The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Eighteen. A Skirmish with Head-Hunters
caption: being chased and almost killed by Nagas
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Kalyo Kengyu
location: Pangsha
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: We run on through the millet fields, with the soft earth giving way under our feet. More than once I slip and fall, for it is not easy to run through that forest of millet with a camera and a gun and the uncomfortable basket on my back. This encounter with Pangsha is not exactly as I had imagined it; there is no denying that we are running away.
text: But who wanted to deny it? If only I could run quicker! The others were surely running faster? There is Smith in front, and there a sepoy. If only we could stick together! This damned millet! You can see nothing at all: hardly more than ten yards ahead. A Chingmei scout passes me. He has dropped every piece of his precious loot from Pangsha and is running for his life. He probably thinks that we have not the slightest chance against this ten-fold superiority in numbers.
text: Behind us the war cries swell to a roar that I am never likely to forget. They sound hardly human, these passionate, terrifying cries that rise from hundreds of throats. What use are the guns in your hands when you cannot even sight your target in this confounded millet? We hear the enemy, but we will only see him when bullets can no longer prevent a hand-to-hand fight, when the howling hordes surge over us! If only we could reach the hillock that somewhere here ought to interrupt the steep slope of the hill. Two Changs pass me -- their faces are alive with terror; the enemy must be close on their heels.
text: A salvo -- bullets whistle over my head. I almost pull up, as I feel the air disturbed in the giant millet above me. Shots in front and the cries of the enemy behind. Who can be firing there in front? Surely the sepoys can't be firing blind? No,they are running much too fast for that. But all is well. The advance-guard have reached the small hillock on the slope, and are firing over our heads at the enemy behind and above us. Thank goodness! But don't shoot too low!
text: (149) Breathlessly we reach the hillock. The sepoys have stopped firing for the moment, and the enemy seem to have withdrawn. The fire of our vanguard must have broken the wave of the attack only a few seconds before the launching of the first shower of spears. They must have been near! Now the fall of several leaders has stayed the rush, for Nagas depend almost entirely on the leadership of a few champions, and if these fall, the courage of the other warriors evaporates, as the courage of the Philistines at the death of Goliath. If the Pangsha warriors had run blindly on they would have certainly overpowered us.