The barrel of Omul

This story took place many centuries ago. Russian people had already hunted omul on Baikal by that time. They did not concede in fishing to the inhabitants of the Famed Sea, i. e. to buryat and evenk tribes.

Not without reason an old man Savvely was considered to be the best fisherman, for he was the leader of the fishermen artel and the sea was his source of living since childhood. He knew his job perfectly well. The old fisherman always could find appropriate place and time for fishing in order to have a good catch.

The family roots of the old man Savvely go back to the famous fishermen from Kabansk-village, who are known to be the luckiest ones on the Famed Sea! The favourite place for fishing of the old man Savvely was Bargizun bay, where he sweep-netted most often.

This strech is situated near Kabansk, but a Baikal fisherman frequently has to go farther, because it is impossible to stay at the same place searching big omul shoals.

Once in the morning after throwing sweep-nets successfully fishermen had a breakfast which consisted of omul soup, and then they placed on the sea cost line to have a rest. During this break they started talking about different things - mostly about fish, its habits and about mysteries of the sea deep. There was one very inquisitive youngster in this artel. He was a great story- lover, he enjoyed listening to the experienced fishermen, who could teach something important and useful. If he liked something said by others, he gave himself and people around him no pieces and he never went to sleep without understanding everything. The name of this young man was Garanka, he came from far away, that is why he wanted to know about the Famed Sea more. He always followed the old man Savvely and he contrived to learn something new, constantly asked him questions. Savvely did not wait to answer as he was nice with everybody.

This time as usually Garanka sat next to the old man Savvely and was listening to everything Savvely was telling and then Garanka asked suddenly:

- Is it true that winds here have power over fish?

The old man Savvely thought for some minutes, he looked at Garanka surprisingly and asked:

- You have heard of the barrel, haven't you?

Garanka was surprised:

- What barrel are you talking about? I do not know anything.

- There is such... the barrel of omul. It is special, I mean the barrel. It is a magic barrel.

These words took Garanka's breath away and he began teasing the old man Savvely:

- Savvely, tell me about it, please.

The old man Savvely did not feel like swaggering. He filled his pipe with tobacco and got it going. On noticing that not only Garanka, but all the fishermen pricked up their ears, Savvely slowly srarted telling the story:

- This story occuredbecause of our Baikal fish, I do not know how many years ago it was and how people learnt about it. Elderly generation tell so and we shall trust their words. It is necessary to mention that the giant winds named Kultuk and Barguzin bossed over the fishing area at that time. First the winds were friends. What frights they were! Their thinck hair was dishevelled, they splashed foam was scarier than demons. If they went aong the Sea, one could get half blinded. They loved visiting each other, playing and having fun. For amusement they had one toy- a barrel of omul. It looked simple and it did not differ from those our coopers do now, but the barrel had an unusual power: where the barrel swam, in that direction omul fish shoals moved to, as if fish wanted to get into that barrel. It amused giant winds. Barguzin would swoop on Kultuk, got noisy and he would take the barrel out of the deep and started boastind:

- Look! How much fish I have caught. You have never seen such a number of fish. Try to repeat it!

Kultuk waited till the time was ripe, then he picked up the barrel, put it on the backbone of the wave and sent it back laughing:

- No, that is you who should envy my shoals- they are larger!

This game enterntained them. In the reality they did not need neither this fish nor the wealth (as they thought fish was). They simply liked spending time as mischievously as possible. Actually it was not so amusing thing to do, but they never got bored of it. But for the event that happend because of this game, they probably could have thrown this barrel from one to another nowadays.

The following story happened with them. These two giant bogatyrs (or heroes) fell in love with Sarma, who was the mountain bogatyr and the Maloye Sea's (or Little Sea's) mistress. This name the Sea got because of the fact that the island Olkhon separates it from the Great Sea, i. e. Baikal. By the way Sarma had her own way through the waves and if she started walking, then nothing good could come of it. And her character was more severe than of Barguzin and Kultuk and also she was stronger than they were. Who would refuse to have such a mighty wife? Once Barguzin said to Kultuk:

- I want Sarma to be my wife. Let's send matchmakers to her. Of course Kultuk did not appreciate these words but he said nothing and just added with laugh:

- She will decide on her own what to do. Besides I am not worse than you, I want to marry her too, I will send matchmakers as well. And we will see whom she will choose.

That was their decision and so they did. Soon the cormorant brought the answer from Sarma. She said:

- I do not need to get married now, but I would like to look at fiance. Furthermore I like you both. You are fine and gay. I will decide who is better between you later, after you fulfil my wish. Please, present me your barrel of omul. I want my Maloye Sea to teem with fish too. My husband will be the first of who will bring me the barrel.

The bride's whim seemed to bogatyrs simple. The only thing they neede to do was to catch the barrel, throw it into the Maloye Sea and they could hoot victory and one would become the fiance. But the task turned out to be more difficult than they expected, because nobody wanted to give up. The giants started commotion. Had Barguzin grabbed the barrel, when Kultuk knocked it out and strived to keep it and then again the barrel was in Barguzin's hand in a moment. They became so furious that their roaring was heard round Baikal. And the barrel caught it. It flew from one place to another. Finally bogatyrs contrived and caught the barrel together and froze for neither the first nor the second could bot take the barrel, because they had equal strength. And when they were about to start fighting again, they noticed that the barrel slipped out of hands and drowned. They flew above the water surface, they were furious and then gradually they faded and got exhausting from useless searching. They decided to wait for the barrel to rise to the surface. They hoped to see the barrel in vain. A day passed, then weeks and months...but there was no their barrel.

The giant winds could not understand what had happened. They got tired of thinking about it. And they did not know what to do, afterwards Baikal told them that he took the barrel and hid it in the deep. From the very beginning the barrel was his gift to the winds, and when he saw that this magic barrel caused discord between them he took the barrel back..

Baikal did not care that Kultuk and Barguzin lost Sarma. By the way first Sarma patiently waited for the end of the competition. as soon as Sarma had heard of the barrel disappearence, she sent her faithful cormorant to the bogatyrs to inform that she would not get married at all, because she found it better to be alone. And she also reproached them:

- What bogatyrs are you? You even failed to keep the barrel. I am stronger than you and I will take that barrel myself. Kultuk and Barguzin have not met each other since that time and when one wind came to the other other's wind territory, they try to avoid meeting, because they are still ashamed of loosing the barrel. And they go on looking for the barrel.

So Kultuk, Barguzin and Sarma went different ways and no one knows where the barrel is now.

The old man Savvely finished telling his story and Garanka sighed as if he had just carried the сart on the mointain top. It was characterictic of him to listening to the interesting story so that even his face hardened. He never interrupted the teller but he kept unclear and dim moments in memory to ask about them later. The same was this time:

-Maybe Sarma took this barrel, didn't she?- he asked the old man Savvely.

- No surprise. Sarma is the strongest giant wind. Even Baikal is afraid of her a bit, he can not resist and he is ready to accomplish every her wish. Sarma can play up for some time and then she suddenly grows cold to everything and gives it up. Garanka started thinking about this magic omul barrel hidden by father Baikal somewhere. "it would be great to find this barrel and to use it for fishing"- Garanka dreamt and he waited for a chance to find the barrel.

Once the artel began to throw sweep-net on the territory of the Barguzin bay. Fishermen worked friendly, but this time they were unlucky- the catch was miserable. Practically there was no fish.

- It is not good.- said the old man Savvely.- There is no fish here. And I donot think it will be.

- Why not sailing to the Maloye Sea to Kurkut firth, maybe we will be lucky there.

- Fishermen agreed. They sailed to the Kurkut firth, put the birch- bark cabin on the shore and prepared tacle. They found a very beautiful stretch. There were mighty anf high rocks here, Mother Taiga was so green, sea-gulls and cormorants flew above water and cried. On the blue sky the sun shone and warmed tenderly, sweet honey-smell was in the air. However the old man Savvely frowned looking at the sky:

- Today we will not be lucky. Can you see white circular dark clouds above the ravine like a fog and the same clouds are among them on the clear sky without movement. That is the sign for Sarma to come soon.

Garanka's heart stood still:

- Will we really meet this bogatyr woman?

- Yes, we will.

The old man Savelly said this and ordered to hide everything away, and to break down the cabin, because Sarma would do it anyway. Had they finished, when the strong wind blew from gloomy mountains and it became extremely dark. The Maloye Sea was howling like a beast, old trees started cracking on the shores, and big stone fell into water from the rock cliffs.

Though Garanka felt nervous and was afraid a bit, his curiousity made him leave the shelter. He saw an ugly, tousled weaved from fog woman's head hanging above the Sea. She had greying hair, jelly-like chicks, steam was belching from her mouth and her lips were like bellows, she blew up waves round.

- What a strong she is!- Garanka said and went back under the shekter.

The old man Savvely smiled:

- So, how do you find Sarma? Do you like her?

- I would prefer not to meet her, the old man.

- Yes, Garanya, everybody understands beauty in a dfferent way. You find it terrible, but Kultuk and Barguzin consider her to be the most beautiful one. Sarma raged for some time and then calmed. When the sun rejoiced above the Kurkut firth fishermen left their shelters and saw that near the camp on the sand-bank a barrel was washed ashore. And there was a black cormorant like a coal on the barrel. He sat for a few minutes and flew away. And a snow-white sea-gull took his place and started rumaaging in her wings. Fishermen were surprised. The same idea struck everyone: whether that was the magic barrel of omul lost by Kultuk and Barguzin? But nobody spoke. They stayed staring at the old man Savvely and they waited for him to speak out. Only Garanka could not wait:

- Is that the barrel, the old man?

But the old man struck dumb and was looking at the shore from under the brows. Finally he rethought himself and said to fishermen:

-Follow me!

All the fishermen went to the sand-bank. On seeing people the sea-gull flew away. And suddenly other sea-gulls together with hundreds of cormorants appeared out of the blue. Together in a crowed they began diving and taking fish and ate it.

- That is a good sign.- said Savvely.

When he went to the barrel closer he understood that it was the magic barrel, it was made properly, it looked nice and smelt spicy.

- Well, Garanka, now we will be lucky.- said the old man to the boy and looked at the Sea which changed too. Instead of light warm and dark cold water stripes they saw calm smooth water surface without layers or stripes. The old man Savvely understood it was a good sign. He turned to the fishermen and said cheerfully:

- We will have a rich catch today.

But fishermen did not listen to him they thought what they should do with the barrel and how to keep it?

- Let it lie here for some time.-said Savvely.

And fishermen slowly took the sweep-net and started fishing. After throwing the sweep-net into the water they decided to pull it back. The old man held the paddle ruling the boat and smiled. He felt luck. Looking at the leader the rest fishermen were smiling too and were about to sing the songs but did not want to show their happiness befor catching fish.

Fishermen on the shore also helped to pull the sweep-net back and then they saw that there occured the hitch on the stretch and people stopped.

- What's up there? Foulded? - asked the old man Savvely.

- No, we can not pull it anymore. It is too hard!

- What a trouble.guys, we must help them!- cried the leader to the oarsmen. All the artel was trying to pull it back but nothing came of it. Fishermen were surprised and worried.

- Poor things. -thought the old man.- We will not pull it on the shore, guys. What are we to do?

The only thing fishermen could do was to unstitch the sweep-net and let fish out. The laid down the law and decided to pull out the empty sweep-net. In the evening they dried it and fixed. Fishermen were not against of this decision. Savvely wanted to try his pot luck again. But the second time they threw the sweep-net the same situation happened. In the morning they did not go fishing, they got together and started thinking what to do. The old man Savvely suggested that they should leave the barrel in the Sea. Then everything would go its usual way. Garanka lost his patience, he stood up and cried:

- Can we really leave such a barrel, the old man? It is our great luck and we are going to refuse it ?! Nobody has never seen so much fish before! Are we fools to throw it away?

The old man Savvely listened to Garanka patiently and then he said:

- You are a crank, Garanka! Is it happiness when there is fish but you cannot take it? Let us have less fish, but in our hands. Do not be greedy, chap, you are not Sarma. She got sick of it herself and made us think about it, naughty girl.

But Garanka did not stop:

- We can try once again. We will have plenty of fish! Now we do have the barrel, but noone knows whether we will have it later.

The old man Savvely replied firmly:

- Go, guys!

Unwillinly fishermen went to the barrel, looked at the barrel again and pushed it into the Sea.

- Let it sail round Baikal and not in one place.- sighed the old man Savvely. Maybe extra fish will leave for the Great Sea Baikal. And we will catch always if we have enough strength and skill.

Garanka was dissappointed when he saw the barrle sailing on the waves. Suddenly the Sea and the sky turned black, dark clouds covered the sky, the wind blew up. The old man Savvely frowned:

- Barguzin has blown. We can not go fishing now. Let him play up...

Garanka heard about Barguzin and he felt hurt. He ran to the old man Savvely:

- Are we to see this bogatyr?

- Just look at the Sea...

Garanka looked and exclaimed: the frightening head with dim eyes and white-foamed hair appeared on the horizont where the Sea meets the sky. Then sinewy arms stretched above water and the terible voice was heard on Baikal:

- Hey-ey-ey!

The Sea worried more and more, Garanka became nervous:

- What a fright! It is not Sarma, but still...

And then Garanka saw the magic barrel of omul in Barguzin's hands. In a moment without battlking an eyelid the boy saw the barrel been throwned by the bogatyr somewhere far. Then the Sea became still, the clouds disappeared and the sun shone above sparkling water. The old man Savvely smiled:

- The magic toy has found. Soon Kultuk will come.

- Will we see him as well?

- I think, yes.- answered Savvely.

Had he finished saying it when the sky became dark and was obscured by clouds, everything started hooting around. The waves rose so immense! Then the green curly head of the fright was seen and the voice like a storm roared:

- Hey-ey-ey!

Notwithstanding the fact that Garanka expected Kultuk's coming, he was afraid a bit. And when he saw the barrel in his hands he thought: "Something is going to happen now". But nothing happened. Kultuk disappeared and the sun shone again.

- O'K, guys.- said the old man Savvely.- Kultuk and Barguzin seem to have forgotten their quarrel. Now the barrel is at work. And Sarma will have wealth in the Maloye Sea without this barrel.

And again the Sea water surface was covered with bright warm stripes and dark cold ones. But this change did not discourage the old man Savvely:

- We will catch fish the way we used to. If we work hard then we will have enough fish, otherwise we will have to tighten ourselves belt. In the afternoon we will throw the sweep-net...

Then they went to the Sea and started throwing the sweep-net and fishing. On the way back they pulled lots of fish! Fishermen rejoiced. Savvely turned to Garanka, grinned and said:

- Will you reproach me by the magic barrel?

Garanka smiled and kept silence.