The Mouse and the Mountain

An Asiatic Eskimo Tale

(translated from Russian)


They say it was once this way.  At the end of Chaplinsky spit, beyond the lake, there was no conical mountain.  And all of a sudden it appeared.  People called this mountain Afsynakhak – Mouse.  It happened this way.  Once a small afsynakhak – a mouse thought to himself:  "How come they tell stories about people and sing songs, but you never hear anything good about our mouse tribe?  People are sometimes heroes, wizards, brave hunters, runners, vaulters.  But mice never are.  What would need to be done so that praise of me and my mouse clan would spread among humans?  Well, now I'm going to gnaw through a huge tree, throw it on my back and take it to the top of the mountain.  Let people for once see a mouse superhero!"


And so the mouse began to gnaw through a tree; he began to shake it from side to side.  Only, the tree just wouldn't fall.  So the mouse began to gnaw even more furiously; the tree shook and fell.  The mouse cheered but then saw that the tree he brought down was only high grass.  The mouse was embarrassed, ashamed.  He thought:  "Good thing that the neighbors didn't see; they would have laughed!  But what can I do that the whole world will see?"  And so he ran across the tundra and came to a big lake.  The mouse thought:  "I'll swim acros this lake, sit on the other shore; I'll dry out my fur coat, trousers and boots.  People will see me and say:  'What a swimmer!  What a lake he swam across!'  They'll tell stories about me and sing songs."


And so the mouse swam across the lake, and almost drowned in the middle.  He barely made it to the other side and stood up to dry his clothes.  He sits on a bench and sees a man walking.  As he walks he leaves footprints in the wet ground and at each footprint a big lake appears.  "Oh, it looks as though I swam across that kind of lake," the mouse thought, and how embarrassed he was, how little he was!


The mouse put on his damp clothes and went to the mountain.  He stopped in front of the mountatin and remembered his failure, became very upset and nearly cried.  He ran to the mountain, hoisted it on his back in a fit of temper and carried it to the north side.  He carried and carried and became tired.  He looked ahead and saw the village Tyfliak.  The mouse thought:  "I'll go to Tyfliak and rest."  People will see me and say, 'Oho, what a superhero; he brought a mountain?' They'll tell stories about me and sing songs."  The mouse shook the mountain so that it would be more comfortable to carry.  From the shaking, a pebble fell from the mountain and hit the mouse on the head.  The mouse sat down because of the pain, he lost his strength.  And here he dropped the mountain.  Since then the Eskimos have called this mountain Afsynakhak – Mouse.  That's all.  The end.


Story told by 22-year-old Uvroliuk from Naukan in 1941.

Recorded and translated into Russian by Menovshikov

and from Russian to English by David Koester