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FOLKLORE, MYTHS AND LEGENDS FROM THE PEOPLE OF THE KAMCHATKA PENINSULA
IN this volume you will find 24 Koryak tales of the Mice Girls, of Whale Festivals, the Ermine People, Fox Woman, Fish Woman and Monster Man. Unlike any European Märchen, these stories do not have the dramatic turns of Western folk-lore. There is no Cinderella nor a Puss in Boots. The struggle for survival is the perpetual theme, and no wonder, for the narrators dwell in a distant and hostile land.
Koryaks are an indigenous north-east Asian people living mainly on the northern part of the Kamchatka peninsula in what is now the Russian Federation. The Koryak Autonomous Region is just a little larger than Arizona, and with a current population of fewer than 35,000 people. The Koryak were conquered by Cossack pioneer-adventurers in the end of the seventeenth century and more or less incorporated into the Russian empire by the middle of the eighteenth. The Tsar levied an annual fur tribute and demanded some transportation services, but otherwise left them alone. The Soviets collectivized their subsistence production, and Stalin's Terror saw many shamans and successful reindeer herders summarily executed.
The name Koryak was from the exonym word 'Korak' meaning 'with the reindeer (kor)'. Koryaks practice a form of animist belief system especially via shamanism. Koryak mythology centres around the supernatural shaman Quikil (Big-Raven) who was the first man and protector of the Koryak and who features prominently in this volume. Raven myths are also found in the Tlingit, Tsimshian, and other Northwest Coast Amerindians suggesting a broad cultural area stretching from current day Kamchatka across the Bering Strait into Alaska and Canada.
33% of the net profit from the sale of this book will be donated to charities.
Excerpt from KORYAK TEXTS
10. EME'MQUT AND FOX-WOMAN
Eme'mqut married Fox-Woman. He said, "I will go and get some blubber from our summer place." He arrived there. One of the flippers of his blubber-bag was gnawed at by a mouse. The mouse was dead. He found it and said, "What is it, a wolverene?"
He loaded it on his sledge and hauled it home. He came home. Then only he looked back and saw that the mouse had turned into a wolverene. He looked into the house and said, "Mi'ti, I have killed a wolverene. Let some of you come out."
They took in the wolverene and began to beat the drum. Fox-Woman, the untidy one, was sitting with her boot-strings loose. She was looking for lice. "Oh, you Fox-Woman! it is your turn to beat the drum." The untidy woman was making leather thimbles. She began to beat the drum, "I am an unskilful one, I am an untidy one! I am eating hard excrement, left outside! I am eating strings of snowshoes in the brightness of the full moon."
Indeed, they eat them. Whenever we come to look for our snowshoes, the strings are eaten.
She felt ashamed and went away, even with untied boot-strings. She went away, and did not come back. After some time Eme'mqut went outside and found her. A number of children were there. He said to Fox-Woman, "Whose children are these?"--"I said to myself, 'Perhaps they will keep me back somehow. I wanted to go away into the open country for my delivery. And I was delivered outside.'"--"Now, at least, stop your clamor! Let us go home!"
They went home. The thimbles which she had made before, and hung tip outside, now turned somehow to clothes for her numerous children. The people were asking Eme'mqut, "From where have you brought the woman?"--
"I brought her from the open country. Long ago she went away to give birth to her children secretly outside. All those together are her children." In truth, she was a skilful seamstress, and had no reason for going away and living in secrecy.
After that they lived in joy. Eme'mqut married Klu, Ila' married Yini'a-ña'wut. When so disposed, they would ascend the river and catch plenty of winter fish. Then they would return to their house-mates. They killed plenty of game. In this manner they led a happy life. What has become of them I do not know. That is all.
Table of Contents for KORYAK TEXTS
|I. Little-Bird-Man and Raven-Man.|
|2. Big-Raven and the Mice.|
|3. The Mouse-Girls.|
|4. How a Small Kamak was transformed into a Harpoon-Line.|
|5. Big-Raven and the Kamaks.|
|6. Klu' and the Bumblebees.|
|7. Eme'mqut's Whale-Festival.|
|8. Eme'mqut and Ila'.|
|9. How Eme'mqut became a Cannibal.|
|10. Eme'mqut and Fox-Woman.|
|13. Eme'mqut and the Kamaks.|
|14. Eme'mqut and Shellfish-Girl.|
|15. Eme'mqut and the Perches.|
|16. Miti' and Magpie-Man.|
|17. How Big-Raven's Daughter was swallowed by a Kamak.|
|18. The Kamak and his Wife.|
|19. Gull-Woman and Cormorant-Woman.|
|20. Yini'a-ñawut and Klu's Marriage with Fish-Man.|
|21. Big-Raven and Fox.|
|22. Eme'mqut and Envious-One.|
|23. Big-Raven and Fish-Woman.|
|24. Klu' and Monster-Man.|
|APPENDIX I. SONGS.|
|APPENDIX II. CONSTELLATIONS.|
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