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6. The Girl in the Iron Box.2

   There was a shaman who knew everything. All the people of the surrounding country sent for him in cases of calamity. When somebody became ill, he would immediately restore him to health. He took payment, and would go to another man for another payment. At last he grew ill himself, and could not do anything. After a while he died. He left five sons. The youngest son objected to carrying the corpse into the open air. He said, "The wolves, the foxes, and the ravens will eat it." So he watched the dead body for five days. Then, overcome with fatigue, he fell into a heavy sleep. While he slept they took the body and carried it away. After a p. 425 while he awoke, but the father was not there. "Oh," said he, "you have deceived me." He went to the funeral-place, but the foxes had already eaten the corpse. Therefore he cried the whole day long.

   At last, about evening, a voice from the clouds was heard. It sounded like his father's voice. The voice drew nearer. "Why, my son! Is it true that you love me thus? Nevertheless I cannot stay with you, because I became a to´ṛnaṛak. On the other shore there lives a man who has a single daughter. Your brothers are suing for her hand. You must do the same, and I will teach you how you may be successful in your suit. She is enclosed in an iron box. You must spit on it and rub your saliva all over it. Then it will open, and you may enter. You will see a young girl, quite naked, lying upon her back. She will be fast asleep. You must not touch her. Only defecate just between her legs. Then put up your trousers, and say aloud, 'Oh, it is strange! but at least I have defecated between the legs of this sleeping girl.'"

   The young man found the iron box, — rather, it was a house. It had no entrance at all; but he smeared his saliva all over it, and it opened like a two-valved shell. He entered. A girl was sleeping there. She lay upon her back, and was quite naked. He defecated between her legs. Then he said aloud, "Oh, it is strange! but at least I have defecated between the legs of this sleeping girl." Then the girl awoke and jumped toward him. "Oh, you bad one! what have you done?" He threw her to the ground and overcame her. Then they made their peace and became man and wife. They were all the time together in the iron sleeping-room.

   His brothers came, and went to the girl's father. "What do you want?" — "We are suitors." — "If you are suitors, you must go and bring it me from the direction of the Morning dawn a team of white reindeer with iron halters. When you have done this, I will call you suitors." The brothers set off. But the youngest one, in the iron box, being a shaman, knew it all. So, as soon as they were off, he dived into the oil-lamp, and emerged within the house in which the white reindeer with iron halters were kept. He sat there waiting for his brothers.

   They rapped at the door. "Who is there?" — "We want the white reindeer with iron halters." — "All right, buy them!" — "With what? — "With one of your ears." — "Ah!" The second brother looked at the eldest one. "What of that! I will give an ear, and you may marry the girl." So he cut off his ear and gave it away. "Now you may enter and take the reindeer." They entered. White reindeer with iron halters, indeed, were there; but everything was firmly secured in its place with chains. They could not detach it.

   They left, and came back to the girl's father. "Oh, we could not detach it! In truth, we bought it, and even paid for it with an ear of one of us; but we could not bring it here."

p. 426

   "That is all right," said the old man. "You may take the bride, since you paid for her with your own skin. Still, in the direction of sunset there is a team of black reindeer with iron halters. Those you must bring here." The young man dived into the oil-lamp, emerged in that house in which the black reindeer were, and sat waiting for his brothers. They rapped at the door. "Who is there?" — "We want the black reindeer with iron halters." — "Then buy them." — "With what?" — "With one of your buttocks." — "Ah!" The elder brother looked at the second brother. "What of that? I will give my buttocks, and you may marry the girl." He cut off his buttocks and gave them away. "Now you may enter and take it yourself. I cannot do it." They tried to take the reindeer, but could not detach them.

   So they went back to the girl's father. "And where are the reindeer?" — "Oh, we could not bring them! In truth, we bought them with one of our buttocks, still we could not detach them from their place." — "That is all right," said the old man. "Since you have bought the bride with your own flesh, you may take her." Then he said to his wife, "Go and fetch our daughter!"

   The girl, being also a shaman, knew it all. So she said, "Let us strip ourselves naked and lie down together in the middle of the house! Perhaps they will understand at last." The mother came and opened the entrance to the sleeping-room; and there they were, lying close together, like two oysters. Oh, the mother screamed and ran away. The father said, "Where is this man? Give me my trousers. I will go and kill him. Those two have bought the girl with their own bodies, and he took her without any payment. I will kill him."

   The young man, being a shaman, knew what the old man said, and sent his young wife to her father. "Go and show him the ear and the buttocks, and then say, 'These are their payments. I was there before them, and I repaid them in this way for their neglect of our father's body.'" — "Ah," said the father, "since that is so, then let him keep her;" and he was angry no more. After that they lived there in joy. It is finished.

Told by Ñịpe´wġi, an Asiatic Eskimo man, in the village of Uñi´sak, at Indian Point, May, 1901.



p. 424

2 Compare a similar tale, Bogoras, Chukchee Texts {sic, Chukchee Mythology}, Vol. VIII of this series, p. 107. In the Eskimo version the Russian (or Turko-Mongol) elements of this tale are more prominent.