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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 1086


Raven Tale

Book Name:

Tales of Yukaghir, Lamut, and Russianized Natives of Eastern Siberia

Tradition: Siberia

There once upon a time lived a man and his wife. They had neither son nor daughter. They lived together for a long time. Then they talked to each other. The old woman said, "Well, old man, what do you think? We are getting old, and we have no children. Who will take care of us when we are still older? Who will bring us food?" So they prayed to God, and at last God gave them a daughter. The daughter grew up rapidly to womanhood. One day she went berrying. Then Raven-Man[1] caught her and carried her away. The old couple wandered about, looking for their daughter, but could not find her. So they prayed again to God, and asked for a son. God heard their prayer again, and gave them a son. They nursed him and fed him, and soon he was full grown. The young man said to his father and mother, "Did you never have any other son or daughter? I long to have a brother or a sister." They did not tell him. "We had none whatever." He walked about in the vicinity, and shot in every direction with his blunt arrow. One time his arrow entered the house of the old woman, Underskin,[2] through the chimney-hole. He almost cried for fright, still he went in to ask for his arrow. The old woman, Underskin, went out to meet him. "O you bad boy! Why are you wronging me? I am old and without defence. Why are you shooting at my house? Rather than shoot at my house, you had better shoot at Raven-Man, it was he who carried off your own sister." The boy cried aloud and went home. "Ah!" said he, "father and mother! You did not want to tell me about my unfortunate sister, but Underskin has told me all. Now, you cannot keep me back. I shall go and search for her."

He set off, and after a long journey, he saw a house in the desert. He entered it, and his sister was sitting on a bench. "Why did you come?" she said to him. "Raven-Man will kill you." – "Ah, he has taken you! Let him kill me! I shall not demur." She gave him food and drink. After a while Raven came. He croaked three times, then dropped upon the roof, and turned into a young man. Raven-Man entered the house, sniffed around, and then exclaimed, "Ah, ah, ah! We did not hear it, we did not see it, the Russian body came to us of its own will; not a strange man, either, but my own brother-in-law. There, wife, go and bring us some nuts! We will have some fun with them." The woman brought some iron nuts, about four dozen of them. They began cracking nuts; but while the young man was trying to open one nut, Raven-Man was ready with two or three. Then Raven said, "Go now and get ready a steam bath in which we may steam our little bones." She prepared the steam bath. They went to the bath house. Raven said, "You enter first," and the young man said, "No, you enter first." Raven got the better of the young man and pushed him into the bath house. It was as hot as an oven there, so the young man was roasted.[3] Raven took out the body and ate it. Then he went home, and said to his wife, "Go and get your brother's bones, pick them clean, put them into a bag, and hang them up on a tree."[4] She cried for a long time; then she sewed up a pouch, gathered all the bones, and put them into the pouch which she hung high up on a tree.

The parents waited and waited, but their son never came home. So the old people prayed again to God, "O God! give us a child, a son or a daughter." So God gave them another son. The boy grew up, and inquired of his parents, "O father and mother! was there never at any time another brother or a sister of mine?" They denied it more strongly than ever, lest he too should go away. He walked about, playing with his bow and blunt arrow; and one time he sent an arrow into the house of the old woman Underskin through the chimney-hole. Underskin went out. She was very angry. "Why do you shoot at me? I am old and defenceless. You had better shoot at Raven-Man, who carried off your sister and killed your brother." He went to his father and mother, and cried for vexation." Oh, father and mother I you did not want to tell me; but old woman Underskin has told me everything. She told me that I had a sister and a brother, but that they were taken by Raven-Man. I shall go and look for them, whether you are willing or not. I shall go away." They tried arguments and tears; but he paid no heed, and set off instantly. After a long journey, he arrived at the house. His sister was sitting inside. "Why did you come?" she said. "He will devour you." – "Let him do it! I shall not demur. He devoured my brother, and I am no better than he." So she gave him food and drink, and they waited for Raven. Raven flew homeward croaking, "food, food, food."[5] He alighted on the roof and turned into a young man. He entered the house. "Ah, ah, ah! we heard nothing, we saw nobody, but the little Russian bone came to us of its own will. He is Dot a strange man, he is my own brother-in-law. Go wife, and bring us some iron nuts! We will have some fun with them." So she went and brought some iron nuts, about four dozen of them. They cracked nuts; but while the young man was struggling with a single one, Raven was ready with two or three. Then he said again, "Go and prepare a steam bath for us. We want to take a bath." She heated the bath house. They went there. Raven said, "You enter first," and the young man said, "No, you go in first." Raven had his way and pushed the young man in. The bath house was so hot that the young man was roasted alive. Raven drew out the body and ate it. He went home and said to his wife, "Go and pick clean his bones, then gather them into a pouch and hang them high up on a tree." She cried bitterly, then she made a pouch and went there. She gathered all the bones, even the smallest joints, and put them into the pouch which she hung high up on a tree.

The parents waited and waited, but the boy never came. And how could he? So they prayed to God, "O God! give us a son or a daughter." God heard again, and gave them a son, the very last one to be given. The boy grew up and became strong of body. He also said to his parents, "O my father; and my mother! I want to know whether lever had any brothers or any sisters?" They were less willing than ever before to tell him, lest he too should go away and perish. So he walked about and played with his bow, and at last he shot an arrow into the chimney-hole of old woman Underskin. She went out quite angry, "Why do you shoot at me. I am old and defenceless. Better shoot at Raven-Man. He took away your sister and destroyed your brothers. He is a better target for your shooting." He cried aloud and went to his parents. "Oh, father and mother! You did not want to tell me, but old woman Underskin has told me the truth. Raven-Man destroyed my brothers and carried off my sister. I shall go and look for him, no matter whether you are willing or not to give me your blessing." They wanted to keep him back, and almost died with sorrow. Still he set off. After a long journey he found the house, and his sister was sitting in it. She recognized him all at once, and cried bitterly, "Why did you come? He will devour you like the others." – "Let him do it! I shall not object. He ate my elder brothers, let him finish the whole breed!" She gave him food and drink, and they waited. Raven-Man flew home, and croaked, "Food, food, food!" He alighted on the roof of the house and turned into a strong man. He entered and said, "Oh, oh, oh! we heard nothing, we saw nobody; but the little Russian bone entered of its own will, not a strange man, either, my own brother-in-law. Go, wife, and bring us some iron nuts. We will have some fun with them." She brought the iron nuts, four dozen of them. They cracked the nuts; but while Raven was trying to open a single one, the young man was through with two or three. "Oh, oh," said Raven-Man, "you are a good one, O brother mine! You crack the nuts even quicker than I do." – "Why," said the young man, "I crack them in the only way that I know." – "All right!" said Raven-Man. "Now, wife, go and get the steam bath ready. We want to steam our little bones." So she went to the bath house and heated it. All the while she was crying most bitterly. Her whole face became swollen with crying. At last she came home. Raven looked up at her, and said, "There, woman, it seems you have been crying again. Take care, lest I swallow you some day!" – "Ah, brother mine!" said the young man, "so you swallow human beings?" – "Oh no!" answered Raven-Man, "it is only a little joke. Nevertheless let us go and have our steam bath. You must be tired from your long journey." So they went to the bath house; and one said to the other, "You enter first," and the other said, "You enter first. You are my guest." – "And you are my host." The young man had his way and pushed Raven into the bath house. Then he set fire to it and burnt it up together with Raven. He scattered the ashes to the winds. Then he asked his sister, "Where are the bones of our brothers?" She climbed to the tree and took them down. He entered the storehouse, and there was preserved a bottle containing the water of life and youth. He took the bones of the oldest brother and joined them all together. Then he sprinkled them with the water of life and youth. The first time he sprinkled the bones they were covered with flesh; the next time he sprinkled, the flesh was covered with skin; the third time he sprinkled, the young man sat up, and said, "Ah, ah, ah! I slept too long, but I am quite refreshed. – "Ah!" said the youngest brother, "if it had not been for me, you would not have awakened at all." Then he did the same with the bones of the second brother, and restored him also to life. They gathered all the goods Raven had in his house, and went home, all four of them. They went to their father and mother. The old people were quite joyful, and from very joy they became ashes that were scattered around. The end.

Comments:

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

[1] In local Russian, literally Воронъ-Человѣкъ, though not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian language. – W. B.

[2] In local Russian, Цтарушка Подкожурнитса. Perhaps it is a reference to some insect, rather obscure at present. Compare the Chukchee tales about Bright-Woman (Tä'gi-ñe'ut, Coleoptera Alla) in Bogoras, "The Chukchee," 329.

[3] See American parallels in Franz Boas, "Tsimshian Mythology" (Thirty-first Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1916), 806. – F. B.

[4] The ancient Yukaghir used to gather the bones of their dead in pouches, and carried them along, or put them away in secret places.

[5] In Russian, Кормъ, кормъ, кормъ imitative of the sound of the croaking. – W. B.

Abstract:

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