron instruments,--a long awl and a very sharp and narrow knife. She used these to kill the men in their sleep. He took both, and pointed the knife straight at her heart, and the awl at her anus. Then he exclaimed, "Iron to iron," and both entered and met within her body. Iron scratched iron. The woman died instantly. He cut off her head, took a long narrow bag filled with odd shreds of skins and pieces of clothing, put this bag under the coverlet, and then placed the head on it. He tucked the cover in all around; then he made a fire, and cooked the flesh of the woman for the breakfast meal. When it was done, he cut it up carefully and laid it in a dish in good order. He skimmed off the fat from the soup, and put it in a cup close to the dish. This breakfast he carried off to the sleeping room of the old people. Then he crept out, and hurried to the shore. There on the sand lay two
canoes, one of iron, and the other of wood. He took the iron awl and pierced the wooden canoe in twenty places. Then he called the old man who had given him advice, and bade him go aboard the iron canoe. He himself followed, and said to the iron canoe, "O, canoe of iron! go to the place from which you brought us!" And the canoe rushed across the sea, going to the shore inhabited by human kind.
The old people heard him get up and work; but they thought it was their daughter, because she was wont to kill her husbands in the night time and to cook their flesh in the morning for breakfast, so they dozed again most quietly. Finally, when they awoke, they saw their breakfast close by, quite ready and waiting for them. "Ah, ah!" said the old woman, "our gentle child has made everything ready, but where is she? Why does she not come to eat with us? Go, man, and look into her sleeping room." He looked there and came back. "She is sleeping," said he. "The night must have been quite tiresome." So they took their meal. The old woman took one morsel, but she could not swallow it. "Ah, old man! I cannot eat alone. It is perhaps because our daughter does not eat with us. I am sure she is hungry. Please go and waken her! Let her eat, and then go to sleep again!" So he went once more to the sleeping room and to their daughter's bed. "Get up, child!" said he merrily and tugged at the coverlet. The head fell off the bed and rolled to the door.
It opened the door and rolled down the slope toward the sea. It rushed into the sea and rolled on over the billows in pursuit of the fugitives. The old people also hurried down to the sea. "Ah!" they shouted, "where is he? We will catch him, and swallow him alive." But the iron canoe was gone, so they took the wooden one and set off in it. After a while it filled with water. "Why," said the old man, "you old one! cease passing water!"--"No," said his wife, "it is you who are passing water." They quarrelled for some time and then sank to the bottom of the sea.
The two fugitives arrived safely at their own place. The woman's head followed behind; but, on coming to the shore it turned into a big round boulder, which is there even now, and is called "Woman's Head." The canoe is also there; turned to stone. The double paddle is broken in two. Whoever passes by must give a sacrifice to the owner of the place, then he will be successful in love-suit not matrimonial. 1 The end.
Told by Nicholas Rupatcheff, a Russianized Yukaghir man, in the village of Sukharnoye, the Kolyma country, winter of 1896.
99:1 The stone canoe and the woman's head are said to lie on the Arctic shore somewhere near the mouth of the Baranikha River, east of the Kolyma River, in a part of the country at present uninhabited. The natives say that in former times, before the coming of the Russians, a considerable village stood here, but at present there are no visible traces of it.--W. B.