Samelat Silver

Samelat Silver

Saiwa Tjalem (Translated as ‘Samelat Silver’; written 1883)


Excerpt from: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh,

A peculiar snarling and grunting woke me. Or was it the snoring of one of my sleeping companions? The atmosphere in the hermetically sealed winter hut was cause for despair. Eight people and five dogs had found room in the tight space, but don’t ask me how that was possible! Those thirteen creatures were intertwined so completely with their fifty-two front and back legs, the unravelling of such a number of tangled limbs seemed an absolute impossibility.

In the centre of the reindeer-skin tent the remainder of a large fire still smouldered, the acrid smoke of which formed an impenetrable cloud because the exhaust hole had been covered up. My head rested on the fish-oil scented hips of mother Snjaera, a name that meant ‘mouse’; my right leg was stuck under old uncle Saette, a word that must be translated as ‘arrow’, and my left foot served one of the dogs as a pillow. Father Pent, that’s to say ‘Benedikt the blessed’, had unbuttoned my fur coat to bed his cherished head down on my stomach region so that the tail of the dog for which Pent in turn acted as a mattress affectionately brushed my nose.

In addition to those inestimable comforts, there was the heat that developed in my airtight pelt and fur clothing, the diabolical aroma of thirteen-fold transpiration and respiration, as well as the liveliness of those tiny stowaways that were unavoidable in such close proximity with dogs, and of which funny old Fischart sang: “Mich beizt neizwaz, waz mag daz gseyn?”

And taking into consideration the hearty diatonic and chromatic snoring fortissimo that filled the tent, it was no surprise that I didn’t sleep very soundly.

But no, it wasn’t the snoring that had woken me because I heard the same snarling and grunting for a second time. It came from some distance outside the tent. A shot cracked immediately afterwards and someone shouted:

Attje, tassne le tarfok, father the bear is here!”

At once all fifty-two extremities became animated and that seemingly impossible tangle unravelled in two seconds. The eight people shouted and hollered; the five dogs barked and howled; the fire remnant was completely trampled during the search for the weapons whereby everyone grabbed that of someone else. And yet after hardly one minute we were in front of the hut and rushed to where Neete, meaning ‘marten’, the son of old Pent had called for help. Together with Kakke Keira, which translates to ‘servant Eric’, Neete had been on guard duty. He ran up to us and shouted at the top of his voice:

Tarfok, tarfok le mesam, the bear, the bear’s got my reindeer calf!”

“Where is it?” his father asked.

Tuos, tuos, kwouto pluewai, there, there in the swamp!”

“Fetch your ski, your snowshoes,” father Pent commanded, “your rifles, knives and spears. Also take some ropes along. We’ll go after it!”

All snowshoes leant against the tent. We put them on and off we went, towards the swamp that stretched out into the plain not far from the Laplander dwelling. Kakke Keira stayed back with Pent’s wife and their three daughters.

Including myself, we counted five people: Pent, uncle Saette, Neete, as well as a second servant whose name was Anda, or Andrew.

It was perhaps an hour past midnight, but we could still see very well because the sky was lit by northern lights in such splendour and magnificence like I had never before observed. It wasn’t the usual spreading and collapsing, mild play of colours, not the large phenomena that quietly stood in space, instead it was an uninterrupted, powerful gushing up of brilliant bunches of colour that seemed to spurt out into endlessness, a whirl of a thousand rotating fire wheels each with a larger radius than the previous, an uninterrupted jousting, wrestling, chasing and catching of all manner of embers, lights, hues and nuances, a spectacle that would have truly overwhelmed me had not the hunter in me stirred.

More: Inn-Nu-WohTo Merhameh