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p. 50


A clan of the Tungus lived in three tents. The family in the first tent had two daughters. The elder daughter was married, and the younger lived at home. She was very pretty; and her parents made her sit in her sleeping room all the time, lest any strange eye should behold her beauty. An old woman lived with her, who gave her drink and food, and acted as a nurse. Even her parents rarely visited her. Once in a while in the night time she would go noiselessly to their sleeping room to be caressed by them.

One time when she was sitting alone in her sleeping room the lower edge of the cover was lifted up. No human hand appeared, but the flap of the cover continued to be lifted up, and at last there appeared a bear's muzzle. The girl was so badly frightened that she could not cry. The bear entered the sleeping room as far as his belly, and then caught the girl. He covered her mouth with his huge paw, and carried her off to his lair. It was in the middle of the fall; so he put her into the lair, and went in himself. He stopped up the entrance, as bears do, and they slept. They slept most of the time, but sometimes the girl would wake up and feel hungry. Then she would make known to the bear by signs that she wanted food. He would growl, stretch out one of his paws toward her, and she would suck at the thickest part of it. After she had sucked a while, fat would drip from it. She felt satisfied and went to sleep again. One time, as the days grew longer, the girl was awakened by a heavy weight that was pressing her down. She was unable to resist, and so became the wife of the bear.

At last the warm season came again. The bear left his lair and roamed about, looking for food. Every day he brought back all kinds of game--reindeer, hare, or at least ptarmigan. He never came home without something. He ate the raw meat. She could not eat it. So she prayed to the bear, "O bear! grandfather. 2 You see I cannot eat raw meat. How shall I subsist? Please bring me some fire!" He let forth a growl and set off. For a long time he did not return. Then he brought in his mouth a firebrand. He procured a knife and an ax (goodness knows where he got

p. 51

them!); and, moreover, he brought her large masses of every kind of meat. She made a fire, and roasted the meat on wooden spits. On this she lived all the time.

All the snow had melted off, and patches of last year's berries appeared. She roamed about, picking berries for her own food and also for the bear. Once she heard a human voice. She hurried to the place whence it came. It was the voice of her brother-in-law. He was a great shaman, and since the fall had been looking for her on land and on water, but had found no trace of her. Now she heard his call. She hurried to the spot, pretending, however, to pick berries along the way. He came toward her, and they met, "What is the matter with you?" asked the shaman. "Who caught you and carried you away?" She answered, "A bear carried me away, and made me his wife. He keeps me close to the lair, and does not allow me to wander far away."--"Ah!" said the man, "even now when you go back, he will be very angry, and he will give you a severe thrashing with his heavy paws. Then you must say to him, 'O, grandfather! why do you beat me thus? The berries are getting scarce, and, moreover, I feel a great longing for my parents and family, and this makes me restless.' Be that as it may, you must come again to this place." Then she went back. The bear was very angry. He pawed the ground and threw it about in great lumps. Then he caught the woman and gave her a severe thrashing. The woman said, "O, grandfather! why do you torture me so? The berries are getting scarce, and, besides, a longing for my people overpowers me. I am growing restless, and cannot stay in the same place." The bear ceased beating her. The next morning she awoke and prepared some food for herself. She ate her meal, and then set off, pretending to go berrying. As soon, however, as she was out of sight of the bear, she ran as fast as her legs would carry her to the place where she had met her brother-in-law who was already there expecting her. He said, "You must run on with all your might." He dropped to the ground, and turned into a big bear with a bell on his left ear. He rushed off to meet the other bear. On his departure, he said to her, "Run as fast as you can, but in running try to listen behind you. When the earth begins to tremble and to sway right and left, then know that we have met. Listen to the bell! If it rings with a full sound, then know that I have conquered; but if the sound grows fainter, then it is that he has vanquished me. Know then that you also will not live." She ran off, but tried to listen. At last the ground trembled. The bell was ringing quite loud; but gradually the sound grew fainter and fainter, and then ceased altogether. "Oh," thought the woman, "we are lost!" She ran off in more haste than ever. Then all at once the bell sounded again, stronger and stronger. Her brother-in-law had vanquished the other one

p. 52

and was coming back. She arrived at home, but did not enter neither the sleeping room of her parents nor her own. She entered the sleeping room of her sister who was sleeping. She fell down at her side and lost consciousness. Her brother-in-law arrived soon after her and resumed the form of a man. He awakened his wife and their parents, and they tried to restore the girl. She was very ill, however, and swooned again and again. The bear spirit was tormenting and oppressing her. After three days she came to, and in a few months she gave birth to a boy, who had bear-ears. This boy grew up and became a strong hunter. His name was Bear-Ear. That is all.

Told by Nicholas Kusakoff, a Russian creole in the village of Pokhotsk, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1896.


50:1 Similar tales are met among all the native tribes of these countries.--W. B.

50:2 The Russianized natives of the Kolyma have a very strong superstitious fear of the bear. They never mention its name, but call him "he" or "grandfather." The bear is considered as a mighty shaman, the man of the wood. "He knows everything," say the people. None of them dares to attack a bear, even when the latter comes to the fishing camp and plunders the stores of dried fish and oil. Even the setting of deadfalls for bears Is considered by most people as a sin against the bear. It is curious to notice that among the natives (Yukaghir, Tungus, Chukchee) this kind of superstitious fear and worship, though it also exists, is never felt to such an extent as among the Russian creoles and the Russianized natives.--W. B.

Next: 6. Grass-Blade Girl