The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: 'The Mithan' or 'Hugining' - myth
medium: notes
person: Namkia
ethnicgroup: Zemi
date: 9.1940
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: A youth and a girl once lived in the same village and were lovers for a very long time but the youth, whose name was Hugining, did not marry her, and a suitor came from a distant village and married her and took her away while Hugining married another girl in his own village.
text: In the course of time the girl who went to the distant village was left a widow with eight sons. She owned the biggest mithan in all that country, and it was well-known to everybody.
text: The people of Hugining's village said to him: "Come, you catch the mithan, and we will steal it and kill it and cut it up. If you don't catch it for us we shall never get it."
text: So Hugining went with them, and they searched in the jungle till they found the mithan and killed it. That evening, when the mithan did not come back to the village, the woman's sons said: "It is evening now, but our mithan has not come home. Every day it comes at this time, but to-day it hasn't come. What can have happened? It must be dead."
text: They went and searched and found the bloodstained grass at the place where the mithan had been cut up, and they saw the tracks of the men who had carried off the meat.
text: "Come!" they said. "We will follow up the tracks and catch the thieves."
text: They hurried along, following the footmarks, and caught up with the thieves, who were heavily laden and only half-way back to their village. Last in the line was Hugining, who was carrying off the mithan's horns as drinking-cups for his children.
text: "O Hugining!" said the young men. "So you are taking our mithan! You are a man and a warrior; if you run away from us now you will be no better than a woman. Put down your load and wait."
text: When he heard them speak to him thus by name, Hugining put down his load and sat down, ready to die rather than run away and lose his honour. Having caught Hugining, the young men were satisfied, and the others of his village all escaped.
text: Then the young men said: "You are our mithan, and we will tie you up and take you to our house." They bound him and fastened a rope round his neck, and skewered a cord through his nostrils, like a mithan. As they did this he cried out, and they said: "why do you cry out? You are a warrior, not a girl." So he lay quiet and cried out no more.
text: Then they led him back to their village, and sent word ahead that they were bringing in their mithan. When they were nearing the village their mother heard that they were bringing Hugining, her former lover, so she prepared strong zu and put it into a water-chunga , so that her sons would think it was water, and not realise that she was doing Hugining a kindness. They brought him to the house and tied him up like a mithan to the post in front of it. They said to their mother: "we have brought our mithan a long way, and it is very thirsty. Bring water."
text: She brought out the chunga and poured the drink into the pigs' trough, which she had made clean and ready, and they made Hugining lap from it like an animal. He drank and drank till he was half-drunk and his eyes red. Then they took him into the house and set him on the machan and told him to sing. He sang of his achievements and all that he had done in the past, and when he stopped they asked him it was finished.
text: "Yes," he said. "The song is all finished."
text: Then they struck off his head and flung it across at their mother, saying: "Look! Here is your lover's head. Take it!"
text: She took out three or four new cloths from a jappa, put them over the head, and picked it up and wrapped it in them, and put it in a basket.
text: "Yes," she said. "I'll take it. Once he was my lover, and I will not desert him now; although I die I will not desert him."
text: Then she went away carrying the head in the basket. Hugining's village was a long way away, and she had to pass through many villages. In every village she came to she said: "My sons have killed Hugining, and I come carrying his head." Hugining had been the lover of many girls and in each village there was one of his former sweethearts; and each, when she heard, brought out a cloth to cover the head, and helped to carry the basket. When at last she arrived at Hugining's village the load of cloths was so big it would not go through the narrow door in the stockade, and the villagers took daos and hacked the doorway wider to admit it. She took the head to Hugining's house and it was buried according to custom, and all the cloths with it. As for the woman, she never returned to her husband's village but remained with her kinsfolk in the village where she was born.
text: (N.I., Sept. 1940)
text: F.C.