The Story of Kachka
Told by Tatiana Petrovna Lukashkina, 16 June 1998, in her home, Tilichiki, Kamchatka
Recorded and translated by David Koester
There was once a herder, from whom a rich reindeer herder had seized all the
reindeer and taken them for himself. But the poor herder was left with a small
son, a three-year old boy. The boy had to be fed. There was no meat. He had
had 20 reindeer but the rich herder had taken them all. So he sang songs about
the rich one, Ava, - that he would burst from greed, that his intestines would
burst from greed, that all his teeth would fall out. He sang these kind of mean
songs. But the rich herder's servant heard and told his overlord, that the poor
Lenkavav is singing songs about you, that you would die - in general bad songs.
The wealthy herder goes to home Lenkavav's. He is living in a yurt with the
boy and that's it. No meat. He had hunted ptarmigan and fed the boy with ptarmigan
and ate as well. Then he would kill a duck, make arrows from wood and sustains
And though people were starving he was raising his son. His wife had died in childbirth. But this evil Ava came and said, "What's going on; you are singing bad songs about me."
And Lenkavav says, "It's true I sing. Should I sing that you are good? You are the worst person. You took my reindeer and others'. You took everyone's reindeer and now everyone's living in hunger and you alone are feasting. Then the rich one says, "Let's go outside, take off your reindeer robe." He took off his kukhlianka. The rich Ava tied his arms and beat him on the back with a reindeer lasso so that blood began to flow. But Lenkavav doesn't speak. All the same he sings songs. "Evil Ava bursts of greed. Eviil Ava's intestines burst from greed." He sings various songs like this. "Oh, you are singing even worse songs about me." "Now," he says, "I'll show you." He hit and hit and hit on the back, in the face, on his arm and there's blood. The snow is quickly covered with blood. And the boy sees everything. Then he beat him so hard that his face is just blood, there's blood from his eyes; his whole body's in blood. He beat him till bloodiness. Then he tied his hand and tied him to a sled and he sent the reindeer off running across the tundra - over the tufts, through the pine brush he dragged him. Lenkavav had already died from loss of blood. The boy remained alone in the yurt.
The boy was called Kachka. He was left entirely alone without mother or father. Imagine, a lone boy, three years old. Then Ava said, "this Lenkavav who died, who sang mean songs about me, no need to burn him, no need to bury him. Throw him on the high mountain on the rocks. Let the ravens eat his eyes. Let the wolves eat his body and leave only the bones." See what an evil person he was.
Now, on the next day Ava went to the boy. He looks at the boy but the boy is standing and not crying. "Now this little snot will not sing songs, will never smile." But the boy grabbed his long tongue and pulled it out and sneezed on him, understand?
"Ah, you are the same as your father," the evil one said.
But the boy says, "When I grow up I will all the same punish you for papa. As long as you don't bring me my dead papa, I will my whole life hold you in contempt," the boy says.
Then Ava called his slave; his slave was called Hard Rock because he never talked to anyone because he had seen all the malice of his boss. "What did I tell you? Put down the rock. Take the boy to that mountain where there are no trees, where there's nowhere to hide. Let the wolves eat him." But the boy sang all of his father's songs. Though he was a little three year old, he sang all his father's songs. When they went in the mountains he sings all his father's songs, about birds, about animals, all sorts of things; good songs he sings.
Then Hard Rock said that he was to kill the boy on the road. But the boy sings and smiles. This Hard Rock didn't talk to anyone, never smiled, never sang songs. Then the boy sings everything, - songs about birds, about ?, about the land, about berries, everything that he sees. He had a very sonorous voice. Hard Rock listened and listened to it all and his heart began to melt. He was mean - didn't talk to anyone, but his heart began to soften and he began to be sorry for the boy. "Now get ready," he says, I'm going to kill you now. My boss told me that I am to kill you." And the boy says, "All right, kill me." He sings songs about the sun, about good people. And Hard Rock grabs him - the boy was little - he was going to stab into his heart. But the boy waves his hands and says, "kill" yet all the same sings songs. "The happy sun, the sun gives warmth, gives people happiness." Hard Rock's heart melted. He says, "I can't kill you. You sing such good songs. How could I kill you?" But the boy says, "kill, if you're not sorry for me." Hard Rock's knife fell on the snow. "I," he said, "can't kill you. You're so nice, so good. I never heard such good songs about the sun, about people about birds. You sing all good songs.
The knife fell on the snow. Then he says, "You, boy, go into the forest on the mountain, wherever you want." But the boy says, "I can't go without you. I love you. You're like my father, good." The boy says, "I'm going with you in the mountains where we'll freeze together." They arrived in the mountains. Snow, mountains all around and cold everywhere. But the boy sings. The ptarmigans stop, the hares too and listen to his songs. Wolves don't attack but listen to his songs. Then the boy says, "now, I'm not going from you. I love you." Then they made a yurt from wood and branches, and they picked grass. They made a good warm yurt. They made mattresses from grass; they made bed covers from grass. They made a fire and the fire never goes out. The boy brings wood and the old guy also brings wood. The boy's torbaza (reindeer fur boots) tear and he sews them himself. The boy says, "Do you love me too? Truthfully, do you love me?"
He says, "Yes, I couldn't kill you. You're a good person; you have a good heart." Then the boy says, "You see, you have a good heart, too. You're also good."
Fifteen years went by and the boy grew up in the forest, broad-shouldered and strong. The old man made a bow for him and made the string from his hair. He killed ptarmigans; they cooked them and ate. They collected last year's crowberries and ate them. And the boy grows and grows in the forest. He became handsome and healthy like his father. And his voice is good like his father's. He sings songs about birds, about animals. Fifteen years passed. The old man made him a robe out of hare fur and a hat out of ptarmigan skin. Boots from hare skins. As the boy lives he grows and sings songs.
Then he says, "I'll go and see how people live in our pasture area." The boy walks singing songs, the sun is shining; it was winter. People heard that someone is singing good, gentle songs. But Ava had said that no one should sing songs at the camp. No one was to speak loudly, no one was to smile. But people heard the songs. Songs like the ones his father sang. Everyone came out of the yurt. Their whole lives they didn't smile, didn't sing songs, didn't converse, but here he's loud, everyone's talking, there's noise, chatter, they sing songs.
And Ava is lying in his yurt, in his warm kukul and all of a sudden hears someone singing nice songs. He put his reindeer robe on backwards and went out. "Who is singing such happy songs at my camp. Who are you, ragamuffin?" But the boy had become an adult, a big one. "What, you don't know that I'm the son. For as long as you don't give me the body of my dead father I'm going to insult you." Ava says to his servant, "Get that ragamuffin; burn him on the fire." But the people are so captivated that no one listens. They're all laughing, smiling, having a good time because they heard songs.
Suddenly a shaman appears and says, "Give him a task. Let him bring a white reindeer with metal antlers and flying legs. If he really brings a white reindeer with metal horns and that flies with its legs; if he brings it then you forgive him. That is, he'll live his life at liberty." The boy went to the old man who had raised him. At first he goes through the forest singing songs and laughing. It's fun for him. But as he came close to his own yurt, he became sad. Why am I laughing. Then he said: "Why did you become so sad?" "Do you know what Ava said. He said that I go to the volcano to get there a white reindeer with iron antlers and flying legs." But the old man knew everything, the whole story. He became kind and good and says, "now you helped me talk and I will help you. You cross 10 streams and arrive at a lake. The lake is near the volcano and is warm. The white reindeer with iron antlers and flying legs comes down from the volcano to the warm lake." "Only," he says, "when the reindeer bends down to drink the warm water from the volcano, you throw a lasso on his antlers."
The young man went there. He slipped into a hollow and sits in the hollow singing songs, happy songs. But the reindeer heard and did not go to drink water. He went to the hollow. The boy climbed out of the hollow, singing songs. The whole forest is singing; all the birds stop and the reindeer came close, put his head on the boy's shoulders, the hand of the boy on his antlers. He sings songs and walks and walks and led him straight to the camp. And he's all the time singing and singing. The people at the camp hear that someone is singing a good song. They saw that there was a white reindeer with metal antlers and flying legs with the poor boy.
The boy arrived singing with the reindeer leaning its head on his shoulder. And the boy sings and sings. Evil-Ava comes out. Yes, the good white reindeer with metal antlers and flying legs. Then suddenly he stamps his feet. The reindeer is startled. How that reindeer jumped, over the heads of the people without even touching them; jumped and flew away. Evil Ava says, yes, you fulfilled the task and brought me the white reindeer. But the reindeer ran away. The boy says, "there was no need to clap and stamp your feet. He would have stayed."
The shaman whispers to Ava - "you tell him that he should bring the beautiful Khoiana from the volcano. The girl is beautiful-beautiful." She had long hair all the way to her heels. The shaman says to the evil one, "let him bring the beautiful Khoiana and you will have a young wife, sixteen years old and beautiful." But the old man Ava is already decrepit, toothless, and could not walk. How could he have a young wife if he could hardly move his feet.
The boy goes to his old man and says, "The evil one gave me a new task, that I bring the beautiful Khoiana. She'll be his sixth wife." The old man says, "You were already at the volcano. You saw the lake, the hot lake. The beautiful Khoiana goes down there from the volcano. When she goes down she will take off all her clothes and bathe in the warm lake. But you sing songs for yourself." He goes there and slips behind a mountain ash, behind a bush. He stands, closes his eyes and sings songs, love songs. And this girl takes off all of her clothes, ready to bathe. She approaches and then hears that someone is singing love songs. Her heart aches from such songs. She forgot everything, put on her dress and went to the mountain ash bush. He had closed his eyes and doesn't see anything. Just sings songs. He remembers the words: what a beautiful girl who he so loved, with whom he had not met. He sings to himself, eyes closed. But the girl heard. She had lived her whole life but had never heard songs about love. She had no idea there was love on earth. And he sings and sings that she is such a beauty and she loves the boy, who also loves her. Very good song. She came very close but he closed his eyes purposefully as if he sees nothing. He sings and sings songs about love, that the boy loves the girl and she loves [back]. Then she says, "where did you come from - such a good singer? Such songs. I've lived here my whole life but I've never heard love songs." He says, "Listen then. I'll sing more." They embraced and he leads her to the camp of Evil Ava.
He brought her there. His torbaza are torn, his fur robe is torn, everything is torn. He sings songs. And there at the camp all the people, poor things, came out from their yurts. Everyone goes to meet him. And he sings and sings about birds, about animals, about love and so on. Then Ava heard that all the people went out, everyone's running somewhere. He saw the beautiful Khoiana. The old man approaches and says. "Here's my beauty. She will be my wife. She'll be the sixth wife." Khoiana says, "There's something not quite right that I would marry a toothless, decrepit old man. Not for anything." "Are you determined against me. I'm the boss of the tundra." But she says, "What kind of boss of the tundra are you, you are an ordinary snot. You're a toothless, decrepit old man. Who needs you. Do you still want me to be your sixth wife? That will never happen. I have this young handsome guy here." "What' s that, is he your husband?" "But what else, its my beloved and handsome husband, the strongest on the white earth." "You're off yours, he's a vagrant." "But now he won't be a vagrant." She clapped on his head and at once the young lad - 1, 2, 3, had a white reindeer robe, white boots and a white hood. The beauty was also redressed. "What, is it your son?" "What do you think? He's my husband." The old man says, "but where will you live?" "Just now we will have a new white yurt from white reindeer hides." She tapped on her head so that there would be a white yurt from white reindeer hides, so that the bed covers were from white fur; so that newly acquired bedcovers were also white and made from white reindeer.
And the wedding bed covers would also be from white reindeer hide. The old man began to tremble and the girl says that the decrepit, toothless, snotty old man should die. This rich man at once fell over and died, like the last dog.
All the people cried out, "Good work, Khoiana. Now the son of Lenkavav, Kachka, was the boss of the tundra. So they married and all the people of the tundra loved them. They distributed all of Rich Ava's reindeer to all of the poor people. And the leader of the tundra became Lenkavav's son, Kachka.