Siberian Folk Tales
Adopted from: Tales of Yukaghir, Lamut, and Russianized Natives of Eastern Siberia by Waldemar Bogoras

The Mouse & the Snow-Bunting

Once there were a Mouse and a Snow-Bunting. Winter came, the coldest season of the year. Mouse gathered plenty of provisions: stacks of roots and heaps of grain. Snow-Bunting gathered much less of everything. She found that the snow fell too thick, and the cold came too early.

Mouse curled herself up in her warm nest, but Snow-Bunting did not prepare her hut for the winter and felt cold. So she went to Mouse, and said, "I should like to live with you."

"All right!" said Mouse, "then leave your cold hut and come over to my nest."

The next morning Mouse brought a root for her breakfast and Snow-Bunting did the same. At dinner time Mouse brought a few grains and so did Snow-Bunting. At supper time Mouse brought a root, so Snow-Bunting also brought one.

Then Mouse said to Snow-Bunting, "Why, sister! I have plenty of provisions, and you have much less than I. Moreover, my food is of better quality than yours. At present, however, as the days are short, let us feed on your provisions. Afterwards, when the days are longer, we will feed on my provisions."

Snow-Bunting thought this was a good idea. She brought her provisions, and continued bringing them morning and evening. A month passed, then another. Then Snow-Bunting said to Mouse, "Now, sister, I have nothing more."

"All right!" said Mouse. She opened her storehouse and brought breakfast and dinner and also the supper for Snow-Bunting and for herself. But after a week of this, Mouse started to be bothered by having to share her food with Snow-Bunting.

One morning Mouse brought a root for herself, and nothing for Snow-Bunting. At dinner time she brought some seeds for herself, and none for  Snow-Bunting. Then Snow-Bunting cried from grief, "Why, sister, you are acting so unfairly toward me?”

“Ungrateful creature,” said Mouse, "I give you lodging, and now I must feed you too? If that is the case, you should leave my house.”

"Sister, even if you do not give me food, at least do not drive me out into the cold!" begged Snow-Bunting.

So they continued to live together, Mouse eating up her provisions and Snow-Bunting eating nothing. She became very lean, mere bones without flesh, a soul without a body. She would have starved to death, had the month of March not come and brought unusual warmth. On some patches of grass and hillocks the snow had melted, so Snow-Bunting could go there and look for last year’s grains and berries.

The ice in the rivers broke up and then came all kinds of birds, large and small. The birds alighted on the lakes, rivers and sea. On the shore of one lake lived a toad who was a transformed girl, the daughter of a prince, etc., etc...

The Mouse-Girls 

The youngest one of the Mouse-Girls lost a tooth.

"How did it happen?" asked the others.

"It was knocked out by an arrow of the Envious-One from heaven.” she answered.

The mother of the Mouse-Girls called the grandmother, who was a Shaman, to help find out what really happened. The grandmother thought and thought and finally sent the Ermine-Woman to inspect the cakes stored underneath the porch. And sure enough –  a tooth sticking out of a pine-nut cake.

“Someone was nibbling on the cakes.” said the Ermine-Woman. “Whose tooth is this?”

They tried to fit the tooth into the mouths of all the Mouse-Girls, but it did not fit. So, they made the youngest Mouse-Girl open her mouth and the tooth fit right in.

Her mother scolded her. She told her to go and strangle herself on a forked willow-twig as punishment for pilfering. “Go and die!” she said.

The youngest Mouse-Girl went away but came quickly back. “I could not strangle myself on the forked willow-twig.” she said. But her mother scolded her again sent her away to die. This time the youngest Mouse-Girl did not come back. She died.

That is all.



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