VERY, very long ago lived Hodoy Shon Mergen Khan. He had a wife named Agwi Nogón; he had also a sister, whose name we do not know.
Hodoy Khan said one day, "I will build a great white, square roomy yurta."
And he built for himself an immense house, in the upper part of which he made many windows, and in the lower part many doors. The main building was gold on the outside and silver inside. The wings and rear buildings were silver.
Hodoy Khan made bazaars, he made thirty-three of them, and thrice daily at each of these were exchanged gold and silver for furs of all sorts; sable, beaver, and ermine were offered for sale in them. He sold to twelve other khans, and to peoples of seventy-three languages.
South of his golden yurta ten thousand cattle were at pasture; thousands and thousands of people were under his hand, and obeyed him.
Hodoy loved his one sister very greatly, so he built a splendid yurta for her, with many windows in the upper part and many doors in the lower. She was not living long in this splendid new yurta when the wife of a Mangathai came to her. This woman was a lying, deceitful, old flat-nose, who began to persuade the khan's sister to marry her son, a hundred and eight headed Mangathai.
"My brother is very stern," said Hodoy's sister. "He is chief of the thirteen khans; I do not wish to disobey him. He will not let me marry; he wants me to live in this house where I am, and be near him."
The mother went away after these words. "I will put an end to Hodoy Khan," said she in her own mind. She went out to the broad steppe, the open country, and got a plant which makes all people who eat of it swell up, but does not otherwise injure them.
"Eat this," said she to the khan's sister; and foolishly she ate it. Then she began to swell up, and was terribly frightened.
"Nothing can cure you, or save you," said the Mangathai woman, "but the liver of Shara Nagóy (Yellow Dog). Tell your brother to go for it."
She went then to her brother, and said: "I am sick, very sick."
"What hast thou seen in dreams?" asked Hodoy Khan.
"I saw in a dream that Yellow Dog lives beyond nine mountain ranges, and that if I eat his liver I shall be well; if not, I shall continue to swell and shall die surely."
"I have always told thee," said the brother, "that Shara Nagóy is a great friend of mine; how canst thou eat my friend's liver?"
"I tell thee my dream," replied the sister.
The sister went home. Hodoy Khan saddled a red horse that was ninety fathoms long and had ears three ells high; he mounted, took his bow with its quiver, and rode away with all swiftness. He rode and rode, but still he was far from Yellow Dog's kingdom. Then he made his horse into a flint chip, put the chip in his pocket, made himself into a wolf, ran on and on, but the wolf could not reach Yellow Dog's kingdom. He traveled till a great swamp was before him, then he turned himself into a falcon, flew and flew far; flew over the great swamp and over a wet meadow. After that he turned himself into a fox, and raced on, raced far beyond that. Still the fox could not go to Yellow Dog's kingdom.
Now Hodoy took his own form again and went toward Ulan Hada, a mountain which seemed to touch the sky. He could not pass over that mountain, so he tried to go around it, but found at one side a stream of blood flowing down straight in front of him. This blood was from people who had fallen and killed themselves while trying to climb that mountain.
"How are we to pass this mountain?" asked Hodoy of his horse.
"We must go back eighty versts," said the horse. "Then I will rush forward with all my might. But hold thou to me firmly."
They went back; the horse rushed forward, sprang, reached the top, crossed the mountain, went down on the other side, and
went farther, but could not reach Yellow Dog's land for a long time. They came to the boundary at last, and crossed it. Yellow Dog heard them approaching, and began to call to them, to attract, and to draw them on by his magic.
When Yellow Dog called Hodoy's horse stuck his feet in the earth and resisted, held back with all his strength. The wind made by Yellow Dog raised Hodoy's skirts above his head and was dragging them off. The power that drew him on was tearing the clothes from his body. Now on his horse he rose to the sky to get nails there. The seven sky smiths gave him the nails, and he nailed his skirts to the saddle behind and in front.
Yellow Dog then began to howl, and all the nails were drawn and dropped out of the saddle. All the trees in the forest round about fell to the earth from the howling. The horse could resist no longer. It rushed forward swiftly till Hodoy saw Yellow Dog's open mouth before him; the upper jaw touching the sky, the lower jaw on the earth; he moved not. Hodoy was pulled off his horse and drawn into the mouth. He grasped an upper tooth with one hand and pushed a lower tooth with his foot.
"Why come to fight me?" inquired Yellow Dog. "We were friends, thou and I; for that reason I will leave thee alive."
He placed Hodoy in a deep pit, poured living water upon him, that he might live and not die there. "Remain here," said Yellow Dog, "till a son of thine comes to rescue thee." Then he placed a great heavy stone over the pit and left Hodoy covered there, safely.
Next he turned to the horse, put all Hodoy's things on his back, and said: "If thy master has sons, or daughters, take these things to them."
The horse went home, but found no one there except Hodoy's wife. The sister was gone; the houses had vanished; all was gone. The young Mangathai had taken sister, houses, cattle, people, and had left nothing behind but a poor little yurta, and Hodoy's wife, living in it. Soon after twins were born to her; their backs were of gold and their hearts were of silver. They grew so fast that three days after their birth the skin of a sheep three years old was too narrow to wrap around them.
The Mangathai by his magic knew that Hodoy's wife had twins, and he said: "We must kill those two children."
A magpie flew into the yurta, and told the poor mother that the wicked Mangathai was coming to kill her two children.
She took the boys, put them on the red horse, with provisions, and rode away to a mountain. She left the boys on that mountain and went home again quickly. Soon after the Mangathai came to her wretched little yurta.
"Thou hast two young sons," said he. "Where are they? Where hast thou put them?"
One ewe with twin lambs was left to the woman. This ewe was the last of her flock. She had taken the twin lambs and burned them.
"Tell me where thy two boys are!" screamed the Mangathai. "I threw them into the fire," said the mother, "because they were shapeless, born prematurely."
"If they were thrown into the fire there must be bones left. Where are their bones?"
"Here they are," said she, showing the bones of the little twin lambs.
The Mangathai looked at them. "These are the bones of a beast," said he, "not the bones of children," and he fell to beating her with a club very cruelly.
She would tell nothing about her sons, except that the charred bones were theirs. The Mangathai went home; then he sent seven hundred men quickly to search in all places, to hunt for the children and find them at any cost.
The men searched three days for the children. On the fourth day the whole company was at the foot of the mountain and the boys on the summit.
"Let us go down," said one boy to the other at midnight. "Let us take provisions from those men who are hunting for us."
When the boys reached the foot of the mountain the seven hundred were sleeping. The brothers took two saddled horses and two baskets of bomshoy (cream mixed with rye flour) and went back to the mountain top. They sent home the red horse, ate bomshoy, and started; rode away southward; escaped
on the two small horses. The seven hundred could not find them, and went back empty handed.
The brothers rode on and on till they reached a broad meadow. At one side of the meadow was a poor little hut with a big smoke rising out of it. They tied their horses to the hitching-post and went into the hut. There they saw a gray old man, and a little old woman sitting by the fire, but no child was there.
"We are childless," said the man and the woman; "be our children. Whose sons are ye? Where is your birthplace?"
"We were born on Ulan Hada. We know not our father or mother. We are willing to be your children."
The boys let out their horses and sat down to eat. The next morning they went off with the old man to herd sheep. While following the sheep they saw wild goats racing around through the forest. "What beasts are those?" asked the brothers.
"If a man is a master at shooting he kills them; they are good to eat," said the old man. "If he is not a master he looks at them, and does nothing."
The next day the old man made bows and arrows, and gave them to the twin brothers. "Shoot," said he. They shot, and killed many goats. The old man and woman dressed and cooked the flesh gladly.
Farther on in the forest was a house. "What is that?" asked the boys of the old man and woman.
"Small boys like you must not look into that house," said the old people.
"Why not?" asked they. "Any man may look in, or he may enter."
The next day, when out herding, they left the sheep, and went into the house. Inside were two hundred men, one half of them crying, the other half laughing.
"Why are ye shut up here?" asked the brothers. "Why are some of you laughing, while others are crying?"
"Those who are crying will be eaten to-day by the Mangathai; those who are laughing will be eaten to-morrow. The Mangathai comes every day to eat people. Do ye go away quickly."
"We have no fear of that Mangathai," said the boys. "What will ye give us if we kill him?"
"One half of our gold and one half of our cattle."
"When the Mangathai comes we will be here. Shut the door, and bar it firmly. Do not let him enter."
The two boys turned into two bees, one above the door, and one at the side of it. When the Mangathai knocked the people answered, "We'll not let you in!"
"Who taught you to keep me out?"
"If you do not let me in at the door, I'll come down through the smoke-hole!" said the Mangathai in a rage, and he started to climb to the smoke-hole, then the two bees went one into one ear, the other into the other ear of the Mangathai, and stung the brain in him till he died in great torment.
The two hundred men gathered wood, burned the Mangathai, and scattered his ashes; then they brought meat with tarasun, and feasted the brothers. The next day they gave half their gold and half their cattle to the boys, who sent all this wealth to their mother's yurta. They went back then to the old man and woman, and said this to them:
"We are the sons of Hodoy Khan. We must go to our parents. We can live with you no longer."
The old people cried, and begged, but the brothers went home in spite of their tears. They found the gold in their mother's yurta, and the cattle at pasture near by.
"Where is our father?" asked they.
"Thy father was killed long ago while away from home fighting," said the mother.
"Where was he killed?"
"I will not tell, for you are too young yet to hear of this." After that she boiled milk for them. When it was boiling they seized her, thrust her hands into the milk, and said: "Tell us now where our father is." Then she told all that the red horse had told her. "He is in Yellow Dog's kingdom where a great stone confines him," said Agwi Nogón.
The two brothers mounted their horses straightway and rode to Yellow Dog's kingdom. When they were near that great
kingdom Yellow Dog heard them coming and pulled them in by his magic, and when they were close enough, he asked:
"Whose sons are ye?" They told him. "I was always a friend of your father," said Yellow Dog, "but his sister forced him to come here to kill me, so I put him in a pit, and placed a heavy stone over him. Draw him out of that pit, and take him home to his own place."
The stone was very heavy. The elder of the twins raised it a little, the younger raised it higher, with great effort, and then they rolled it to one side completely. Their father was wondrous to look at. His hair had grown out through his cap; his toe-nails had gone through his boots, and his finger-nails through his gloves. He was barely alive when they freed him.
A raven was flying from the north, it was flying toward them with great speed. When she came near, they called out to her: "Bring the Water of Life. Bring it quickly!"
The raven flew away, and wherever she found that water, she brought back her beak full, and poured it over Hodoy. He revived at once, became youthful, shook himself and stood up. "How long I have slept!" said he.
He begged Yellow Dog then to go with him and his two sons to punish the Mangathai, and kill him.
Yellow Dog agreed and they started off together. When Hodoy was near home he sent his sons to their mother, and went with his friend to meet the Mangathai. Not far from the Mangathai's house Hodoy Khan saw his own cattle, and among them a bull that in fighting had lost one horn and one eye. They met two herdsmen and asked:
"Have ye not seen any strange cattle? Ours ran away from us."
The herdsmen gave no answer. Hodoy and Yellow Dog broke the necks of those herdsmen. The two friends went on farther, and saw Hodoy's horses. Again they met two herdsmen, and Hodoy asked: "Have ye seen my horses?" They gave no answer, and received the same death as the other two.
Next they met two women driving seventy small calves. These women did not answer questions put to them, and they were killed also.
When the friends were near the house of the Mangathai they turned into two immense dogs of great strength, and became of the very same age. Everything was bright at the Mangathai's yurta, gleaming. Guards would not let in the strange, dreadful dogs; the dogs tore the heads off those guards, and then walked into the yurta very boldly.
The Mangathai was sitting at the left side of the room, his wife was at the side opposite, and was kneading a rawhide. The dogs began smelling around.
"Such immense dogs," said the Mangathai, "must belong to a very rich man; give them something to eat. It may serve us to feed them."
When food was given the dogs fought for it savagely. The Mangathai tried to quiet them. The dogs fell on him. He rushed from the house, and ran off to save himself. The two dogs followed and attacked him outside. Yellow Dog tore him to pieces, ate him up where he killed him, devoured every bit of his body.
When Yellow Dog had finished the Mangathai, the two friends took their own forms immediately. "Now," asked they of the Mangathai's wife, "which wilt thou have as a present, seventy horse tails, or seventy sharp stakes?" She answered not a word. They took her by the hair then, and dragged her to a place where three roads met, nailed her alive to a very great larch tree, poured the Water of Life on her so that she might survive every torment, and live on for countless years, unable to die. Then they put in front of the tree two casks, on one was a blunt knife, on the other a pair of dull scissors. On the tree they wrote this inscription: "When a man passes here he must cut, with the knife, a piece of flesh from this woman's body; when a woman goes by she must use the dull scissors in cutting."
Each time that flesh was cut from the woman a new piece grew quickly, taking the place of the old one cut off by the knife or the scissors.
Hodoy now drove home all his cattle. Yellow Dog went with him, and they had a great feast; a sea of drink and a mountain of meat for all present. Then he gave half of his
cattle and riches to Yellow Dog, and conducted him homeward with honor. "We shall be friends," said he, "from this day forth, and forever."
The next day Hodoy summoned all his people and said: "I have conquered the Mangathai, and these are my two sons." Among the guests was one old man, white bearded to the knees. "I will give names to thy sons if thou wish," said this old man. Hodoy gave permission.
"The elder will be called Altin Shagoy, Gold Knee Cap, the younger Mungun Shagoy, Silver Knee Cap," and so it was.