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A Description of the Material

A description of the material in Manuscripta Castreniana Jurak-Samoiedica Folkloristica

The Tundra Nenets folklore published in this digital edition known as the Manuscripta Castreniana Jurak-Samoiedica Folkloristica is located in two sections of the collection of Castrén’s manuscripts in the National Library of Finland. The first set of records is located in section VIII Samoiedica 2, also known as Jurak-Samoiedica 1 (KK MC VII.2.js1), and the second in section IX Samoiedica 3, also known as Jurak-Samoiedica 2 (KK MC IX.3.js2). The first group of texts contains approximately 500 pages, while the second only contains 22 pages. Castrén wrote the texts in a small 21.5 cm long black notebook.

Castrén’s Tundra Nenets texts are, as a rule, accompanied by translations, which were most likely made in the very context of the performance and elicitation rather than afterwards. Castrén wrote the translations down in the right-hand column of the pages, whereas the Tundra Nenets text was written in the left-hand column. The only exceptions were Fader vår and Ioann Gad, found in the fourth division of the edition, as these texts have the translations beneath the Tundra Nenets lines. These tales, which represent a manuscript nearly finished for publication (whereas most of the material consists of unedited notes), are only available in Swedish.

The genre classification and its relation to the conclusions found in Lehtisalo’s 1940 edition are discussed in the appended article (Lukin 2017). In the following table, the exact locations of Castrén’s Tundra Nenets folklore texts are presented with short summaries of each text’s plot and contents. The summaries of the texts in the first division of the edition were written with the help of those by Lehtisalo, available in Finnish in the archives of the Finno-Ugrian Society.

Page number in the manuscript

Division in Digital Edition

Title (if given) / Content



I: 1a

1. Sjudubaepts’eh


I: 2a

2. Sjud.


I: 3a

Sjudub. 3


I: 4

4. Sjudubaepts’


I: 5

5. Taadieibtso


I: 6

6. Lahanako


I: 6

6. Lahanako


I: 7

7. Sjudub.


I: 8

8. Sjudub.


I: 9

9. Sjud.


I: 10

10. Sjudub.


I: 11

I Kolwa


IV: Syo”

Short texts in poetic form; unnumbered


I: 1b

1. Sjudubaepts


I: 2b

2. Sjudub.


I: 3b

3. Sjudub.


I: 1c

1. Efter Tasowska dialekten


I: 2c

2. [Efter Tasowska dialekten]


I: 3c

3. [Efter Tasowska dialekten]


II: 9

A text in poetic form; unnumbered



Text in prose form (saga 5)


II: 6




Text titled Saga (saga 5)


II: 7

Text in poetic form


II: 6

Text in poetic form


II: 7



IV: Ioann Gad

Ioann Gad



M. A. Castréns manuskript till af honom samlade Samojediska sagor


III: 4

4 sagan


III: 6

6-te saga


III: 6

6-te saga


II: 8



III: 1

Saga I


III: 2

Saga II


III: 3

Saga III



IV: Samojedskija pesni

Samojedskija pesni


IV: Fader vår

Fader vår


II: 1

1. [in Swedish]


II: 5

5. from line 122 on


II: 5



II: 2



II: 3



II: 4



II: 1

Poem 1. in prose


II: 1



Division I

1. Three reindeer herding brothers, their wives, one of their sons, and their hired man (Tabadoda) live on the ridge. Suddenly, all but the youngest brother die. He leaves, walking away from the camp. The wife of his older brother follows him and they begin to walk together. They have a child.

Starving, they try to eat a reindeer carcass but the woman’s knife sticks into the reindeer’s skull. They arrive at a reindeer camp. A young woman is given as a wife to the man, but while he is sleeping the woman is taken away. The man leaves to get her back.

Riding the sledge, the man hears two men talking behind the clouds; they are sons of his brothers. He takes them with him. They arrive at a reindeer camp and begin to shoot arrows. He steals an iron belt. They run jumping up to the clouds. They arrive at another camp, begin to shoot arrows, and run up to the clouds. They arrive at a third camp and drive the people to the clouds.

The people from these three camps gather together in a large iron tent at the top of the sandy hill. While they fight each other, the hero pushes the top of the hill into the sea, and they all die. The three men ride back, taking seven other women with them, after they find the young woman who had been taken.

The young woman turns out to be the mother of one of the men, and she had tried to kill his son. The son tears her scalp away, and the woman is given as a slave to the camp that originally gave the reindeer to the men.

Riding back, the man comes upon a former reindeer carcass. He meets  a man there riding with mammoths who says he has killed the relatives of the wives of the dead brothers. The men come back to the former camp and begin to live there.

2. In the two tents, the father is called Divine-Woman Ox; the son is called Bright Ox. A rider is coming closer to their camp. The father orders his daughter to meet the rider alone. The son hides the daughter’s sledge.

The daughter meets Half-Antler-Stem Ox in the tundra and marries him, rides to his camp, as ordered by her father.

After living in the camp for the summer, the daughter releases her brother from the sledge during the night. The brother kills the people in the camp, and takes the skull of his grandfather. The siblings leave, riding along the seacoast. The enemies capture Bright Ox and torture him. He is saved by his elder brother.

Leaving his sister in this place, her brother, Bright Ox, rides to their home camp, finding his father alone fighting against other enemies. He hides his father, and begins to shoot with the enemies eventually killing them all, but one. This one gives his daughter as a wife to the oldest son of Divine-Woman Ox.

3. A large reindeer camp, which has the Seven Greedy Masters, Seven Tilted Ones, and Seven Syosadeis. The Seven Tilted Ones and Syosadeis are sons of the Greedy Masters. The son of the Seven Tilted Ones and Seven Syosadeis is Iron Belt. The wife of the seven Greedy Masters’ chief is Black Wife.

Before leaving to marry their son, the son and Black Wife give Iron Belt tools and one hundred reindeer. Iron Belt hunts wild reindeer and his herd becomes larger; he takes his reindeer and leaves riding through heaven and earth. He finds the track of the seven Greedy Masters, comes to a tent above which a raven is sitting. He finds the people dead. The enemies have gone off in seven different directions.

Iron Belt rides to the camp of the Seven Sandy Ones, one of the enemies, and kills everyone except for one man. Iron Belt catches the Seven Yapts and Seven Icy Ones; orders the daughter of the Seven Yapts to go with Black Wife. After killing all these people, Iron Belt rides with their reindeer. A rider comes and begins fighting with him. Iron Belt lets him go after cutting off his legs. Another rider comes and begins to fight with Iron Belt, who kills the rider. The Seven Hovering Ones and the Seven Sandy Ones come down from heaven. Iron Belt kills these enemies with the help of the bow given to him by the Black Wife.

Riding away from this place, Iron Belt and his reindeer all die. He is found by Antlerless Ox who takes him to his tent and marries Iron Belt to his daughter. Iron Belt returns to his home with his new wife. They come to the camp of Black Wife, where the Greedy Masters also live. The Seven Icy Ones and Seven Sandy Ones come and begin to fight.

In the end, a rider, who wants to end the warfare, arrives. He is Crooked-Antler Ox. The son of Black Wife is sent to get wives from the enemies to end the war. During his travel, the enemies want to kill the son, who has to kill all these enemies. In the end, the son is able to send fourteen wives to his home camp. Iron Belt gives everyone a husband. He leaves for his former homeland, gets married, and comes back. While living at home, the mother tells Iron Belt that he seems to be the only one who is able to use the giant bows that are kept under earth. If he is not able to, let them rot.

4. There was a man with his wife and three sons, The Eldest Son, the Foolish Son, and the Lazy Son, live by the Willowy River. The Eldest Son leaves to get married; arrives at Yongleryi’s camp and stays there. After a successful wild reindeer hunt a wife is given to the Eldest Son. The Eldest Son and his wife leave home. During their travels, a man comes to demand compensation for the Eldest Son’s wife, who he says had been promised to him as his wife. The Eldest Son does not give him the reindeer. A son is born to the Eldest Son and his wife.

The Foolish Son leaves to get married, shouting on his way. He is given a wife, and a bow, because he is threatening his father-in-law with warfare. They leave home, the man demanding compensation gets the reindeer that the Foolish Son received as a dowry. They come home. A son is born to them.

The Foolish Son leaves to get the reindeer back with his allies. They come to the Iron Swing, where the reindeer are. There are 14 giants swinging, and the Foolish Son sits on the swing. The Lazy Son kills the giants and saves his brother. The brother kills his mother’s sister during his travel in the underworld.

The wife of the Foolish Son goes to the underworld and gets a wife for their son, as ordered by the Foolish Son. The two mammoths give their daughter as a wife for the son. The reindeer taken away from the Foolish Son are given back.

The Yongleryis and the camp at the Willowy River begin fighting each other and during this fighting everyone dies. Only the daughter of the Foolish Son and Yongleryi’s son stay alive. Everyone leaves.

5. A woman and her son live by the Willowy River. Despite the woman’s warnings, the boy wanders away from the camp and arrives at an iron swing. Another woman arrives at the swing and persuades the boy to go to a tent, where a man, a woman, and their daughter are living. The boy and girl are sleeping side by side and during the night, the girl disappears.

The boy leaves to find her. He jumps through the back of the tent to the bottom of the simzi pole into the underworld. He arrives at the seven tents, but refuses to eat. Leaves the tent, walks and arrives at a hill with its peak smoking. The boy peeks into the hill through the hole where the smoke is coming from. He sees a family with a girl. He turns into a hazel grouse, and flies into the tent. Inside the tent, he burns himself and flies as a spark to the girl’s breast. The boy leaves the tent.

The people in the tent want to clear up what happened during the night. They call the old man Wеxelya to perform a shamanic ritual. The old man does this several times, each time losing some of his limbs. In the end, he has only his head left. The old man Wеxelya orders an offering be made, so that the spirit that ripped his limbs away would show himself. The offering is made, and the spirit, which turns out to be the boy, shows himself.

The boy brings back what he had taken, marries the girl, and lives a while in the tent. Eventually, he wants to leave, but first wants to know his fate. The old man Wеxelya performs a shamanic ritual, and advises the boy. The boy goes back home, arrives at the iron swing, and finds his mother. The mother dies. The boy begins to live at his home.

6. Two boys are living with their mother by the sea, fishing with their nets. A giant comes from another land and threatens to eat the people. The boys promise to provide the giant with fish. They fish and feed the giant, and teach him how to chew one’s food. The giant’s son comes looking for his father. He is also taught how to chew and eat nicely.

In the winter, one of the boys leaves to hunt with his dog; the dog arrives with a sledge full of furs. The giant wants to buy the dog in exchange for one hundred reindeer and his daughter. The giants leave for their camp to return with the prize of the dog. They arrive at their camp, teach the other giants to eat by chewing. The son of the giant leaves with one hundred reindeer and his younger sister. The boy in the human camp does not want to sell the dog to the giants. The son of the giant eventually begins to live in the boys’ camp.

A giant comes to the camp, and threatens to eat everyone at the camp; the son of the giant says he is the son of the Old Twin Man. The son of the giant says that the two boys had once been sons of his grandfather. The giant that just came to the camp says that he had once been the son of a Nenets. They offer seven reindeer. In the morning, the giant turns into a Nenets. The son of the giant leaves. The giant who turned into a Nenets warns the two boys not to go to the giants anymore.

A son is born to the older son. They make a large boat and leave behind the sea. The sons of the giant who turned into a Nenets followed them there. The sons kill their father with an ax and eat him; they turn into Nenets. They also kill the boys with an ax and eat them, too. Leaving with a boat that the sons had made holes in, the giant’s sons drown. The old man marries the mother of the two sons.

7. Two families live on the shore of an ocean. The youngest brother of the Seven Sandbank Dwellers is called Eyepick. The youngest sister of the Seven Eyeshades is called Cloth Ribbon. Seven other men live near them, the oldest is called Whitehead, the youngest – Black One. Eyepick walks to the other camp, to Black One’s tent, wanting to exchange his bow and a reindeer for Black One’s bow. When the reindeer is caught, one hundred other reindeer get killed.

Cloth Ribbon plays with the daughters of the nearest camp and pulls their braids and scalps off; the daughter of Black One does not play, but gives a cloth parka as a present to Cloth Ribbon. The youngest daughter of Black One is married to Eyepick. Cloth Ribbon marries Black One. The people in the camp of Whitehead and Black One leave.

The Black One’s camp is attacked during the night. Cloth Ribbon escapes. The Black Ones are driven to the land of the Sandbank Dwellers, where the fighting continues, as the Sandbank Dwellers also take part in it with the help of the bow that was exchanged in the beginning. The youngest from Whitehead’s camp is the last one of the enemies alive. He is killed, although Notched Bow asks he be given to him as his herder. Notched Bow’s bow is broken, he jumps up to heaven and invites Eyepick to wage war in his land.

The youngest from Black One’s camp arrives at this place and scolds them for letting Notched Bow go. Cloth Ribbon begins to shoot arrows with the youngest from Black One’s camp. Their son comes and orders his parents to go home. The son leaves for the country of Notched Bow. After arriving, the camp’s chief wants to apologize; sends his daughter to marry Black One and his son, Notched Bow, and to go and herd the reindeer of the Sandbank Dwellers. Black One’s son marries the daughter, but sends Notched Bow back.

Black One’s son finds Whitehead’s youngest, who dies in his hands. He travels back. As the children play, the youngest grandson of Black One is killed and the son of Black One begins to shoot arrows. Eventually, everyone, but Cloth Ribbon and his son, dies. They leave.

8. There are thirty old men living in one tent. The oldest one states that he was promised a wife in another land. They leave for that land; during their travel all except the youngest are killed in a snowstorm. The youngest continues his travel and arrives. As he waits, two other men come, also in order to marry the daughter in the camp. The two men go together into the camp before the youngest of the thirty men. The old man in the camp says that the oldest of the thirty men had proven his strength earlier and was promised a wife. The two other men try to prove their strength, but fail.

After two weeks the youngest of the thirty men comes to the camp. He does not listen to the chief and, in a rage, shoots arrows and kills everyone, except for one boy. He chases the boy, but loses sight of him. He turns back to his home camp, finds the wives of the thirty men dead. Turns away, begins to walk, and keeps walking.

9. Bird-Cherry Cane arrives walking to the tent of the Four Lamdos. He is given a wife and one hundred reindeer, they begin to live as nomads. In the summer, it turns out that Bird-Cherry Cane cannot hunt birds. They eat all but two of their reindeer. They travel back to the Four Lamdos. During their travel, they camp near the tents of the brother of his wife. He gives them two reindeer, which they immediately eat. When they arrive at his father’s camp, the father does not give him any reindeer.

Bird-Cherry Cane leaves by himself. He comes upon two tents, is given a wife, and stays there. It turns out these people have dogs as their reindeer. A rider arrives and says that the daughter was promised to him. The dogs attack the rider’s reindeer and eat them. The rider and his one hundred men attack Bird-Cherry Cane, who grabs the largest man as his weapon and knocks everyone senseless. He rips his rival in two and hangs up his back as a signpost.

Bird-Cherry Cane wants to leave for his own land; he and his wife are sent on their way with good fortune. The son of the dog breeders is also sent along, because there will be more angry rivals. They meet one rival, but the dogs eat his reindeer. They steal his reindeer and continue their travel. They arrive at the camp of the Four Lamdos; also, the seven brothers of Bird-Cherry Cane arrive there. They share the fate of Bird-Cherry Cane and want to wage war with the Four Lamdos. The son of Bird-Cherry Cane is at the camp.

The chief of the Four Lamdos and his son promise to give each brother one hundred reindeer. The dogs kill the one hundred reindeer. The brothers leave the camp of the Four Lamdos; Bird-Cherry Cane sends his wife to take his son and the daughter of the son of the Four Lamdos along; they travel back home. The daughters of the youngest and oldest Bird-Cherry Cane is given as a wife to the son of the dog breeders, and he leaves home. Coming home, he stays on a ridge with his wives.

10. Antlerless Ox leaves his current wife to get a wife in the camp of Fox-Hat Chief. Arriving at the camp, he finds everyone dead. He cannot find the bodies of the chief, his younger brother, and his daughter. He also finds a baby boy, who he takes with him. The boy is called Striped Cradle.

His son and daughter are also at Antlerless Ox’s camp, who play together with Striped Cradle. As they play, they catch a reindeer that had been given as a wedding gift. The reindeer takes the boys to an unknown land and eventually to a reindeer herd. The woman who is going first in the reindeer caravan recognizes the two grey reindeer that have taken the boys to this land. They stay with the woman and the youngster Susoi who is herding the reindeer. They return to Antlerless Ox’s camp.

Antlerless Ox recognizes the youngster Susoi who is the son of  Fox-Hat Chief. The grey reindeer had left for their own herd, which had not yet been divided. They begin to divide the herd. Antlerless Ox hears the sound of fighting, and understands that the people of the Seven Lands have attacked the wife of the son of Fox-Hat Chief. They leave there; arrive and begin to shoot arrows. The two boys are wounded, and the woman – Leather Bag – puts them into her leather sack. The father of Leather Bag – Limping Chief – comes from heaven to help. Later, Antlerless Ox is also put into the leather sack. In the end, Leather Bag shoots at Forehead-Ornamented, whom she defeats.

The woman takes the men out of her sack, sends them to the land of Antlerless Ox. They marry. The son of Fox-Hat Chief also arrives and marries a daughter of Antlerless Ox. After the wedding, the boys and the enemies who have arrived near the camp begin to shoot arrows at each other. They move towards the enemies’ camp, back towards their home camp, and again back towards the enemies’ camp. Antlerless Ox’s company wins and everyone goes home.

11. The youngest of the Seven Howling Ones leaves to get a wife from Dirty Chief. He arrives at the tent of the Khanty living near the village and goes there. There are two men and one woman. The youngest of the Howling Ones leaves together with the Khanty men for the village. The oldest of the Khanty acts as a spokesman and goes to Dirty Chief. Chief says that the price of his daughter is very high.

The youngest of the Howling Ones pays the price. Dirty Chief says that he will give the daughter to the one who can raise the stone in his yard. The youngest of the Seven Howling Ones raises the stone. A great cry is heard behind the village. The youngest of the Howling Ones goes to the house, kills everyone. The daughter is left alone. The younger Khanty suggests the man marry women from their land. The youngest of the Howling Ones takes all of the czar’s reindeer. He burns the czar’s daughter in the fire. He marries the daughter of the younger Khanty.

Division II

1. An individual song describing a man, who comes with his four white reindeer to a tent where a woman is alone, because the men have left to go hunting. He stays with the woman and leaves in a hurry when the men of the camp arrive.

2. An individual song describing a shipwreck experienced by the singer. Drifting in the sea, the singer turns into a seal. After seven days, he sees land, but has to dive because of the boat. He rises up in the shape of a human and begs the people not to kill him. The people recognize him and ask about the fate of his chief, who had drowned. They believe him.

3. An individual song describing the drinking of the singer in the village.

4. An individual song describing the difficult fate of an orphaned boy, who he ends up working as rower.

5. There is a nomadic camp in a snowstorm and the father sends the ego to go look for it. She leaves with the three white ones. The aunt, riding in the back of the reindeer caravan, asks where the ego is riding to and she answers. She continues to ride, meets soldiers, tells them what she is after. The soldiers sit on the sledge and drive her away. She fights back. Eventually, she gets rid of the soldiers and rides back to her own camp.

The ego comes upon her aunt, who says that they have killed her parents and let her brother go. The soldiers were chasing her brother. She rides over to the brother, puts him on the sledge, and kills the soldiers with the end of the driving pole. They ride away.

6. The ego leaves to get firewood with skis. There is also a man looking for firewood by the river. She tries to seduce the man; the man leaves. The ego returns and arriving at her home she finds the man in her tent. She is punished. The man takes the ego with him. He already has two wives.

The man kills his two wives and orders the ego to cook food. They live well. When the outsiders talk about the man killing his wives the man denies it, and says that the wives died because of a sickness. Eventually, they are taken to the court in Obdorsk and Berezov. The man gives black foxes to the leaders in Obdorsk and Berezov. They are taken to Tobolsk; the man gives black foxes to the leader and the leader puts them in the sledge, and takes them back home. They live well.

7. The ego is driving to Obdorsk. The ego thinks about his three older brothers, the three Tasinyis, his blind mother who should all be alive; about his four dead brothers, dead dad. Arriving to Obdorsk, he takes his brothers away. He takes them back to the camp. Arriving at the camp, the wives of the brothers say that the mother of the ego has died. The ego accuses the brothers and wives of killing her and other relatives. The three brothers begin to torture the ego.

Eventually, a rider comes and frees the ego. He is the son of the ego’s father’s younger brother. The ego leaves with half of the reindeer herd. After three years, the brothers comes to kill the ego again. He is stronger and begins to torture the brothers in the same way they had done to him. He takes the brothers to Obdorsk.

Division III

1. A boy loses his family, because they do not trust his views about the necessity of reindeer sacrifice. The orphaned boy ends up marrying a woman in a community where the same man kills him three times. Another man with only one leg, one arm, and one eye, always comes to save him. After the third time, the orphaned protagonist kills the whole community except his wife and her parents and again dies fighting with the man who has already killed him three times. The protagonist gets his life back in the underworld, where the one-legged man takes his bones to be burned to ashes by a woman. He gets married to the woman in the Otherworld, comes back to this world and loses both his wives and relatives after slaying the man who had killed him as well as the one-legged man.

2. Two sisters escape a cannibal woman, who had already eaten their mother. The sisters flee, they encounter animals, requiring sweet talk. The animals help the sisters, but lead the cannibal woman who is following them, to her death. A boat moving by itself takes the girls away from the island where they escaped, but it also kills the younger sister who disobeys the order that prohibits them from touching the items in the boat. The older sister buries her in a wolf cave. After some time, the elder sister’s husband hears voices in the cave, and they take the younger sister away. She gets back to her normal life after some troubles.

The shamans compete over their powers. The stronger shaman steals the moon and the sun, and brings them back only after the weaker shaman prays for him to do so. The shamans go to Novaya Zemlya and turn into geese. The contest ends in the death of the weaker shaman, while the stronger one comes back to his home camp after living as a goose in Novaya Zemlya.

4. A man learns the secret of the seven young women swimming in the lake and, after extorting one of them whose clothes he had stolen, he gets the woman to steal the hearts of seven brothers. These brothers have killed the mother of the man, who now kills the first six, and then, after he has given his mother’s life back, he also kills the seventh. Later, the hearts of everyone get thrown into the air by a woman, but they are retrieved, rise up to heaven, and become clean and sacred.

6. A man kills his wife, because the ptarmigans promised him he would get rich if he does so. After killing his wife, the man deceives a Khanty leader into believing that he, the Khanty leader, has killed the woman. Willing to compensate the man for his loss, the Khanty leader offers his daughter as a wife for the man. Afterwards, the man kills a shaman and deceives two hunters and, later, also a Khanty in another camp into believing his story about the death of the woman. Later, the same man tricks his former neighbors into burying their property and themselves, comes back to his two wives and sons, and begins to live there in wealth.

Karina Lukin 2018

English revision by Uldis Balodis