2.1.2. Yárabts

Yárabts is the second subtype of narrative songs. The appellation is derived from the Nenets word yárts' 'to cry, to weep'. Thus literally, yárabts is translated as "crying song". It is a song telling about the life and fate of an individual and it has sometimes an autobiographic nature. The "crying" comes from one of the most popular themes in yárabtses, namely the hardships and grief of the life of the hero in song (cf. Kupriyanova 1965, 40).

Although a "weeping song", yárabts must not be confused with, for example, the funeral laments of agricultural people, such as the Volga-Ugrian, Russian or Finno-Karelian. The Nenets have nothing like funeral laments at all (cf. Pushkarëva 1988).

Russian scholars maintain the yárabts to be of later origin than syudbabts, mainly by judging the thematic differences between the two song types. The "classic" theme of yárabts is the hard life, suffering, fight and victory of the hero, presented in the first person (Kupriyanova 1965, 40-41).

While the theme types known in syudbabts - the bride-quest or the tribal warfare - appear mixed also in yárabts, it has two major themes prevailing. First, some of the yárabtses are heroic, and the narration concentrates on depicting the adventures of the hero and his relatives in a wife-quest or tribal feud. This type of theme is quite close to the themes in syudbabts. However, the way the events and adventures are presented is not so "heroic" as in syudbabts: there is more realism and humor in the yárabts. Lengthy passages in the narration concentrate on the life of the reindeer nomads: travelling with sledge caravans, preparations to such travels, catching reindeers etc. In the feud theme the narration concentrates more on the sufferings of the hero, than in the similar themes of syudbabts. Second, the group of other subjects of traditional life consists of various themes. The theme of intra- or intertribal warfare is present also here, but again, in more realistic way of telling. (ibid., 41-42)

One of the most popular themes in this type of yárabtses, however, is the hardship endured by the hero. Usually the hero is a poor member, foster-child or a slave of a wealthy family. The family abandons the hero, and (s)he has to survive alone in the tundra, or on an icefloe on the sea. Finally the hero finds friendly people, and is able to return, in some stories for settling the relationships with his family (cf. ibid., 43)

Russian scholars often emphasize the change in the structure of the Nenets society as reflecting in the changing thematics of yárabts. Thus, quite often the hardships of the hero are due to his/her unequal and deprived position for example in the household of a wealthy reindeer-owner. Women characters are quite well represented in the yárabts, as well as the hero of the song or the performer.

The following text is as example of a yárabts with the classical tribal feud theme mixed with the hardship theme, with the central figures of a mistreated foster-boy and his female cousin, who turns to be the actual heroine of the story.

Example 2. (Sound example not included.) Yárabts ("Atsyki").
Performed by Anastasia Taleeva in Nel'min-Nos, Malaya Zemlya, 1959.
Recorded and published by Zinayda Kupriyanova (1965, 544).
Original transcription of the beginning of the song by Boris Dobrovol'skiy (1965, 766)
Re-interpreted transcription by J. Niemi (in closer detail, see: Niemi 1997b).

Nosyi(nge)tetowhanow e-ngey                        With Nosyiteta's,
sewan'(e) tyaheid(a)(ngey) e-ngey                        as long as I can remember,
manye(nge) yilyo(w)wed(e)m' e-ngey                        I am living.
Nosyi(nge)tetow (ngey) e-ngey                        The Nosyiteta have,
nyenge(nge)m' tolo(w)basye(y) e-ngey                        if women are counted,
nyar(a)'(nge) syato(w) sawo(w) e-ngey                        three beauties.
huna(nge) ngawor(a)tsyetem' e-ngey                        Sometimes I eat
weno' li lug(ey)basye(y) e-ngey                        I gnaw bones
nyudya(nge) syato(w) sawo(w) e-ngey                        The younger of the beauties,
pida malye(y)syate(y) e-ngey                        she says:
hora(nge) yadow (nge)(ngey) e-ngey                        - To my dog
lehe'(nge) nyiwemnyo' ta'(ngey) e-ngey                        I, seemingly, didn't give bones,
harwa(nge-yey)nake(y) e-ngey                        she surely wants to eat.
le(nge)kom morye(y)syate(y) e-ngey                        She throws me bone,
luga(nge)basye(y)tin(ey) e-ngey                        and I gnaw them.
tarye(nge)m' yilyowa'no(w) e-ngey                        This is how we live.
ya(nge)bo' syid(ey)kat(ey) e-ngey                        From somewhere
ngob(e)'(nge) ngedo(w)lyodo(w) e-ngey                        a traveller is approaching,
tida(nge) malko(w)wu'mo(w)' e-ngey                        he has reindeers without antlers,
horo'(nge) malko(w)wu'mo(w)' e-ngey                        reindeer-bulls without antlers.
to'mada myin(ey)hando(w) e-ngey                        When he had arrived,
Nosyi(nge)teto(wyiyei) e-ngey                        the Nosyiteta
pida(nge) taryow' ma(ngey) e-ngey                        said like this:
nye(nge)ko' pyiryo(w)(nga)do(w)' e-ngey                        - Women, cook,
yed(e)'(nge) pyiryo(w )(nga)do(w)' e-ngey                        cook some soup,
myadoda to(ngow)nyo' (ngey) e-ngey                        a guest has arrived!
myato(nge) tyulyo(w)(nga)do(w)' e-ngey                        They showed him the way to the hut.
yihi(nge)nyan(ey) mad(e)m' e-ngey                        I thought to myself:
Nosyi(nge)teto(wyiye)m' e-ngey                        - At the Nosyiteta
mana'(nge) lyihertsow(ey) e-ngey                        look:
hurka(nge) ngeb'(ey)nado(w) e-ngey                        what he looks like,
hyibya(nge) ngeb'(ey)nado(w) e-ngey                       what kind of man he is.
ngarka ngewinyo'(ngey) e-ngey                        He is big,
myadoda haso(w)war(ey) e-ngey                        but the guest
ngobtaryem' ngarko(w) ngewi e-ngey                        is also a big man.
nyudya(nge) syato(w) sawo(w) e-ngey                        The younger of the beauties
syu'm(e)(nge) mano(w)'nganyo'(w) e-ngey                        saw me,
myakana meno(w)'ngesye(y) e-ngey                        and being in the hut,
pida(nge) taryow'(m) ma(ngey) e-ngey                        she said like this:
amga(nge)m' per(ey)ngan(ey) e-ngey                        - What are you doing (here)
sawa(nge) hyibyo(w)ha'no(w) e-ngey                        amidst good people?
adya(nge)nano(w)nan(ey) e-ngey                        you can't be here,
nyib(e)'(nge)nyand(ey) hanye(y)' e-ngey                        if you don't go away,
syit(e)(nge) ladortad(e)m' e-ngey                        I'll beat you.
pyin(e)'(nge) tarpe(y)yuw'(ey) e-ngey                        I went outside.
numda(nge) pew(ey)syumzye(y) e-ngey                        When the evening came,
munondo' sahe(y)mondo(w)' e-ngey                        they talked all the time louder
nyabyi(nge) mamo(w)nodo(w) e-ngey                        one (of the guests) is talking (with a loud voice):
yud(à?)' po' tyahe(y)na(ngey) e-ngey                        - Ten years ago
nyaw(a)(nge) her(yei)ngasye(y) e-ngey                        my brother left (for somewhere),
nyudya(nge) tanyo(w)ngasye(y) e-ngey                        he had a son,
syidya(nge)m' poto(w)kosye(y) e-ngey                        two years old (at that time).
ha'mamda yam(ey)ngadem' e-ngey                        His body I can't,
hosyeko ya'm(ey)ngadem' e-ngey                        find, I can't find.
nyib(e)te mano(w)sa'(ngey) e-ngey                        You haven't seen him?
Nosyi(nge)teto(wyiyei) e-ngey                        Nosyiteta
pida(nge) mamo(w)nondo(w) e-ngey                        he says (with a loud voice):
ngulyi(nge) yeho(w)rawo(w)' e-ngey                        - We (really) don't know,
tartsya(nge)raham' hyibyam' e-ngey                        that kind of man
nyiwa'tsye' mano(w)s(e)'(ngey) e-ngey                        we haven't seen.
yalya(nge) pew(ey)syumyo(w) e-ngey                        The day ended,
pyi(y)nge(nge)sye(y) hayo(w) e-ngey                        and the night came.
Nosyi(nge)teto(wyiyei) e-ngey                        Nosyiteta (and the guest)
labtsye(nge) labtsyo(w)we'(ngey) e-ngey                        attacked each other,
pyinako' tarpo(w)yahe(y)' e-ngey                        they went outside.
syi'w(à)(nge) yud(ei') tyer(ey)' e-ngey                        The dwellers of (all the) seventy huts,
mal(à)'(nge) labtsyo(w)yad(ey)' e-ngey                        they all attacked the guest.
ngo'lyeryi haso(w)wa(ngey) e-ngey                        This single man
nganyiko' mo'no(w)syate(y) e-ngey                        falls down (all the time),
nganyiko' yurk(ey)syate(y) e-ngey                        but rises up again.
tarye(nge)m' meno(w)hano(w) e-ngey                        They are fighting like this,
nyanango ngoko(w)'mo(ngey-e) e-ngey                        there are so many (attackers),
hurka pyi' yambe(y)n(e)'(ngey) e-ngey                        The whole night
onazyoro(w)ngadow e-ngey                        they beat him,
taryem(e)' meno(w)hando(w) e-ngey                        and finally like this,
tyezye(nge)labto(w)ngado(w)' e-ngey                        they killed him.
tanyawo hayo(w)(nga)do(w)' e-ngey                        They left him there,
myata' ngo tyunyo(w)ki'(yei) e-ngey                        and everyone went back to their huts.
hal'myar(e)' nya(nge)na(ngey) e-ngey                        To the dead man,
manyako herei(nga)dem' e-ngey                        I went.
habi(nge)ku'lye(y)ngaw(ey) e-ngey                        I looked at him,
manya(nge) taryo(w) mad(e)m' e-ngey                        and I said like this:
ngarkawa ewo(w)n(a)nyo(w)' e-ngey                        - You look like so big a man,
hanzyer(e)' hano(w)nad(ey) e-ngey                        how could you die?
manya(nge) tartsyam' ngeb'ne(y) e-ngey                        If I had been like you,
nyi(nge) damzye(y)ha'(ngey) e-ngey                        I wouldn't have died.
nganyiko' hayo(w)(nga)w(ey) e-ngey                        I left him.
ngamgewa ngew(ey)na(ngey) e-ngey                        What else,
hona(nge)ryiwo(w)kew'(ey) e-ngey                        I (went back and) laid myself down to sleep.

This story continues with a chain of events:

The Nosyiteta-master goes off for a wife and returns. After a while the Nosyitetas decide to sacrifice the foster-boy to spirits. The new wife, however, helps the boy to escape. The boy escapes to the tundra.

After a long time he finds the same woman again. The woman tells him that the man the Nosyitetas killed, was his father, Horateta, who went looking for his brother (who had a baby boy). Eventually they find out, that they are cousins. The Horateta boy lives with his cousin for years, and when he is big enough, he goes to search the Nosyiteta-master and takes revenge by killing him.

On his way back to her cousin, he meets the family of the Pahasyedyiteta, whose son turned out to be about to marry the eldest daughter of the Nosyiteta. Leaving the hut of the Pahasyedyiteta, their son cries now for revenge for the killed father-in-law and goes after the Horateta. The Pahasyedyiteta gets him and beats him almost to death. In the last moment his cousin finds him and cures his wounds.

After recovering, the Horateta wants to go for Pahasyedyiteta and beat him in turn. Pahasyedyiteta is living with the Nosyiteta daughters, when Horateta arrives. However, the Pahasyedyiteta wants to settle their hostilities. He says that he didn't marry the eldest Nosyiteta after all.

Now the positions have changed, and the Horateta throws bones to the Nosyiteta daughters who live now with them as slave-like servants. The Nosyiteta offers his sister to Horateta. They agree and have a wedding. Horateta, in turn, promises his cousin to Pahasyedyiteta. They return to Horateta's camp and now the Pahasyedyiteta and the Horateta-cousin get married. They are living together, the family and the reindeers of both Pahasyedyiteta and Horateta.

After a while the Pahasyedyiteta and Horateta split their wealth and continue living separately. Horateta's cousin - Pahasyedyiteta's wife, that is - advises eventually that Horateta should take the youngest Nosyiteta and she takes the eldest Nosyiteta (for Pahasyedyiteta) as second wives. The final battle begins, when Pahasyedyiteta hears that (the pro-Nosyiteta) enemy is gathering warriors to attack them, after having found the body of the Nosyiteta-master. The warriors come and they fight. Eventually only the youngest Yamal and the youngest Tungus1 of the enemies are left and they run away. Pahasyedyiteta goes after the Tungus and Horateta after Yamal. However, both the enemies are stronger than Pahasyedyiteta and Horateta. The Horateta- cousin arrives again in the last moment, to save both of them at a time.

Returning, the Horateta cousin sees that the warriors are after them again. She tells the Pahasyedyiteta and Horateta to go back and not worry about her. They go to their camp and continue living with their families, having already children running around. They wait for the Horateta cousin, being sure that she has killed. After a long time the Horateta-cousin arrives, alive. She claims finally the leadership of the families to herself and the Pahasyedyiteta and Horateta agree (Kupriyanova 1965, 544-565).

Unlike syudbabts, in this narration the primary interest concentrates on the actions of the hero and the narration is conducted by the hero. However, the hero is presented as merely an actor, and the inner thoughts and feelings are not much depicted (ibid., 53). There seems to be slight regional variation in the generic concepts of the narrative song types. Mostly the syudbabts and yárabts are considered as narrative songs proper, but especially among the Eastern Nenets the hinabts (see below) can be of narrative character too.
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1These names refer to distant enemies: the other being a Nenets one from the Yamal and the other being an Evenki one, from yet more distant regions.