BURULDAI BOGDO was the eldest of thirteen khans and was master of seventy-three tongues. He was seventy years old, and his wife was sixty. For many years they had no children. Finally, behind seventy-three curtains twin boys were born to them.
One night while all in the yurta were sleeping the father and mother were stolen away; it was unknown by whom. When the children opened their eyes in the morning they could see no one. Immediately one of the boys became as a child of three and the other as a child of four years of age. They went into the forest, turned themselves into squirrels, and began to eat nuts.
The next day seven hundred men came through the forest looking for the boys, but they could not find them.
When the men had gone the boys took their own forms and walked eastward till they came to a yurta so immense that it had seven hundred doors. The elder brother sent the younger brother in to see what kind of a place it was. He went through thirteen doors, and came to a sixty-three headed, six-horned Mangathai, sleeping soundly. The boy was frightened and started to go back quietly, but when he had reached the third door the Mangathai woke, opened the eyes in all his heads, and called out:
"Whoever thou art, if pure, greet me; if impure, leave me." Then seeing the boy he asked:
"Whence comest thou?"
"I am the son of Buruldai Bogdo Khan."
"Thy father has injured me, has done me great harm; now thou hast come to torment me!" cried the Mangathai, in a rage. He seized the boy, bound him, and said, "To-morrow I will eat thee."
The brother, who was waiting outside, grew tired, turned himself into a squirrel and went back to the forest.
The Mangathai went to the woods for spits on which to roast
the boy. While there he met a merchant returning with goods from various countries. The Mangathai invited the merchant to his yurta and entertained him. The merchant heard a child crying. "Who is that?" asked he.
"The son of a man who has done me much harm. I am going to eat him to-morrow," answered the Mangathai.
The merchant gave the Mangathai seven kegs of strong wine. The Mangathai drank the wine and grew merry; then some of his heads talked about war, some went to sleep, some cried, and others laughed.
"Give me the boy," said the merchant, "I will put him on the spit for thee." The Mangathai gave up the boy, but the merchant did not kill him or put him on the spit. He took him home and made him his own son.
The boy cried and cried. "He is afraid of the Mangathai," said the merchant's wife. "Go to the seven Lamas and let them soothsay; perhaps the child is sick." But the boy said:
"I am not sick; I am crying for my brother."
The merchant sent seven hundred men to look for that brother; but he was still a squirrel, and the men searched nine days without finding him. Then the boy went with the men to look for his brother. He turned himself into a squirrel, and instead of finding the brother the seven hundred lost the boy they had brought with them.
The two squirrels met, but the elder did not recognize the younger. "Is this an enemy," thought he; and he went straight up to Esege Malan.
The younger brother followed him to the door of Esege Malan's yurta, but did not go in. "Let my brother come out!" cried he. "If not I will choke myself." But the elder brother did not believe that the other squirrel was his brother, and he would not go out.
"I have a birth-mark as big as ten finger-tips under my left shoulder; so has my brother," said the elder boy to Esege Malan. "If this squirrel has the same, he is my brother; if not, he is an enemy."
The mark was found, and the two brothers embraced. Then they went to the merchant, who was flogging the seven hundred
men, first for failing to find the one boy, and then for losing the other.
The merchant was glad to have two boys in place of one, and set them to herding cattle; but they neglected their work, and the calves took all the milk from the cows. The merchant was going to flog the boys, but his wife would not let him. He asked where they had been and why they were gone so long.
"We have been wrestling with the son of Khan Laraja Miná," answered the boys.
The second day they drove the cows home very late, and the calves had taken all the milk. "Where have you been?" asked the merchant. "You have not been watching the herd."
"We went up to the sky to order bows and arrows of the ninety Heavenly Blacksmiths. Our bows and arrows will be ready in seven days."
At the end of the seven days the blacksmiths had the bows ready and a quiver of arrows for each boy. The brothers took their bows and arrows home, and the merchant gave a great feast.
"I found these brothers in an open field," said he to the people. "I ask you to give them names."
He put out a piece of butter as big as a cup, and a piece of meat as big as a plate. An old man ate the butter and the meat, and said:
"The elder boy I name Altin Gorye; the younger, Mūngun Gorye."
The people gave each boy a horse; the elder a red stallion ninety sachens long, with ears nine sachens in length. The horse had forty teeth, four big ones and thirty-six smaller ones. They gave the younger boy a bay stallion eighty sachens long, with ears eight sachens in length. He had forty teeth,--four big ones and thirty-six smaller ones. The brothers had now all that was needed for warriors, and they made ready to travel until they found their father and mother.
"When you were young I took you and have cared for you always. Why do you leave us in our old age?" asked the merchant.
"We are going in search of our own father and mother, but we will come back; for though we live a thousand years we will not forget thee."
They went then to the place where they were born; but everything had dropped away, except a hitching-post that had stood near the yurta. On that hitching-post the father had written: "If my sons live, let them read this: 'We are taken by Bugú Curté Zulut, and are in his power. If ye are able, rescue us! In the yard of the sheep house is sheep's flesh, and an iron vessel full of arsá [solid sour, sour milk].'"
The brothers opened a granary, and found oats for their horses. They found the sheep's flesh and the arsá; they ate and drank, and were about to leave the place when they saw that it was written on the hitching-post that they must travel eighty versts a day for eight days.
They had traveled for three days when they met the two sons of a khan. Those two, by their magic, knew of the coming of the brothers, and preferred to meet them with war. They had an army, and weapons, and all things needed.
The four advanced, but could not decide who should shoot first; finally Altin Gorye, the elder of the brothers, said that the khan's sons might shoot first.
By magic the brothers caught the arrows and put them in their saddles, then they laughed and said, "You cannot shoot, and still you go to war. Now it is our turn. Yield not to any magic," said they to their arrows, "but go and scatter the enemy like sand before the wind." The arrows flew away from the bows, and both the sons of a khan were killed. The two brothers burned the two men and burned their horses as well. Then they went to the yurtas of the dead men, found their wives and children there, and said:
"We have come to see your husbands. When we came into the world some one stole our father and mother. Have you seen them?"
"We are but women; we are not wise, like men. We know nothing," they replied, but among themselves they laughed. "Short hair, short sense," said they, when the brothers had left.
The two traveled toward the west till they saw a beautiful yurta, closed and guarded; but it opened at their command. They entered and found there their father and mother; their
right eyes, hands, and feet were gone. They did not recognize their children.
"Where was your home?" asked the brothers.
"In the opposite land," said the man. "I was once the eldest of thirteen khans and I knew many languages. Two sons were born to me. Have ye not seen them?"
"We are thy sons; while we were asleep behind seventy-three curtains thou with our mother and all thy property were carried away. Though you are our parents, a merchant reared us. We are going for the Water of Life, and will make ye well again."
They brought a vial of the Water of Life, restored the eyes, hands, feet, and strength of their parents. Then they took father, mother, and all the property and families of the khan's sons and went home to their father's ruined yurta, which by magic they made large and beautiful.
"Now," said the younger brother, "we must go to the merchant."
"Go thou," said the elder; "I will remain here to guard our father and mother."
They argued and disputed, and at last both went. The merchant was glad when he saw them, and he made a great feast which lasted seven days and seven nights.
"We rescued you from death," said the merchant. "When one brother was lost we sent seven hundred to hunt for him. All this cost much time and treasure. Now you should not leave us. If you wish we will go to your father's yurta, but in any case we must not part."
"Come with us," said the brothers.
The merchant made all things ready, filled wagons with gold and treasures, and he and his wife went with the brothers to their father's home.
In time the two young men became great khans, but they lived always with their two fathers and two mothers.