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YASHPEH
International Folktales Collection

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Story No. 1092


Tale About Ču'mo

Book Name:

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

Tradition: Siberia

There were three sisters. They knew no men, and subsisted by hunting wild reindeer. They also wandered about gathering roots and berries and every sort of thing that the earth produces. One time the eldest sister said, "I wish we had at least one baby." As soon as she spoke these words, she glanced at a rock, and saw a severed piece which had a human face and looked like a baby. "Ah, sisters!" exclaimed the girl, "come here and see! I have found a baby in the rock." So they took the child of the stone and carried it home. They made a cradle, and put the baby in it. Then they rocked the cradle with much zeal.

After a while the baby began to cry and became like a human being. The next day the two elder sisters went, as usual, to hunt wild reindeer, but they left the youngest sister at home. "Stay at home and nurse the infant," they said to her.

As soon as they went away, the baby began to cry louder and louder. At first the girl rocked the cradle, but the baby was not to be thus silenced. At last a sudden fright seized her without any apparent reason. She could not stand it, so she hid herself under the bed and tried to listen to what would happen next. The baby cried as before. Then it ceased, and seemed also to be listening for something. It was listening to hear whether anyone might suddenly enter. Then quite unexpectedly the baby said with a deep man's voice, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself large!" In the same instant, it left the cradle and rose to its feet. It said again, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself large!" And lo, its head reached the very roof. It gathered all the dried meat and fat, sausages and tongues, hanging from the rafters, and devoured all this most ravenously. Then it heard some voices. They were those of two elder sisters coming home from hunting. In the same moment it said aloud, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself small!" So it became quite small, and was lying in the cradle and crying, just as before. The youngest sister, however, came out of her hiding-place and ran with all her might to meet the other sister. "O elder ones!" she sobbed out, "I will not stay at home alone any longer. You may stay there yourself if you want to." – "What is the matter with you?" asked the eldest sister. "It is thus and so," answered the youngest one. The eldest sister was very angry. "You certainly are not telling the truth. How can a baby leave the cradle and make itself large?" The next morning, however, the youngest sister refused to stay, so the eldest sister ordered the second one to stay at home in her stead. The other two went away hunting. The girl stayed at home and rocked the cradle; but the baby cried incessantly, and at last a great fright took possession of her, quite unaccountable, and she too hid herself under the bed and listened for what would happen next. The child cried and cried. Then it became still, and also began to listen. Nobody came, however, so the baby said again with a man's deep voice, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself large!" At that very moment it dropped to the floor and rose to its feet. Then it said again, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself large!" and its head reached to the roof. It gathered all the dried meat and fat, sausages and tongues, hanging from the rafters, and devoured them most greedily. Then it heard human voices. They were those of the two other sisters, who were coming home and talking to each other. It said instantly, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself small!" and all at once it was small again and in the cradle, as before. The middle sister crept out of her hiding-place and ran out to meet the sister. "Oh," said she, "it is too awful! I will not stay here any longer." "And what is-the matter with you?" asked the eldest sister. "This and this," said the middle sister. "Oh, please! enough of this! How can a little baby leave the cradle and become large?"

The next morning, however, the two younger sisters refused to stay at home: so the eldest sister remained. The two others went off hunting reindeer. The eldest sister rocked the cradle; but the baby cried and cried, and at last there came over her also without any cause a terrible fright and she hid under the bed and listened for what might happen next. The baby cried and cried. Then it stopped and began to listen. Nobody came, however: so it said aloud with its deep bass voice, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself large!" It dropped to the floor and rose to its feet. Then it said again. "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself large!" and its head reached the roof. It gathered all the dried meat and fat, sausages, and tongues, hanging upon the rafters, and ate them all. Then it heard distant voices. The two other sisters were coming home. So it said very quickly, "Ču'mo, Ču'mo, make yourself small!" and it was again small and lay in the cradle. The eldest sister left her hiding place and hurried to meet the other sisters. "Oh, indeed! you were quite right. It is awful! What shall we do?" They talked for a long time, trying to find a way to get rid of Ču'mo. At last they took a kettle and filled it with reindeer meat. They hung it over a large fire to cook the meat. When the meat was done, they took it out, leaving the liquid and the fat to boil in the kettle. Then the eldest sister took the baby in her arms and said in a caressing way, "Look up there! A birdie is passing there." The baby looked up, and at that moment the girl threw it into the kettle. They had nine driving reindeer: so they left behind everything else they had, and, taking these nine reindeer, they fled. Each sister drove one reindeer, leading the other two behind her sledge as relays. They hurried off at top speed. Ču'mo went in pursuit, kettle and all.

The fire was burning, the kettle was bubbling, the iron sides were clattering as Ču'mo gave chase to the three sisters. After a while he approached them. Then the youngest sister took her ivory comb [1] and said to it, "O comb of ivory! You were a comb, now turn into a mountain of ivory, from earth to heaven, and from east to west." She threw the comb back over her shoulder, and it turned into a big mountain, from earth to heaven, from east to west. It was just behind them: so they stopped close to it, took a rest, and ate a meal; then they attached fresh reindeer and hurried on. Ču'mo came to the ivory mountain and began to gnaw at it. Splinters of ivory flew in every direction. He gnawed it through, and went across, kettle and all, and gave chase again.

The youngest sister said, "Here, my sisters! put your ear to the ground. Perhaps he is pursuing us again." They put an ear to the ground, and indeed the kettle was clattering quite close behind. Then the second sister took out a piece of flint. She said to the flint, "O flint! you were a piece of flint. Now turn into a mountain of flint, from earth to heaven, from east to west." Then she threw the flint back over her shoulder. It turned instantly into a mountain of flint. They stopped near the mountain, and took a rest. They also had a meal, and, attaching fresh reindeer, started on again. Ču'mo came to the mountain and gnawed it. Chips of flint flew in every direction. He gnawed it through and went across it, kettle and all.

The second sister said to the other, "O sister! put your ear to the ground and try to hear whether he is following us again?" They listened, and, lo! the kettle was rattling quite close behind. Then the oldest sister took out a piece of steel from a strike-a-light. She said to the steel, "O steel! you were part of a strike-a-light and produced fire. Now turn into a river of fire from earth to heaven, from east to west." Then she threw the steel back over her shoulder, and it turned into a river of fire, from earth to heaven, from east to west. Ču'mo came to that river and tried to cross it, but he was confused by the fire and perished there. "Ah," he called after the sisters, "you ran away from me; but nevertheless my mother will catch you." The sisters were hurrying on. All the reindeer fell and perished from exhaustion. The sisters sped onward on foot. At last they came to a river. It was quite deep, and there was no ford, so that they could not cross it. On the other side of the river sat an old woman scraping a skin. "Oh, grandmother! help us to cross the river!" "Ah, you dogs! cross it by your own skill." "O grandmother! we cannot. Do help us!" The old woman stretched one of her legs[2] across the river like a bridge, and they crossed over on it. "Where do you come from?" asked the old woman. "We ran away from Ču'mo. He wanted to eat us, but we burned him in a river of fire." – "O, you dogs! Ču'mo is my only son. I shall punish you for it." So she locked them in an empty storehouse, and hurried to help Ču'mo.

(After this follows the well-known episode detailing how the Fox saved the girls from the She-Monster, leaving in their stead clothes filled with twigs and ashes to be swallowed by the Monster.[3] The narrator, however, declared that she had forgotten the details, and left the tale unfinished.)

Comments:

Told by Anne Vastriakoff, a Russianized Yukaghir woman, in the village Omolon at the confluence of the Omolon River with the Kolyma River, in the autumn of 1896.

[1] See story No. 1 note 2.

[2] See Waterman, T. T., "The Explanatory Element in the Folk-Tales of the North American Indians" (Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 27 (1914), 43, under Crane Bridge. – F. B.

[3] Compare, for instance, Bogoras, "Chukchee Materials." 408. – W. B.

Abstract:

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