Ice Mountain is a folktale that is traditionally told by female shamans in the Amur region of Siberia. We chose this tale in part for its emphasize on hide tanning and embroidery, and because it is centered around not only being seen and valued for your own unique gifts, but also having confidence in yourself even when your gifts aren’t readily apparent to others. In the original story Beleye, the protagonist, climbs Ice Mountain in order to marry the wind. We wanted to keep with the theme of self confidence but didn’t want to have a story that involved a female seeking a males approval or validation, or a story that concluded with a girl getting married and living happily ever after. In our version of the story, Beleye goes to coyote to further her skills but realizes that she might have more to teach coyote then he has to offer her.
The following rendering is from The Flying Tiger by Kira Van Deusen.
A girl lived alone. She went hunting a fishing and was also a great artist, sewing and embroidering all kinds of designs. One time she heard news that there was a mountain and on that lived Yegdyga Doye, the Master of the Wind. The mountain all of ice and nobody could climb it. Anyone who tried would just fall back, it was so slippery. And on the top lived Yegdyga with his mother. If any girl could climb the mountain Yegdyga would marry her.
And so our Belye decided to go there. She put on her best fishskin robe with beautiful embroidered designs and over it she put a simple fishskin robe with no designs. She took a stick with a sharp animal claw lashed to end, which could hook onto the mountain and hold her. And she went looking for the mountain.
She walked and walked and towards evening she came to a place where another girl lived. This girl said, “what news?” Beyle said, “Im going to try the Ice Moutain, maybe I’ll marry Yegdyga Doye.”
The girl said, “I’ll come too and try my luck.”
Next day they got up early, cooked some food, and had breakfast. The other girl put on her best dress of satin but without designs, hoping that Yegdyga would chose her. The two of them, walked and walked, and towards evening they came to a third girl.
“What news?” she asked.
They said, “We’ve heard there’s an ice mountain and that Yegdyga lives there and will marry whichever girl can climb to the top.” And so the third girl decided to come too. The next day she dressed in her best chinese silk and they set out.
Before long they came to the ice mountain. The sun was shining so brightly that its reflection on the ice hurt the eyes.
They started to climb. Yegdyga’s mother was up on top and she noticed that three girls were coming, two of them all dressed up and the third in simple fishskin.
She began to sing a song. “My son Doye, let the wind go, let it knock that girl in the fishskin off our mountain so she wont get up here.”
He let the wind go and it knocked the girl in the fancy dress off the mountain. But our Beyle kept climbing with her stick, afraid of nothing. And the other girl was there too.
Again the mother began to sing. “Doye, Doye, see those girls! Let the wind let the one in the fishskin off the mountain and the one in the beautiful dress climb up.”
He let the wind go and it knocked that last girl off the mountain. Only Beyle was left in the terrible wind. She bent further over and kept on climbing.
The mother was cursing, “Why did you knock the wrong ones off? Look, that girls in the old fishskin is still climbing!”
He made the wind stronger and stronger. He sent blizzard, snow, and darkness. But Beyle bent further over and climbed and climbed. At last she got to the top. And then she took her stick with the hook and grabbed the door of their house, which was made of skin. She tore it off and threw it into the sea.
She went inside and sat down on Yegdyga’s bed. He threw a knife at her to kill her. The knife wounded her leg. She took a piece of embroidery cloth from her leggings where she had been wounded, left the design on the bed and went away.
The mother noticed the design and called her son. “Look at this! What a fine artist she is, such a beautiful design. Go after her, son, catch her and marry her!”.
Beyle was going so fast that he couldn’t catch up with her. And so he threw his spear and said,”Fly spear, and land in front of her so that she cant go any further.”
The spear flew and fell before her. She wanted to step across it but he called out, “Don’t cross that spear! It’s a sin for a woman to step across a spear. That spear saves me in difficult moments”.
She stopped out of respect for the spear, he caught up with her and healed her wound using his own salvia. And the wound healed, the blood stopped flowing. They went back and got married.
And that’s how Beyle defeated the Master of the Wind!