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Monday, June 13th, 2005, 12:55 PM
Folktales of Meandash, the mythic Sami Reindeer

(Enn Ernits)

Nearly 30 stories concerning the wild reindeer Meandash have been recorded from the Sami of the Kola Peninsula. One of these folktales, recorded on a 1873 field trip to the Kola Peninsula, was first published by the Russian author Vassili Nemirovich-Danchenko (Nemirovich-Danchenko 1877: 209; s.a.: 362). Whether the story concerned Meandash, is not known.

A Finnish linguist Arvid Genetz (1878, 1879a) made a trip to Kola in 1876, and subsequently published a folktale about proposals of marriage made by a raven, a seal and a reindeer to the daughters of an old Sami man. The story is undoubtedly connected to Meandash (or in the author's version: 'Mientush' or 'Mintysh'). Genetz also published the same folktale in an Hungarian scientific journal (Genetz 1879b; see also 1891).

Two of the stories narrated by the Sami were written down in 1887 by a local priest Konstantin Shchekoldin (Shchekoldin 1890), another tale was recorded by a naturalist A. Iashchenko, though the year of recording is unknown (Iashchenko 1892). The ethnographer Nikolai Haruzin has also taken interest in this tale, though to a smaller extent (Haruzin 1890).

The few Meandash stories recorded in the present century have been published by E. Itkonen 1931-1936, E. Itkonen 1985, Sienkiewicz-Gudkova 1960, Szabò 1967, Kert 1961, 1980, Kert & Zaikov 1988. The largest number of Meandash tales have been written down and published in Russian by the artist and ethnographer V. Charnoluski (Charnoluski 1962, 1965, 1972). Eero Autio has published the folktales of V. Charnoluski in the Finnish (1993) and Kerstin Eidlitz Kuoljok in the Swedish language (Tjarnoluski 1993).

Eero Autio has also analysed the totemistic aspect of the Meandash folktales (Autio 1993, 1995). Besides him, the stories have been associated with the pre-historic petroglyphs by Aleksei Okladnikov and Anatoli Martynov (Okladnikov & Martynov 1972: 92, 227-228), Nina Gurina (e.g. Gurina 1992: 15) and others. The astral folkloristic aspect of material concerning Meandash has been discussed in the work of Heino Eelsalu, a paleo-astronomer (Eelsalu 1995). The current author has also published a series of seven articles on research into Meandash tales in an Estonian electronic journal Mäetagused (Ernits 1997-1999). I would hereby like to express my gratitude to Mare Kõiva, Eero Autio and Andres Kuperjanov for providing me with photocopies of Meandash stories published abroad!

Tentatively, we might regard the Meandash tales as an entity, namely, as the life cycle of Meandash from his birth to his becoming immortal. Certainly we must consider it an alterable or 'dynamic' entity, which at some point in time might appear static, as new motifs and versions are being created or borrowed, or when the tales merge into one, etc.

The life of Meandash can be subdivided into the following parts, which we might refer to as periods or stages:
1. Birth and youth: a) birth and childhood, b) leaving his mother;
2. Manhood: a) marriage, b) leaving his wife and children;
3. Meandash as a culture hero;
4. Meandash as a deity: a) a sky reindeer pursued by a thunder deity, and b) a sun deity.

Birth and youth

The first period in Meandash's life is preceded by an introduction of his mother's sexual life, including impregnation. Meandash's birth and boyhood is described in five of the recorded versions.

The first account is concerned with the following: In a world away from people, the Meandash-maiden gave birth to a reindeer son, who soon learned to hunt. It might seem at first that the events take place in Lapland, but this in not true: the story is located in a mythical place, unknown to mortal Sami people. Still, its climate resembles that on the Kola Peninsula somewhat.

This mythical place is separated from the land of the Sami by a river of blood, which is called the Meandash River (M'aanndashsh-joGk). With its waves of lungs and stones of liver it resembles a living organism. The lungs serve as waves and liver as stones in the river of blood. The parallel between liver and stones is truly significant, if we consider the slippery stones and the smoothness of liver. As an anatomist I can picture its surface curving towards the diaphragm. The significance of this organ in the beliefs of the Sami is worthy of more thorough study (cf. the Mesopotamian and Etruscan custom of prophesying on liver - see Ernits 1990). The river of blood has lungs for waves; and, indeed, if a person or an animal is lying on its back the sharp edges and the upper pulmonary lobe of the lungs sometimes resemble waves.

The mythical river of blood was known already in the Finnish tradition (Kemppinen 1967: 68). True, the river of blood symbolises the separation of the territories of kin tribes, but it also joins them by means of the circulation of blood. The folktale also reflects the horizontal-divided worldview of the Sami.

The Meandash-maiden as a young woman and the mother of Meandash, appears in this version only. Other tales speak of an old wise and experienced woman (which in ancient Finno-Ugric tradition suggests a witch). According to the narrator, Meandash-nijt lives in human form, and only becomes a reindeer-cow upon the crossing the river of blood. She has settled in Meandash land with her children, who include the eldest son, whom she has said: «You are meandash - the reindeer,» as well as her nameless younger children (reindeer calves). No father is mentioned however. The son did not feed on grass and lichen, as a reindeer would, but instead went hunting, i.e. followed the traditional life style of the ancient Sami.

The second version of the childhood period consists of two stages: 1) the mother's dalliance and 2) helping the mother. The old woman (=witch) took the shape of a reindeer cow and fooled around with horned animals. She got pregnant and gave birth to a reindeer son. The son was strong and healthy and soon started to help his mother with firewood.

The tale says that the woman was an old wise-woman capable of establishing contact between different spheres of universe. Nothing is known about her origin, thus she must have existed since the beginning of times; the same also applies to tundra and reindeer. The woman could transform herself into a reindeer-cow as well as a human being, which is typical of totemist beliefs which involve the concept of human descent from animals and the possibility of crossing the line between men and animals. The old woman was impregnated by a horned animal, and gave birth to a reindeer son. An ambivalent human, i.e. a person of split character who was both human and animal, gave birth to an animal.

Her reindeer son was ambivalent as well: he worked as a regular human at helping his mother to gather firewood, he could talk; and, yet, he was a reindeer. The son was no ordinary child, he had exceptional abilities to perform hard labour even as a nurseling. These qualities convinced his fellow tribe members that the times and people were by no means ordinary. It was a mythical time, i.e. a time before us, when the universe was created and arranged as it is now.

When the reindeer son became mature, he became curious about his father and decided to find out whether he was a man or a reindeer. So, he went to cut down a tree and wedged his mother's leg inbetween a wood block there. Then he left his mother and set off to fjeld. Again, this event suggests crossing a line. It is not certain why he had to torture his mother, it is possibly later influence of some fairytale.

The third story speaks of a woman who was married to a reindeer and gave birth to a son who soon started to go hunting. Only the later events of the story of inform us that the son was an ambivalent being, a human reindeer.

The fourth story describes how a woman dallied with the reindeer, became pregnant and gave birth to a human son. The mythical chronotope in the story is relatively weak, it could be inferred only from a single word 'once'. Meandash's mother lived first among the reindeer and later spent her days in a tent together with her son, which in this story can be taken as a reference to her ambivalent nature. This version says nothing of her transformations or of her son's work. The latter became a reindeer only after a reindeer herd (his father among them) approached their tent. The event symbolises the completion of the cycle of time.

The fifth story is already somewhat familiar (cf. the second story). It is also about helping mother with firewood and fixing her leg inbetween a wood block. In this tale the two incidents of leavetaking - (1) leaving the maternal home and (2) running away from wife and children - merge into one.

A summary on the boyhood tales. Only five variants of Meandash's childhood are known, which enables us treat the subject on the argumentative level only.

The variants consist of two to five motifs. The story from Turia contains five motifs and the interpretation of the myth is quite unique. Every motif is repeated two to five times. The incident of the son's departure occurs in every variant. The story of Meandash's birth is known in the whole of the Kola area, but is recorded only as single reports. Two accounts quite similar in their motifs have been recorded from the Kolta people. Also, it is not entirely certain which language group the narrator from Imandra region belongs to.

Three possible explanations have been provided for Meandash's mother:

1. She was a virgin (in Imandra variant);
2. She was married to a reindeer while she herself was a human (in Kildin variant);
3. Dallying around with the horned animals, she herself became a reindeer-cow (in Kolta and Turia variants).

All this indicates that among different Sami tribes the origin of the mother has been interpreted differently.

Parallels could be drawn between the Turia and Kolta variants, at least in the accounts about the mother's dalliance. The Turia story is presented as an aetiological myth, aimed to explain the tradition of hunting reindeer without focusing on the aspect of a culture hero. The occurrence of the horned animal's birth motif in the accounts of both the Kildin and Aahkkel people, proves the affinity of these Sami tribes.

The motifs of him helping his mother and discovering his origin occurs solely in the accounts of the Kolta. The motif of the mother's reaction (warning her son) is most probably taken from the story concerning Meandash's leaving his family (see below). His leaving home is mentioned in all five of the variants, although in two cases (the Imandra and Kildin variants) it is subsumed into the subsequent departure.



The idea of marriage between a human and an animal finds its origin in totemist conceptions (Kostiukhin 1987: 45). Stories concerning the marriage of Meandash might be divided in three subgroups. The first subgroup contains the motifs of crossing the river of blood, the second subgroup introduces the trio of the suitors - a raven, a seal and a reindeer -, the third subgroup is about the bride secretly peeping at the preparation of food.

The first subgroup

The first subgroup of the marriage of Meandash focuses on the following incidents: The reindeer chooses for himself (or has chosen for him) a wife from another side of the river of blood. Out of the three daughters of an old man and his wife, he first marries the oldest, then the middle one, and finally the youngest one. The marriage is successful only with the youngest daughter.

The first story (as well as the ninth and tenth story) contains the intriguing motif of the reindeer son's building up a tent for his future family life. The tent was made of reindeer bones. The close resemblance between the reindeer tent in this story and the one described in Kalevala epic, as well as the similar motif of transforming into an otter, was first seized upon by E. Autio (Autio 1993: 82). In fact, the main difference between the Sami and the respective Finnish material is that in the latter the building is made from the bones of different animal species, whereas in the former the tent is made only of reindeer bones. Although the corresponding Kalevala verses are generally associated with the bridal home at Pohjola wedding, they were originally meant as a description of the room at Toonela (Turunen 1981: 234). Semantically, the Meandash world on the other side of the river of blood and Toonela on the other side of the black river are identical.

Thus, the mythical house of a reindeer was, in fact, a reindeer. The idea clearly refers to the microcosmic concepts and skeleton-related customs of the Sami. The threshold of the tent were made of cervical vertebrae. A neck is a very vulnerable part of the body: it serves as a passage to one's soul; therefore, it must be well protected. A number of swan images with necks several times longer than their bodies have been carved on the petroglyphs around Lake Onega during the Neolithic period. That, again, refers to the significance of the neck in ancient beliefs.

On the one hand, the threshold functions as a guarded border between the micro and macrocosm, on the other hand it serves as a part of the building which connects these two. A neck serves as a guarded border between the inner and outer space and connects the head with the body - probably the thought of making a threshold from cervical vertebrae was based on this very fact.

The reindeer surrounded the purification site with thoracic vertebrae, which really is quite logical: the thorax, containing heart and soul, is considerably more secure and cleaner than the abdominal cavity containing liver and intestines. Apparently, the Finnish Sami have considered the spinal column and sternum as the most important bones in a human body (Itkonen 1946: 246). It is also believed that a part of the soul-matter is retained in the bones, supposedly because the bones are preserved longer than other organs (Paulson 1958: 238). Bones are said to be associated with one's ancestors; for example, during the collective feasts the Sami, and also the Turkic peoples shared an animal body between them in a very specific way. It is assumed that the sharing is performed on the principle of demonstrating the identity of both structures - the community as a social organism and the body of a sacrificed animal (Tradicionnoe mirovozzrenie 1990: 39, 42, 43).

Two of the three daughters of the old man and his wife are evil and disobedient, they even steal. And, usually, the wages of sin is death. In the present story they are turned into lifeless stones, as such wretched women could not become the ancestors of reindeer people.

Unlike her older sisters, the younger daughter was able to chant. She chanted the river of blood into drying off. While doing so, she chewed alder bark and spit the cambium into the river. Alder is the hypostasis of blood. In ancient times its reddish sap was thought to contain blood; according to T. Lehtisalo it became the sacred soul tree for the Finno-Ugric people for this very reason (Lehtisalo 1934). I. Sergeieva has argued that alder was also considered a magic tree by the Sami, and its bark broth was used in a number of rituals (Sergeieva 1994: 167-168). The ritual of chewing alder bark, then spitting the red gunk all over the hunter was performed also during Bear Wakes (Krohn 1906: 179). Furthermore, the forest master of the Sami was called the man of alder, or Leeaibe-olmmai.

Analogous magic is present also in the current story: blood could be dried off only with alder (= the substitute of blood) and the «Meandash-joGk became drier than dry.» A similar motif of chewing an alder branch and spitting the cambium into water while crossing the river occurs also in a story recorded from one of the Kolta in Suynnijel, where a mother seeks a wife for a dog-man (Itkonen 1931-1936: 171).

The old man's younger daughter cherished the reindeer calves and, by tying red baize ribbons to their ears accepted them as her relatives. The red colour is associated with blood, and, by that token, also with ancestors. Thus it is sacred. In the blood river story, the category of acceptance is clearly proved by a Kildin Sami belief that seeing blood in one's dream predicts a relative's visit (Szabò 1967: 44-45).

The Sami thought that soul resides in ear (Charnoluski 1972: 112). Ears were also sacrificial organs for the Sami (Leem 1771: 215-216). It is also known that in Aahkkel, red cloth laces had been tied to the reindeer antlers lying heaped up in piles; by offering the antlers people hoped for a good hunt (Charnoluski 1966: 308).

In the sixth story the bereaved reindeer transformed into a Sami and proposed to the oldest daughter of the insofar mortal Sami man from the other side of the river of blood. Later he married the middle daughter, and then the youngest. The daughters' behaviour was the same as in the earlier versions. The evil ones were gored to death.

The current version is characteristic in the way that the reindeer was a widower and he had children from his first marriage, who were also reindeer. Apparently, the marriage stories are didactic in nature, teaching people to revere the totem for fear of death.

In the Sami accounts, the river of blood separates the land of mortals and the mythical reindeer land. It functions as a border between the realm of the dead and that of the living, between companions and the ancestors. Therefore, the black river of the Underworld and the River of Blood are express the same semantic notion: both of them function as borders between our world and the other world. One of the interesting features here is that one of the daughters crossed the river by swimming like an otter (Autio 1993: 82). The mythic nature attributed to otters in Finno-Ugric tradition is revealed by a huge petroglyph discovered on Besov Nos among the Neolithic rock-carvings of Lake Onega. Its living habits make this precious fur-animal a perfect mythic mediator between the different spheres of universe. It swims in water and also moves on dry land, occasionally standing up on two legs and assuming the pose of praying. All this makes it an ambivalent character.

The seventh story has reached us only as a fragment similar to the previous ones in its motifs of the river of blood and chanting.

The second subgroup

The second subgroup mainly focuses on the following details: The raven married the old man's (and his wife's) oldest daughter, the seal married the middle one, and the reindeer married the youngest daughter. The old man and his wife went to visit their daughters and saw that the only daughter living happily was the one married to the reindeer. The only similarity between the second and the first subgroup of stories is that it is the youngest daughter of the old man (or the mortal Sami man) and his wife who is married to a reindeer.

The eighth story is already familiar in its contents (see also the seventeenth story). V. Charnoluski has recorded two stories with the same title: one from Aahkkel and the other from Turia (cf. the 13th story). The Aahkkel version is very characteristic to the Meandash's marriage of the second subgroup, although the proposal motif is rather brief.

I. Sergeieva speculates that the three animal suitors in the second subgroup symbolise the three worldly spheres: the raven - sky, the seal - water, and the reindeer - earth; and therefore it suggests the personification of nature and the belief in the blood-relation between men and animals (Sergeieva 1994: 164).

The present author does not exclude the possibility that the three characters might represent different totems. The current variant suggests that the parents of the child came from different tribes: the totem of the father was a reindeer, while the mother's totem was a raven. And even if the wife did not like it, things were decided by her husband. Moreover, a raven has also been one of the main characters in the mythology of the arctic peoples of Siberia (see Meletinski 1979).

Generally, the events described in myths centred around a journey, the same applies to this subgroup, where the old man and his wife take turns to visit their daughters. The old man who came from the reindeer tribe was not happy in the raven's family, with its bare living-place and the dried pine-trees, and its disorderliness, and a diet of odds and ends. Such a lifestyle was not something a reindeer was accustomed. For some reason the raven was hostile towards the reindeer's oldest daughter and had crippled her; still, they lived together and had children, who were all ravens due to their dominant father.

Then the old man visited his middle daughter, who had married a seal, and found that the seal was not a good husband for his daughter either. Again, he disapproves of the vast emptiness, the becoming-dirty from the seal blubber, the unaccustomed food and the son-in-law's hostility towards his daughter.

The next day the old man visited his younger daughter. In this story, the distinction between one's-own and the strange is most conspicuous. The latter is characterised by unaccustomed things, deficiency and ugliness, whereas the former (including nature) is habitually fine and beautiful. The land is covered with the basic foodstuff of the reindeer, lichen. One's own people are revered - they are offered the best seat covered with soft fur. It is good to live among one's own people, therefore the old man settled among the reindeer family, at first, alone, but later along with his wife. Another significant fact is that the reindeer son-in-law was the only one to be transformed into a human being, whereas the others remained animals. This fact strengthens the sense of one's own even more.

The story tells of the game of the reindeer, which according to V. Charnoluski was a remnant of the collective hunting cult, and resembles ikänipkä, the ritual feast of the Evenki (Charnoluski 1966: 310 ff.). The reindeer game had been described even earlier by N. Haruzin and journalist Zinaida Richter in 1925 (see Haruzin 1890: 340, 383).

The tent symbolises the first member of the pair of opposites - culture and nature -, separated by the walls. Outside the tent, the reindeer represented hypostasis of animal, inside the tent where he was married to a human he assumed an anthropomorphic shape. The tent where the old man came to was located in the other world: had he been a stranger he would not have been able to enter the tent. He had to be let in by a relative - in our story, the wife of the reindeer.

The ninth story is seems to be the only story recorded twice from the same narrator, after the gap of a year. Although the first version of it was mediated by the narrator's student daughter, this is still quite a typical version. The motif of proposal is treated in a relatively laconic manner. The interesting feature of the story is that the reindeer used one door to enter the tent while his wife used another. Traditionally, the Sami hunter took his haul to the tent through the back door (poashsh-uks, also veerr-lypps, i.e. the blood door), and then entered the building through the front door (Charnoluski 1966: 307). Turkic peoples have a similar tradition: the products of the strange world (the hunting haul) are never taken to the house through the front door (Tradicionnoe mirovozzrenie 1988: 70), for it would involve a clash between the cultural and natural world. The reindeer in our story is simultaneously the hunter and the haul, as he chases animals of his kind.

The second variant, which was recorded directly from M. Antonova, differs from this account only in three details:

1. The three suitors came to propose at the same time;
2. The old man gave them a task to carve out three piggins, and the suitors succeeded at it;
3. The raven fed on tripe and heads.

The simultaneous arrival of the suitors occurs also in the sixteenth story and the carving of piggins in the fourteenth story (see below); both of these were recorded in Turia.

The tenth story differs from the others only in smaller details. This variant emphasises the significance of predictions appearing in dreams. The old man's wife dreamt only of the most characteristic body parts of the animals (totems). The dream was not an ordinary one, but had a special meaning, being seen before the marriage of her daughters. Differently to the previous variant, the proposal scene is almost skipped, which might be accounted for by the narrator's forgetfulness.

As to the reindeer, it is said that his tent was made from bones and skins, so, the reindeer tent must have been similar to the ones described in previous versions. The motif of pre-marital building of the tent seems to have been forgotten, and it functions only as an insignificant detail which makes the reindeer more agreeable than the other suitors.

It is possible that the eleventh story has been passed on from the Kildin to the Turia people. This story introduces the idea that all the suitors had the powers to take the shape of human.

The first part of the twelfth story, namely the account of marriage, is relatively similar to the previous version, although the proposing scene is described more thoroughly. The story relates that the old man had not yet waken up, while his wife was already lighting the fire. She is always the first one to notice the suitor, whereas the old man takes up the subject of marriage. The old woman names the body part most characteristic to the animal (pars pro toto); doing it in most of the versions. The story is a typical expression of totemist philosophy: an animal who can transform into a human being, marries the daughter of a human. Quite significant is the emphasis on the time period - it always happens in the morning. It is common knowledge that in myths, morning is associated with creation (Tradicionnoe mirovozzrenie 1988: 47).

The animal suitors are rather active: they come from a distant place (or, in fact, the mythical world) and ask the old man's permission to marry his daughter. Let us recall here that in the first subgroup it was the young reindeer's mother who went to seek a wife for her son. The narrator's attitude towards all of the suitors is rather favourable, although somewhat uneven: the raven is considered a handsome man, the seal a plump one and the reindeer an exceptionally handsome man.

The proposal scene is soon followed by a visit by the old man and his wife. Life in Meandash world as well as in human world was thought to be regular. In the morning they got up, the husband went hunting, then they ate dinner and went to sleep. The passage of time is constantly emphasised (e.g. «life went on..»). Grandmother had a kind and warm attitude towards her grandchildren - it is shown by her making red collars for them. These are semantically comparable to the red baize ribbons mentioned in the first story (see above), which were tied around the ears of reindeer calves.

The worship of totems was still current at the time when Charnoluski made his expedition to the Kola Peninsula, although for obvious reasons the local people were not over-eager to discuss it with strangers. Later, however, they overcame this timidity.

In Sami folk religion, the reindeer is associated with male lineage. In the Sami language, the wife of Meandash was usually called Meandashsh-kaab or koab, where the last part of the compound stands for a newlywed or a young married wife, (and is related to the Estonian dialectal words kabe and kabu [maiden, woman]). T. Danilova has also called her the maadder-ahke, or the ancestress (cf. the Kolta word maaddar-ahkka and the Inari madderakko, etc.) (Ränk 1949: 188; Itkonen 1943/1944: 65). The first part of the compound is related to the Finnish word manner : manteren [continent] and the Estonian cognate the Estonian word manner : mandri. Relying on the Kalevala, we might assume that originally the Sami word denoted also 'Earth Mother', it is even supported by the linguistic record that in Finnish mythology, the wife of Ukko, the thunder god was known as akka (Turunen 1981: 18). The Finnish historian, Uno Holmberg, has mentioned that Madderakka, who helped women in child labour, and is therefore considered as the ancestress, lived in the ground under the tent where people took offerings for her (Holmberg 1915: 77).

V. Charnoluski has reported that this version had never been told in the form of a narrative, it has always been sung. The story was called the lyvt.

As for the thirteenth story (see also the eigth story), we cannot exclude the possibility that it might have come from one and the same original version: whereas one of the stories is narrated with a longer beginning, the other has a longer ending. The story might have been 'improved' by V. Charnoluski, as the collector is suspected to have added information to story and merged different versions on many occasions.

The fourteenth story is the first, and so far the only reindeer story, that has been translated into Estonian. This version has clearly been influenced by the Indo-European miracle fairytale The Frog Princess (AT 402), where the suitors have to fulfil complicated tasks and where the woman burns her husband's skin (e.g. Ar@js & Medne 1977: 61-62, 281; Barag et al. 1979: 128-129). The motif of carved piggins occurs also in the 9th story, which is recorded from Turia as well.

The fifteenth story has been quite thoroughly elaborated. In the beginning, the suitors are merely characters disguised in animal costumes. The narrator has paid a lot of attention to the first marriage. Differently to the previous versions, the wedding ceremony takes place in the bride's parental home. Another intriguing fact is that the newlywed bride leaves her parental home flying like a raven. We should remember here that in Sami folk religion when the soul of a shaman took the shape of a bird, it travelled most often as a raven (Paulaharju 1922: 136). Also, a seita-stone driven away from its home, or a deity living there often appeared as four ravens (Nemirovich-Danchenko, s.a.: 364). Another unique description reports that the third suitor left his bride's parents in the shape of a reindeer, his wife followed him as a reindeer-cow.

Before the departure of the son-in-laws, the old man asks where the newly-wed couples intend to settle down. The raven and the seal replied, a house by a sea-cliff, but the reindeer's answer was, a tent set up near a forest lake. These replies suggest that different tribes were settled in different regions, and also that the raven and the seal were considered quite respectable in this story. The folktale differs from others also in the fact that the seal was not totally condemned.

Life is best in the reindeer family, where the (presumably human-shaped) children play with reindeer antlers (cf. the eighth story). The gradation of children seems to function as praise or blame as well: the raven's children are all animals; the seal's animals are partly animals, partly humans; the reindeer's children are all human.

The sixteenth story says that the three (anthropomorphic) suitors met the old man at a reindeer hunt and promised to marry his daughters all at once (similar 'collective' proposals occurs also in the 9th story) the same evening (!). The suitors turn up at the time promised and the daughters choose their husbands. Thus, the basics of the story are familiar, although the details differ from other versions considerably. Apparently, the narrator was uncertain in his facts.

In this version, it was also the old man who went to visit his daughters, although the fact that he first visits the seal family is an obvious lapse of memory. So is the mentioning of fish on reindeer's dinner table. The story differs from other variants, in the fact that the parents intended to save their daughters from misery, but nothing came of this.

The seventeenth story resembles the eigth story in its description of the origin of the daughters' parents. The commentary to Sami Folk Tales (1980, edited by G. Kert) note that the folktale Why Don't the Reindeer Live Among People? (the seventeenth story) is taken from V. Charnoluski's book A Legend of Meandash, the Human Reindeer (Kert 1980: 296). In reality, this book contains no such folktale! The folktale is in fact taken from a book entitled On the Land of the Flying Stone by V. Charnoluski (Charnoluski 1972: 114-117). Further comparison reveals that the seventeenth story is actually the same as the eighth story, for they accord in contents, and are in many ways the same. Still, as they contain quite conspicuous differences, they cannot be considered as totally identical. What, then, might be the problem?

The preface to Sami Folktales reveals that some of the folktales that had not been previously published, were obtained from V. Charnoluski's son, and that these are edited for literary reasons (Kert 1980: 5). We can assume that the story Why Don't the Reindeer Live Among People? is one of them. Thus, V. Charnoluski must have written two literary versions of the same recorded narrative, and left the more thoroughly edited version unpublished. Therefore, there is no need to analyse the contents of the seventeenth story once again; instead, I will present a few supplements which occur in the story:

1. It emphasises that the reindeer of the old man's tribe are clean animals who "care for their appearance, and their blood", adding that all excess things are cast into water and not put in store. Further events suggest that the reference applies to the bed-furs peed wet by children;
2. The sea-related ravens and seals are said not to care for their appearance; they smear themselves with gore, eat meat and blood, store and hide the leftovers, and are in the habit of smelling bad;
3. The description of the motif of proposals by the raven, seal and reindeer is more worked out, as is that of the conflict caused by the difference in origin of the parents. The reindeer is called Meandash;
4. The seal's home was built of whale bones. This detail occurs in none of the other variants;
5. The old man shivered from cold sleeping under the seal skin cover;
6. After greeting, Meandash laid his hand on the father-in-law's shoulder and the old man laid his hand on his.

In the myths and folktales, the youngest daughter is often held in the highest esteem. Logically, both parents wished to marry their favourite child to an animal representing their totemic group. The same happened in this version of the story: the old woman tried to fix her youngest daughter up with the first suitor, the raven, whereas the old man wanted to give him the oldest daughter. In both cases it was the old man's word that decided the matter. The old woman also wished to marry the youngest daughter off to the seal, but the old man had other plans. A discussion of the different totems of raven, seal and reindeer predating the present article is that of Eero Autio (Autio 1993: 68).

The eighteenth story is rather distorted. Firstly, it is expressed in the strange account of the old man sending his daughters to the seashore to seek husbands - this idea might have been borrowed from another folktale. Also, the idea of finding the reindeer husband there seems implausible. Secondly, the canonical order of marriages, typical of other stories, does not apply here: in this version, the seal marries the oldest and raven the middle daughter; the first visit, however, coincides with that in all other versions. Thus, the differences might have been caused by the narrator's memory lapses, or simply his ignorance in the contents of the myth.

The emphasis on male lineage is prevalent in all previously-mentioned and following versions of the story - this emphasis is even reinforced by the patrilocal residence: the wife, children and the elderly parents live all together at the husband's house.

We should be careful in analysing the nineteenth story, as the narrator is young and educated. The proposal-event is quite traditional in itself, the suitors came one after another. Lighting the fire is also mentioned, introducing the use of a vent for hot air. The raven and the seal are referred to simply as young men, whereas the reindeer and his antlers are considered exceptionally handsome and nice, which, again, refers to the narrator's preference. The narrator mentions that neither the ravens flying above the house, nor the seals' sliding down the slopes. It is said that the raven and seal children ran to meet their grandparents, shouting: «Grandmother and grandfather are coming to visit us.» The same happened in the reindeer home. Grandmother made crochet red ribbons for each of her grandchildren; the neck or ear laces have also been mentioned also in the first and the twelfth story.

The third subgroup

The two versions of the third subgroup might be considered as contaminated accounts of the marriage of the reindeer and the dog.

The twentieth story describes the story of a dog-man interrelated with the story of a reindeer-man; the former is known in the whole of the Kola Peninsula, and even among the Finnish living in Kolta (e.g. Briskin 1917: 7-9; Itkonen 1931-1936: 8, 170-175, 194-203; Itkonen 1985: 94-101; see also Kert 1961: 56-61).

The characters of the folktale are:

1. an elderly woman with her dog-man son;
2. the three daughters of an old man, one of whom will be the future wife of the dog-man;
3. the son of the dog-man and the youngest daughter.

The story introduces the elderly woman as a fully human being, whereas her husband, already dead by that time, was half-human, half-dog. Therefore, we might assume that he was a representative of the dog totemism. Several Ob-Ugrian ethnic groups have considered dog as their ancestor, or as a sacred animal (Sokolova 1983: 140).

The Sami folktales suggest the existence of at least five totem animals: a reindeer, a raven, a seal, a dog, a bear and a falcon. This is also suggested by archaic remnants discovered at archaeological excavations. During the last decade, eighteen zoomorphic figures have been found at the Kola Peninsula, four of them deer-like, four bear-like, three dog-like, one a supposed marbled seal, and so on. (Gurina 1986: 4). In addition, the Sami believed in the transformation of humans into a salmon trout as well as to a pike (Itkonen 1931-1936: 74-75; Charnoluski 1962: 187-190).

The second exogamous group in the current story was formed by the descendants of the reindeer, including both the mother-in-law as well as the daughter-in-law, as both of them started to give birth to reindeer children. The mother's warnings also refer to the reindeer who snares dogs with reindeer traps. Similar stories can emerge only among a mixed group of people who consider both dog and reindeer as their ancestors; this argument, however, appears to be flawed, if we note how the dogs regard stench (which is a link with the reindeer stories).

The general structure of the current version resembles the first subgroup of marriage stories, in that the disobedient older daughters are condemned to death. This disobedience is not just a refusal to comply, but a violation of an important taboo of the dog's family connected to boiling meat. The story suggests that the newly-wed woman must adopt her husband's life style, which was passed on to him in turn by his half-man, half-dog father. The reindeer mother's task after losing her husband was (or was not, in cases where there was no husband, as in the stories of the first subgroup) to marry her children in the benefit for the whole fratria; she has also the right to punish them for violating the husband's family's traditions.

According the V. Charnoluski, the twenty-first story is taken from the records of A. Genetz (Charnoluski 1965: 35). This, however, is not true. If this story is not V. Charnoluski's own crossing of K. Haruzin's version (i.e. the nineteenth story) with marriage stories of the first subgroup (the motif of goring to death, for example, occurs in the sixth story), then it must be an otherwise unrecorded story collected by V. Charnoluski.

The events described in this story take place in mythical times. The childhood of the reindeer, who is by that time ready for marriage, is summed up in a single sentence, mentioning his unusually-fast maturation. The parents of the young man, called grandmother and grandfather were both (erroneously!) said to have belonged to the reindeer tribe.

The most intriguing fact is that the first candidate for wife is brought home by the grandfather, while all the others are brought home by the grandmother. The reindeer mother turned the first maiden into lifeless stones, i.e. punished her with death for breaking the meat-boiling taboo. In both this and the nineteenth story, the future mother-in-law discovered her offence when the leather sack containing meat started to let water leak over the fire.

Differently to the previous version, the second prospective wife was too bashful and indifferent towards her future husband. This also was considered reprehensible: she was first gored to death by the reindeer, and then turned into a stone.

The youngest daughter met the reindeer's expectations and they lived happily from then on (the tying of ribbons or neck collars was described also in the first and the twelfth story).

The encircling of the tent by a reindeer herd seems to refer to it being occupied by totem animals. The Tenojok Sami, for example, had a custom related to proposals of marriage, namely, that of riding three times around the house of a bride-elect (Mark 1928: 102). The practice of turning on one's heels followed by a transformation or some other significant change has a somewhat different meaning. It occurs in the Meandash-series (e.g. the 1st story), and elsewhere (see Itkonen 1931-1936: 72). In an account of proposal of marriage from Nyörtsaame, the young couple turn three times on their heels (Zaicev 1927: 22). Might that be considered a relevant feature of transition rites?

Monday, June 13th, 2005, 12:57 PM
A summary of marriage stories

The first subgroup contains three recorded stories, but as one of the recorded extracts is far too short to analyse, we can only speak of two quoted variants from the Imandra region, and even then the tribal origin of the narrator remains uncertain. Both variants have a similar structure. We could distinguish between four parts: 1) the building of the reindeer home, 2) marriage, 3) the reaction of the old man's daughters and 4) their fate. All variants (incl. the fragmentary third variant) contain references to the river of blood separating the two spheres of the universe, which may be crossed only with the help of chanting.

The motif of building the reindeer home, which symbolises the young reindeer starting a family life, is not mentioned in the second story, as the widow already had a home. This very motif is also present in two stories of another subgroup from Kildin (9, 10). Thus we might assume that all of the marriage-related stories of the first subgroup have been recorded only from the Kildin people.

The basic differences between the two variants are: 1) in one story the reindeer is a widow and is in search of a wife himself, whereas in another story it is the mother who marries her son to a woman, 2) in one variant the unsuitable brides are gored to death, in another they are turned into stones and 3) the elder daughters cannot keep the children's beds clean. The latter fact is actually borrowed from the story about the departure.

The ideal variant of the first subgroup might be pictured as follows: the reindeer man's mother, or the reindeer man himself, proposed first to the eldest, then to the middle and last to the youngest daughter of a mortal from the other side of the river of blood. The first two daughters were disobedient and evil, and were therefore sentenced to death. The reindeer man married the hardworking and obedient youngest daughter.

The second subgroup has been recorded several times more than the first and the third one, containing one variant from Aahkkel, three from the Kildin people and six from the Turia people. The origin of one variant is not known, and it is also incomplete, as the narrator does not specify who married whom and mentions nothing of the fate of the daughters. The 17th story, however, has been edited for literal purposes.

The stories of the second subgroup describe: 1) the proposals of three suitors and 2) the parents' visit to their daughters.

The Aahkkel and Kildin stories cover the marriage proposal relatively briefly. The conflict between two parents from different totemist groups might be a fabrication of V. Charnoluski. The dream motif is not present in other variants. It is very typical to both Kildin as well as Turia stories to characterise the suitors by a certain part of their body (pars pro toto). The 14th story is influenced by a miracle tale. The 15th story is also quite unique. Regretfully, the uniqueness of major characteristics and also the possible «additions» made by V. Charnoluski do not reveal the origin of the stories and motifs. Several Turia stories contain implications that the father ordered his daughters to choose between the suitors; the same implication is present in the 18th story, which is of unknown origin. The Turia people seemed to know two different types of marriage proposal stories: the stories of the first type describe how the suitors come to the house and are married first to the eldest, then to the middle and last to the youngest daughter, but in the stories of the second type the daughters can choose their husband themselves, providing they follow certain rules. Some stories contain significant traces of memory lapses.

So, we could form two ideal variants on the marriage proposal:

1. The old man (and his wife) had three daughters. The raven man married the eldest, the seal man the middle and the reindeer man the youngest daughter. The daughters were taken to their husbands' homes.
2. The old man (and his wife) had three daughters. The daughters were told to get married according to certain rules. Three suitors came (the raven man, seal man and reindeer man), or the daughters went out to look for them. The daughters married the suitor of their choice.

In the majority of stories the newlywed couple was visited by the old man (7 variants), and sometimes also by the old man and his wife together (4 versions). The 15th story is original in that the old man returned home after visiting each daughter. In eight variants it was mentioned that the two eldest daughters had been injured by their husbands, and in one variant it was the raven's wife only, while two variants contain no references to injuries.

The accounts from the entire Kola region contain almost identical descriptions of grandchildren, who were attributed certain zoomorphic features during the visit of the old man and his wife; in some accounts several features have been forgotten, particularly in the 18th story. Two stories contain no reference to the grandchildren around the house.

Ordinarily, the parents ate at their daughter's house. It is mentioned in all stories but the 13th. As regards food descriptions, the 9th story is the closest to the ideal variant. In some accounts eating is not at all mentioned in the visiting event, or is mentioned in general terms, like ate or ate and drank.

Neither the events following the visit nor how the visit ended are described in the Kildin version, and on two occasions (both accounts, especially the 18th, are very fragmentary) the old man stays at his daughter's house for only one night. We might assume that the idea to settle there was more original; in four variants the visitors returned home, and in five variants they settled at their youngest daughter's home. V. Charnoluski's records of the visiting event appear to be credible. Other stories, except for the 12th and the 19th, contain no indications of bringing belongings from home.

The ideal version of the visiting event might be the following: The old man alone, or with his wife, visited their daughters in turn. The raven man had pecked out the eldest daughter's eye. The children were flying above the tent. The family of the eldest daughter ate meat scraps, peritoneum, etc. Then they visited the seal man. The seal's children were sliding down the roof of the tent. The hand of the middle daughter was bitten off. The seal's family ate only fish or fish scraps. Then they visited the reindeer man. His children were playing with horns, or some kind of a horn game. The youngest daughter had a good life. The family ate meat. The old man and his wife settled there.

The stories of the third subgroup consist of three elements: 1) marriage, 2) the daughters' conduct and 3) their fate. These elements largely coincide with the first subgroup, the main differences being that they 1) do not mention the building of the reindeer tent, 2) describe different wrongdoings, which might be reduced to disobedience and evil-mindedness.

Only two stories of the third subgroup are known to have been published. The 20th story is clearly connected to the story of a dog-man. In the first story, the mother turned both prospective daughter-in-laws into stones, and in the second the reindeer gored the middle daughter to death.

The ideal version of the third subgroup might be something like the following: The reindeer man was first married to the eldest, then the middle and then the youngest daughter of the family of mortals. The two elder daughters misbehaved and were sentenced to death. The reindeer man married the youngest, obedient daughter.

To conclude we might say that besides the marriage to a reindeer or a dog, the totemist folktales of the Sami also mention marriage to other animals (bears, wolves, birds, fish), and transformation into them (see Itkonen 1946: 536-537).

Departure from wife

The departure consists of 1) the warning and 2) the misdeed, 3) the reindeer's and his children's escape from the house and 4) the mother's reaction.

The misdeed was that the children had wetted their beds. This caused an unpleasant smell in the tent, which the reindeer father could not stand. The story could be explained by a common practice of hunters, according to which they have to be very clean, as animals have an excellent sense of smell. In a mythical sense this was a taboo for the hunters (see also Charnoluski 1966: 303). Violation of the taboo upset the situation: Meandash could no longer transform himself into a human. The solution was to flee.

In the myth, the reindeer husband could no longer transform himself into a human because of the bad smell, and hence he fled the home and his child(ren) followed. This was a second escape, the second crossing of the border. The first escape was running away from his childhood home. The escape motif explains 1) why the reindeer do not live among humans, and 2) how wild reindeer became the primary livelihood for the Sami. Thus it also has the characteristics of a legend.

Naturally, the mother was shocked by such turn of events. Her conduct in different versions varies: in some stories she gave her children her blessing, in others she threatened them, and in yet other stories she followed her family herself. As the stories contain the contamination of two escapes (from mother and from wife), I would like to further elaborate on the stories of the first escape, as the mother's reaction to both stories is very similar.

One of the peculiarities of the first story is that Meandash went to his mother to complain about his ill fate. Several versions mention her offering him the breast, but in this case the narrator must be mistaken. In such cases it was Meandash's wife who gave the breast to her child. In his account, P. Sarvanov mentions the four nipples of the reindeer calf's mother. In other versions the warnings are addressed to Meandash's son.

Another peculiarity of the story is that Meandash's wife wrapped herself in the skin soaked with urine and turned into the fairy of the reindeer, who determined the reproduction of reindeer and resultingly also the fate of the Sami. V. Petrukhin has claimed that the reindeer wife was a mediator between the hunting tribe and the animal kingdom, and generally transformed into the fairy of animals in developed mythology (Petrukhin 1986: 5). This applies also in the story under discussion. If her being wrapped in the soaked reindeer skin was not coincidental, then the motif might be related to the notion of fertility. Parallels could be drawn with the legend about Meandash-pyyrre who could render an area fertile by urinating there (see 29th story).

The first story is contaminated with the concept of a reindeer elf. According to the source material this function is served by Luot Hozik who lives in the tundra among the vast moss fields and protects domesticated reindeer and sends the wild reindeer to death by the hunter's bullet, as the Sami believe (Haruzin 1890: 152). T. Itkonen has made reference to an analogous creature in the Kolta belief: it is an anthropomorphic but hairy miehtts-hozjen (the Sami forest elf), who is believed to protect domesticated reindeer (Itkonen 1945/1946: 129).

The second story is in fact a story about the first escape, but with no reference to the mother's response.

The third story is unique because of the son's rude reply to his mother. The benevolence of the latter softened the son's heart and he wished her well. It also includes an alternate reference to the reindeer tent.

The fourth story is concerned with the first escape and the reindeer mother's curse: you, my son, will not escape the bullet. The legend explains the origin of reindeer hunting.

In the fifth story the narrator has combined two types of departures, namely, the reindeer's departure from his mother's home and his flight from his wife.

The sixth story contains an interesting piece of advice: a brave hunter can have his heart pierced with a horn. This indicates an effort to draw a distinction between true hunters and others.

The eighth story largely coincides with the 17th story, and differs from the latter in that:

1. Meandash told his wife to throw the urine-soaked skins into the river or stream, and not keep them in the tent, dry them in the open air or hang them on the door. In the 4th story the husband told her she could not hang the skins out in the sun.
2. It contains an embedded story, in which the daughter tells the old woman of her going to pick berries, and repeats Meandash's orders and prohibitions.
3. It claims that Meandash cannot transform himself into a human because of the bad smell.

The ninth story contains traces of memory lapses on the part of the narrator. In this story it was the old man who had wetted the bed. Other stories mention nothing of the mother's settling at the home of the old man. In other stories the motif of the reindeer home is associated with the motif of marriage.

The tenth story describes the destruction of the tent by father and son. This refers to the destruction of the microcosm they had been living in up to that point.

The twelfth story differs from the others in that it mentions two wrongdoings: the first caused by the old woman before the reindeer ran away from home, the other taking place after the flight. As we know, the negative incident took place in the evening. The eloquent speech delivered by Meandash-paarn, or at least some parts of it, appears to be fabricated by V. Charnoluski (cf. also 14th and 15th story). In her warning, his mother also suggests he narrow his eyes not to harm the hunter with his look, as Meandash could blind a human (cf. 25th story).

After her reindeer husband's departure, his wife married a mortal man, but her life was not a success. The reindeer man appeared to his former wife in her dreams and told her to murder her husband in a sacred place, to start sleeping on his skin and to eat his head and brain (the same motif in the 15th, 19th and 22nd stories). This motif also refers to the significance of animal skin in Sami religion. J. Sergeieva (1994: 169) has correctly assumed that the motif of killing symbolises ritual sacrifice. The story suggests that a sacred animal could not be slaughtered at random places: contact with a sacred object could be established only in a sacred place.

From the folktale under discussion we learn that only the primal mother was allowed to eat the reindeer's head and brain, it was otherwise forbidden for females (see e.g. Itkonen 1946: 269).

It is likely that the Sami folktale represents a legend of a dying and then reborn wild animal known all over the world. The Sami considered flowing water to be a magical and universal purifying agent. In their folk belief, flowing water brought the skins to the place where new reindeer embryos were born. The tale describes how according to the Sami conception the skins are taken somewhere far away, where they ascend to heaven to the Sun God. The latter might also refer to Meandash-pyyrre (see 29th story).

The fourteenth story is concerned with the burning of the reindeer skin, followed by the separation of the animal and human domains.

The fifteenth story presents the idea that the life of an old reindeer would be meaningless (his teeth were falling out, as a result he was already doomed as he could no longer eat), unless he sacrificed himself for ritual purposes. The reindeer instructed that his head should be placed directly on the ears of the bed skin, because it was in the ears that the soul of the reindeer was supposed to lie (see also 22nd story).

Another interesting motif is the eating of reindeer eyes. This has been associated with the cult of Mother Earth and fertility. The Arctic nations (the Nganasans, the Chukchi, etc.) attributed the eyes of wild animals, incl. the reindeer, considerable importance (Simchenko 1976: 236). Also, a report from the Sami recorded by Tuderus (1910) says that a slaughtered reindeer could not be taken inside the tent with its eyes still in its head. The eating of eyes also refers to the original ritual, which described the possession of the first reindeer embryos by Mother Earth for the purpose of fertility. In an attempt to reconstruct the world view of the ancient Sami, we might conceive that 1) while eating, the eyes entered a woman (cf. eating something is associated with becoming pregnant in the religion of many peoples) and 2) the woman was in fact Mother Earth herself (cf. Charnoluski 1965: 83). The connection between the reindeer and earth has also been mentioned by the Swedish Sami, who used to make sacrifices to it (or her), as the earth was believed to feed the reindeer and give them sexual drive (Holmberg 1915: 60).

In the nineteenth story the reindeer suggested to his wife that throwing his skin into water would bring her success. This refers to the circuit of life (see the 12th story).

The protagonist in the twentieth story is a dog man, although the mother's warnings suggest it was really a reindeer who set traps for dogs. The story concludes with the mother-in-law and daughter giving birth to reindeer calves.

The twenty-second story resembles the 12th story; the major peculiarities of the latter are: 1) it lacks the starting motifs, incl. the misdeed of urinating, 2) the woman turns into a male reindeer and 3) the story has a different (it is doubtful, whether authentic) etiological ending (associations with a steady love between the man and his wife). The first and last differences might be considered secondary. The story reveals that women were traditionally not allowed to touch the meat of sacrificed reindeer (also Charnoluski 1966: 305).

The story explains in detail how to lie to sleep on the slaughtered reindeer skin, namely, one's head has to be placed on the head part of the skin, on the ears, to be more precise. Nor does the remark that the skin must be placed with the fur on the outside appear to be mere speculation, as hairiness also symbolises fertility. The story also provides a clear idea of the division of the soul.

Summary of departure stories. There are two types of departures in the Meandash stories: the first one is the reindeer's running away from his mother, the second one from his wife. The second type of departure has been recorded in a total of 13 variants, incl. two versions from the Imandra region, two from Aahkkel and two from the Kolta people, four versions from the Kildins and three from the Turia people. Therefore, the motif of the reindeer's departure was known all over the Kola Peninsula. Another three versions of the first departure have been recorded: two from the Kolta and one from the Turia people. These are particularly interesting because of their treatment of the mother's response.

The account of departure is similar in both stories recorded from the Imandra region, although the mother's response is rather different. Both are associated with the first subtype of marriage stories. The stories from Aahkkel (and from the western regions) bear no similarities. The second story from Aahkkel resembles the 12th and 15th stories originating from Turia, which describe the reindeer wife's second marriage to a mortal man. In contrast to the Imandra stories, the story from Aahkkel (the 8th) is closely connected to the second subtype of marriage story; as to the mother's response, the only similarity with the 1st story is the motif of offering the breast.

The motif of departure could be associated with all three types of marriage. We must admit that half the cases (3 variants) are concerned with the first flight. In two cases the mother's response does not betray which departure is referred to. In one of the stories from Kolta region (the 3rd version) the mother wanted to nurse her grown-up son, which must be a misrepresentation, as in other stories the mother feeds her nurselings.

The intriguing questions concerning the misdeed are: 1) the kind of misdeed (which taboo was violated). 2) who wetted the bed and 3) who was responsible for that.

The unique story from Aahkkel (the 22nd) does not reveal the cause of the reindeer's anger. In the 14th story it is explained by burning the husband's skin; but this is a borrowed motif. The two variants from the Imandra region and one Kolta story mention only the wetting of beds by a child. In the remaining 8 stories the rules of handling the wetted skins have been broken: it has not been cast into the water, but has been hung up to dry in the sun. In two Kildin stories (the 9th and the 10th) and one variant of unknown origin (the 18th) the skin was wetted by the father-in-law (the total of 23%), in 8 cases (or 61.5%) it was done, as one might expect, by a child. In the 18th variant several events have been forgotten. We cannot be certain whether this is also the case in other variants: the person who wetted the bed must not have been that important, perhaps it was intended to focus on the description of the violation of the taboo and its results.

I intend to analyse in greater depth the mother's response in 16 variants. Before the children left she: 1) offered them her breast, 2) warned them against danger (people, animals), 3) cursed her son and/or 4) shared some advice for life.

On 9 occasions (56.2%) the mother nursed her children and on 7 occasions (43.8%) warned them against humans. Other responses are rare. For example, in one story from Imandra (the 6th variant) and in one story from Turia (the 12th) she advised a reindeer son to become the target of people. In one case (1st variant) the mother turned into a fairy of the reindeer. All this suggests that the idea was to warn the reindeer son against evil people, which might result in the destruction of the animal population.

Quite unique are two stories from Turia, one from Aahkkel and one from Kildin (the 12th, the 12th, the 19th,l and the 22nd), which describe the widowed reindeer wife's marriage to a mortal woman. The motif of departure thus lavishly describes the violation of an ancient taboo and everything connected with it, also offering answers to the following etiological questions: 1) why are the reindeer isolated from people (the 8th variant), 2) how did the hunting for the reindeer begin (the 4th story) and 3) why the reindeer are fearful (the 5th story).

Culture hero

The twenty-third story is in fact a monologue delivered by Meandash, the culture hero. The only recorded variant could be divided in three: 1) favours (Meandash had given mankind a hunting bow and taught them to hunt), 2) Meandash's teachings (nobody was allowed to kill a reindeer; it was permitted to kill only one reindeer cow to feed the family) and 3) consequences of disobedience (the number of wild reindeer had become smaller).

In ancient times people understood that excessive hunting was dangerous. In order to save the reindeer, the main source of food for the Sami, they established ecologically optimal requirements for hunting. The restrictions were most stringent for the reindeer who were herd leaders, as according to the folk tales a herd could be led by a shaman who had been transformed into a reindeer (see Itkonen 1931: 221-223; Kert 1980: 66).

The narrator of the story had heard it from his grandfather; he thought it originated in the so-called 'times of ancestors', or the indefinite past, the mythical era. The informer associated the time following the story with modern times. The story has several chronological layers reflecting truly primeval conceptions on the one hand and relatively recent conceptions, even from the period of firearms, from the other. The story has an etiological touch. The terms the freak and the man from heaven must be the result of misinterpretation by V. Charnoluski, who must have mixed up the words all'm [world] and olma [man, human].

The Period of Divinity

The Victim of the Thunder God

The twenty-fourth story was first recorded and twice published (in 1877 and 1881; see also the 25th story) by Vassili Nemirovitsh-Dantshenko, a Russian author. It describes how a mountain spirit, ten pines high, is hunting a large white reindeer with a black head and gold horns with his dogs, which are the size of reindeer. The hunt has been going on for years. When the spirit shoots the first arrow at the reindeer, the earth shakes for the first time. When the «great hunter» shoots the second arrow, the earth will light up in flames, mountains start boiling like water, etc. When the dogs jump on the deer and tear it to pieces and when the hunter drives a knife through its heart, it will be the end of the world.

This variant does not mention Meandash's name, which first appears in the variant published by V. Charnoluski (see the 25th story). And the name Golden-horn was also attributed to an ancient Nordic deity Heimdall, whom investigators of Scandinavian cultures have connected with rainbows and other natural celestial phenomena (Mifologicheski, 1992: 587-588).

The ending of the 1881 version of the twenty-fifth story is longer than that of the 1877 version. It is not certain whether it is an altogether different variant of the story, or whether it was the intention of the recorder to publish the once recorded text in full.

In this variant the great mountain spirit has been called Aroma-Telle, but the origin of this name is unknown in Sami mythology. Nikolai Haruzin has assumed that he might have been a thunder god. He compared Aroma-Telle with Aijeke, whom the Scandinavian Sami believed to scare off the fiends with his arrows of lightning. Haruzin argued that the target of Aroma-Telle could have been the giant reindeer from Sami mythology that was trying to escape his pursuers, and drank water from the river as a rainbow. He presumed a priori the connection between Aroma-Telle and the Scandinavian thunder god Thor (Haruzin 1890: 148-149).

According to the beliefs of the Finnish Sami, the thunder deity lives in a crevice in a rock (Holmberg 1915: 67). This might be the connecting link between the mountain spirit and the thunder god. In the legends of other cultures thunder gods have also traditionally been associated with mountains.

The aforementioned hunting motif has an interesting analogue in Iranian mythology. The Iranian legend recounts that Mithra, the god of light and sun, was born from a mountain, and he and his dogs defeated the primeval ox created by Ahuramazda with a knife and a bow. Some researchers argue that this defeat marks the beginning of the new world. Another fight with an ox-like creature will happen before the end of the world. Evil will be burnt in the global fire and a new world born again. According to a Finnish cultural historian Martti Haavio the legend of the ox spread through Germanic soldiers to the provinces of Rome, and during the first centuries AD from there to the Balto-Finnic peoples (cf. Kalevala chapter 20).

But M. Haavio was unaware of the analogous legend from the Sami of the Kola peninsula. This stands much closer to the assumed loan source than the Balto-Finnic stories, but is known to include authentic elements. The researcher compared Mithra to Ukko, the Finnish thunder god, who usually appears as the hunter of a large ox or swine, and also to Horagalles of the Sami, whose name originates in the name of the Scandinavian Thor (Haavio 1959: 70-71, 95, 100). Among other peoples thunder has also been associated with fighting. The image originates in the natural phenomenon itself. A thunder god should naturally have a strong opponent. Such legends are etiological in their attempt to explain a powerful natural phenomenon. And even more...

E. Autio argues that the eschatological legend published by V. Nemirovitsh-Dantshenko is partly recent (related to the Revelation of St. John the Divine), and partly ancient, for if there was a legend for the beginning of the world, which the Sami indeed had, there might also have been a story concerning the end of the world (Autio 1993: 17; cf. the Revelations 6, 12-14; 8, 8. 10).

The mythology of the Sami is clearly affected by Germanic mythology. The latter depicts an expressive image of ragnarök, where the world comes to an end after the final battle of gods and chthonic creatures with earthquakes and stars falling to earth, etc. (Mifologicheski, 1992: 461). Here the connection between the analogous stories will not be discussed in greater detail.

About the twenty-sixth story V. Charnoluski himself has commented that in addition to the collected material he had used the texts published by V. Nemirovitsh-Dantshenko (Charnoluksi 1965: 79). E. Autio believes that V. Charnoluski has named the hunter Tiermes, which is also the name of the thunder god of the Sami of the Kola peninsula, after N. Haruzin (Autio 1993: 17), but occurs also as a common noun tiir'mes' [thunder]. Some researchers connect the name of Tiermes with that of Thor, while others, beginning with Matias Aleksanteri Castrén (1813-1852) consider it a Finno-Ugric name, comparing it with the name of the Khanty sky god Toorum. But similar names could be found from the Sumerian to the Polynesian cultures (see Masing 1995: 47). The story is related to the legend of the origin of valleys and glades.

The twenty-seventh story is only indirectly connected to Meandash, namely through the protagonist of the previous story. It is a narration of the concepts of thunder in the Kola region: the bow of Tiermes (tiermes-juhs) is a rainbow. If he draws the bowstring and shoots an arrow (tiermes-kask), then the earth moves and an Orthodox Kolta makes a cross-sign and prays: «Sviet, sviet, sviet!» Tiermes hunts the fiends and burns down the places where they could be found.

The report also explains that the shaking of the earth is caused by thunder. Thus, it is quite understandable that people familiar with the ancient Nordic concepts and the Bible might regard it as the end of the world. The powerful natural phenomenon obviously made a lasting impression on the Sami. Sviet is a word of Russian origin and denotes 'sacred' (cf. siatoi). As late as in the 1920s the Sami were known to have sacrificed reindeer horns to the thunder god on Ukonsaari (Aijih-sualui) island in the middle of Lake Inari (Itkonen 1943/1944: 61). In 1644 Johann Gutslaff, the minister of Urvaste parish in Estonia, recorded a prayer to thunder uttered by Jürgen of Vihtla, a peasant from Erastvere who was also known as the Thunder Priest. The prayer informs of sacrificing an ox to the thunder (Suits & Lepik 1932: 120).

The Sami regard thunder as a fighter against fiends, in Christianity also against the devil (see the 28th story). This is a very common belief (Masing 1995: 35, 41). The constant shooting of arrows presumably symbolises an intense battle with an opponent, who must be a negative character particularly for farmers, who believe that thunder brings rain.

Among the Sami, the rainbow is associated with the thunder bow, e.g. the Sami of Lake Inari call it äijih-tävgi (Itkonen 1943/1944: 63).

The twenty-eighth story includes fragments of belief reports on thunder from a relatively young informant. His parents had considered rainbow a thunder that drinks water from a river or lake and later lets the water pour down as rain. The earlier accounts related that it is a god who runs or flies to escape the devil. The narrator mentioned that the god drove a cart. And the devil chases him to become a master himself. The god has all his possessions in the cart, which would explain the rumbling noise.

The content of the beliefs has somewhat altered in the course of time. Aikes has been unconsciously identified as a rainbow, while earlier it was considered the thunder god's bow that he used to shoot arrows with (cf. also the Estonian word piksenool 'the arrow of thunder'). Quite another story is the belief in the rainbow's drinking water and bringing rain. The Sami-Russian dictionary contains a weather-report, which in English might read as follows: «The Rainbow drinks water from the lake, which means that it will bring more rain» (Kuruch 1985: 429).

But then, how can a bow drink water? Apparently, some earlier or different kinds of concepts depicted a hunter with a bow, which, as mentioned above, was identified as a rainbow. And due to this abstraction it came to be called the bow of a sky/thunder god. Thus, a rainbow drinks water from a river or lake. The rainbow is a giant ox. But I will come to that later on.

According to the beliefs of the Inari Sami, the thunder god carries its arrows in a sack on its back (Itkonen 1946: 5). Martti Räsänen claims that in other cultures the thunder god also shoots thunder arrows at evil spirits with a rainbow bow . This is reflected in the names for the rainbow in other languages, cf. to the Finnish ukonkaari, Votic ukoolookka, Estonian dialectal ammukaar, the Uzbek kamon denoting 'arrow' etc. (Räsänen 1947/1948: 159 - 160, 167; Mifologicheski, 1992: 135, 157, 300, 455, 492).

In the Sami belief the drinking of water is associated with the concept of a giant ox. Similar motifs occur in the traditions of many peoples, among them also the Estonians. The inhabitants of Saaremaa, for instance, believed that a rainbow has a head of an ox drinking water from a river (Holzmayer 1873: 50).

The connection between an ox and drinking is also reflected in the words denoting rainbow in the Perm languages: the Komi-Zyryan jen-esh 'rainbow, ox of the sky', the Udmurtian vu-juys 'the water drinker', etc. The Komi people have also regarded a rainbow as a sun ox (Räsänen 1947/1948: 165; cf. the 29th story). The same motif of drinking from a body of water is common in Eurasia as well as in Africa (Mifologicheski, 1992: 276, 620). The examples from different parts of world indicate a plausible fact that similar analogous concepts are not necessarily loaned.

Is this not therefore the solution to an attempt to identify the reindeer as a thunder god in the example of Meandash-pyyrre? Especially when the relative resemblance/relation between the rainbow and the sun is so obvious.

I. Sergin's account of the devil chasing the god to some extent reflects the original legend, but the roles of the chaser and the chased have been exchanged. God should be the chaser, but no: images of an ancient tribal god with golden horns are much too prevalent. A Sami must be afraid of Meandash-pyyrre who tries to escape Tiermes/Aijekes. F. Sergin's narrative also makes slight references to the prophet Elijah from the Old Testament, whom the Russians and South-Slavonic peoples have traditionally associated with thunder: when thunder rumbles the prophet Elijah is riding his cart in heaven (Mifologicheski, 1992: 240).

To conclude the subject of the thunder god. At least five reports of Meandash also mention the thunder god. The three eschatological Sami variants discussed above are multi-layered. The authentic concepts that have arisen from the powerful natural phenomenon have intermingled with the Mithra story of the Iranian tradition and the Scandinavian ragnarök. During the period of Christianisation it has been affected by the Biblical images of the approaching end of the world. In addition to that, the collectors-authors have edited the material for literary purposes. The motif of a thunder bow, born from nature, is common in many cultures, including the Sami. This is also were the motif of battle originates. The rainbow is both the bow of the thunder god and his ox.

The Sun god

The twenty-ninth story describes the snowy gold-horned reindeer Meandash-pyyrre as a sun, which was the beginning of Kola and life. He was the beginning of pastures. Meandash-pyyrre flies out of the earth, from one side of the land (the Imandra region) to the other. In the place for sacrifices he urinated on the ground and thus made it fertile. He dropped his golden horn and said: «Here is the tundra of Meandash!»

Regretfully, the story has no versions. Therefore we cannot be certain of the authenticity of its contents. Reference to the beginning of the Sun's journey suggests that the entire story cannot originate from the Turia people (V. Charnoluski's argument supports this idea; 1965: 76), but from Monntsh, west of Imandra, a place connected with P.Sarvanov. Providing that the beginning of the folk tale has not spread to Turia and been established in the tradition at an earlier time, the hypothesis might be well-grounded. The story mentions that the Sun reindeer rises from the other side of Norway, i.e. from the west. This presents more questions for consideration. Perhaps the narrator has also mentioned the sun's return along its underground course: otherwise, how could it rise from the east every morning? We must remember that V. Charnoluski was not fully competent in the Sami language, and thus he might have missed some information. On the other hand, his mention of several toponyms of Eastern Kola (Siivn, Keiva, Kintush, among them even the specific Low Lake), allows us to assume that one of his informants might have been a local inhabitant. The beginning of another (the 26th) story «From the other side of Norway, from the other side of faraway Limandry (=Imandra), where the other world begins» (Charnoluski 1965: 80), which reportedly has been uttered by a Turia, is consistent with the legend, as in the traditions of many nations the other world is situated in the west, where the sun sets.

Thus the legend of the sun reindeer has different sources. This is not very surprising, as the story of the thunder reindeer has also been combined from different sources (see the 25th story), as the publisher himself has admitted. Besides, the origin of P.Sarvanov, the language guide, is also uncertain.

The legend under discussion, providing it is authentic, is a classic example of how a sun god has been born from a tribal god, its ancestors and the reindeer fairy. In the Arctic regions, the sun has always been considered extremely important. In other regions the worship of the sun is first and foremost related to the belief of land-tilling cultures. The Kolta have a legend in which the sun goes its course by riding on the back of a bear in the morning, a reindeer at noon and a reindeer cow in the evening (Itkonen 1946: 8). Meandash-pyyrre was not just the symbol of the sun, but the symbol of the whole universe (Autio 1993: 65).

A deer with golden-horns, which obviously symbolised the sun, was known in the whole region stretching from the plains of the Danube River to the Mongolian deserts. This motif is depicted in the marvelous bronze imitations of the Scythian and Tagarian flying deer; the numerous supposedly flying creatures and solar symbols depicted on the Mongolian deer stones are also remarkable. During recent periods, the motif of deer (moose/reindeer/deer) has been substituted with a horse (Okladnikov & Martynov 1972: 222 -229).

According to Kildin Sami Galina Sharshina, the earthly golden reindeer is a symbol of wealth. On a certain day the reindeer might run towards a human with a ringing bell around its neck. If its fur is stroked, the reindeer starts dropping gold. It must not be stroked too much, as the gold might turn to iron (Szabò 1967: 44-45).

According to the dictionary, the word combination Meanta'-byyrre denotes the (reindeer) prey, instead of Meandash the good, or a helper (see Itkonen 1958: 245). Thus, V. Charnoluski appears to have misunderstood the expression, which is proved also by an extract from his travel journals (see Charnoluski 1965: 67).

The golden-horned sun reindeer has been depicted as snowy white. According to literary sources the Sami valued white reindeer highly. Both the Sami and other Nordic peoples preferred to sacrifice white reindeer to the sun (Itkonen 1960: 127, 129, 130, 131).

The present folk tale reveals that Meandash settled in the region where people made him offerings. V. Charnoluski reported that the heights called Oajmkedzhpoalla in the legend had two sacred natural remnants (Charnoluski 1972: 41). Meandash urinated at the site of the offering. This concept might originate in the fact that in such places the hay grew thicker as it was fertilised with nitrogen from urine. The connection between sun and the growth of hay is mentioned in another report from the Sami around Lake Inari: in summer they had said a prayer to the sun, asking it to grow hay; for that they made a figure of the sun surrounded by a fence of horns (tshoarve-kärdi) (Itkonen 1943/1944: 64). A figure dating back to the 17th century shows how horns were placed in a semi-circle around a seita-stone, this might have been the fence mentioned above.

The folk tale in question reveals the connection between the dropped horn and the pastures with rich hay, where the reindeer prefer to stay so that hunters could catch them. V. Charnoluski must have been guided by the same principle, as his rendition of the horn was the mythic tshuorv-tshulta (also tshuarrv-tshuolt) 'horn stake' of the Sami, which could be used for tying down reindeer herds in a symbolical sense (see Charnoluski 1972: 42). In the beliefs of different cultures horns are symbols of wealth, fertility, divine power and other positive things (Cooper 1986: 82).