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Book No. 39

To first story in the book press: 1937

To last story in the book press: 1995

Chukchee Mythology

Bogoras Waldemar

Chukchee Mythology, Waldemar Bogoras, Leiden & New York, 1910

The Jessup North Pacific Expedition

Edited by FRANZ BOAS


Memoir of the American Museum


Natural History



Volume VIII



[Leiden & New York, 1910]

{Reduced to HTML by Christopher M. Weimer, Oct. 2003}




The following series of texts was recorded by me during the years 1900 and 1901 in various villages on the Pacific Coast of the Chukchee Peninsula, between Mariinsky Post and Uñi´sak. A number of tales are here given with interlinear translation and free translation. The attempt has been made to render the texts as accurately as possible, but it has been found necessary to omit in the translations many of the conjuctions and interjections which are quite numerous in Chukchee and which often appear in extended groups.

Most of the tales have no native names. For these, titles indicating the contents have been added. All such titles are placed in parentheses. Only a few tales are named, like "The Raven-Tale," "The Polygamist-Tale" and others. Words added in the translations for the sake of clearness are placed in parentheses. Literal translation of Chukchee words or phrases are enclosed in brackets.

 The following alphabet has been used for transcribing Chukchee sounds: –


ei ê ä ɵ

i e a o u

ị ẹ ạ ŭ

a, e, i, u have their continental sounds (always long).

o like o in nor.

ä obscure vowel (long).

ạ, ẹ, ị obscure vowels (short).

ê like e in bell, but prolonged.

ei a diphtong with an accent on i. It always has a laryngeal intonation, eiɛ.

ɵ between o and u, long.

ŭ posterior part of mouth in i position, lips in u position (short).

Very long and very short vowels are indicated by the macron and breve respectively.

The diphthongs are formed by combining any of the vowels with i and u. Thus:

ai like i in hide.

ei like ei in vein.

oi like oi in choice.

au like ow in how.


Glottal ɛ

Velar ġ h q

Palatal k ñ

Alveolar d• ǰ• t• č• s• n•

ǰ č ř

d t s n r

Labial b p m v

Lateral ḷ ʟ l

w y

l as in German.

ʟ posterior palatal l, surd and exploded, the tip of the tongue touching the alveoli of the upper jaw, and the back of the tongue pressed against the hard palate.

ḷ posterior palatal l, like ʟ, but sonant.

r as in French.

ř dental with slight trill.

m, n as in English.

n• palatized n (almost like ny with consonantic y).

ñ nasal consonant, with k position of tongue.

b, p as in English.

v bilabial.

ɛ a glottal stop.

ġ velar g.

h as in English (used after č, t, l).

k as in English.

q velar k.

d, t as in English.

d•, t• palatized (similar to dy and ty with consonantic y).

s as in English.

s• palatized (similar to sy with consonantic y).

č like English ch.

ǰ like English j in joy.

č• strongly palatized č, intermediate between t• and č, but weaker than either.

ǰ• strongly palatized ǰ.

y, w always consonantic.

The following additional symbols have been used: – 

! designates increased stress of articulation of the preceding consonant.

’ designates a full pause between two vowels: yiñe’a.

- is used to connect parts of compound words.

wkw (before and after u, – kw) is pronounced as a compound sound. The lips are placed in u position, while k is formed by the back of the tongue.

In a similar way ġu and ġo are often pronounced with a faint w sound between consonant and vowel.

ị terminal and unaccented is often pronounced with a slight nasal sound. 

In a few cases w in the beginning of the word is also pronounced with a nasal sound. No additional signs have been used to indicate the nasal character of these sounds.

 i (consonantic y) between vowels is generally omitted or pronounced very faintly.

 yị when preceded by the vowels e and i almost always loses its consonantic character and becomes i. For instance: ġei´lqäʟin instead of ġe-yị´lqäʟin.

The terminal sound is often modified by the initial sound of the following word, according to certain phonetic rules. These will be given in a discussion of the Chukchee grammar. Owing to the slowness of speech necessary for writing from dictation many such changes have disappeared in the texts as taken down by me. I have thought it advisable to leave these cases uncorrected. I have written for instance correctly: u´ñer reluɛ´ñịtkị, instead of u´ñel reluɛ´ñịtkị, in accordance with the rule that terminal l before r changes to r. But in another case I have left mê´mịl ra´nmŭġnên.

In contrast to the Koryak, the Chukchee language has hardly any dialects to speak of. This is probably due to the mobility of the tribe and to the frequent intermarriages between the Reindeer and Maritime branches of the tribe. Among the Koryak such intermarriages are quite rare. There exist some differences in the vocabularies of the Kolyma and Pacific coast regions. Several words that are used on the Pacific coast, – particularly south of the Anadyr River, – are found also in the Koryak language. The Reindeer people of the Kolyma know their meaning, but usually employ other words, which are in turn known, though not commonly used, on the Pacific coast. The people of the Arctic villages speak faster and harsher than the Reindeer Chukchee of the inland.

The pronunciation of women differs from that of the men. They use in most cases instead of č an s•, and instead of r (particularly after soft vowels) š. They also use instead of rk and čh the double šš. Contracted forms of words are never used by women. Men, for instance, say nịtva´qenat, or nịtva´qaat. Women say only nịtva´qênat. The sounds č and r are of frequent occurrence in Chukchee, so that the female speech with its recurrent š sounds quite peculiar, and is not easily understood by an inexperienced ear.

The women are not by any means unable to pronounce č and r like men; and in tales, when quoting a man's words they use the male pronunciation. But in ordinary conversation the male pronunciation is considered as unbecoming a woman.

Specimens of female pronunciation will be found in a few songs of the Reindeer Chukchee of the Kolyma, all of which belong to women.

A few songs, proverbs and word games ("fast speeches"), taken down among the Reindeer Chukchee of the Kolyma[1] have been incorporated in this collection. These songs are not mere improvisations, like most of the songs of the Reindeer Chukchee, since I heard some of the words repeated many times without change.

Proverbs are quite few and undeveloped. I am not sure even that these phrases are proverbs in the strict sense of the term, though they are fairly generally known and used in stereotyped form. Word games are in use among children, just as those of Europe. Those given here are well known also on the Pacific coast.

[1] See Bogoras, Chukchee Materials pp. 144-146.

Notes to the hypertext transcription: The Chukchee originals, usually with interlinear translation, are given for the first 150pp. of the book; this has not been reproduced. Also, some of the footnotes referring to the untranslated text have been moved to refer to the text that is reproduced; this is not always noted. Some of the characters and diacritical marks used for phonetic transcription in the original printed text could not reproduced accurately in the present state of unicode. These are as follows: ạ, ẹ, ị (in this recension) are printed as drop-cap A, E, and I (in the book). ḷ is printed as a drop-cap L (ʟ) with a dot below. Ġ, ġ are printed as g's with dot-below.

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