The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - Nzemi folk tales collected by Ursula Graham Bower, 1940-1944

caption: 'The Otter' - myth
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: THE OTTER.
text: A man used to set basket-traps to catch fish, but every night an otter came and ate the fish in the traps. The man was angry, and said: "Who is eating all my fish? I will set a trap." He set a trap and when the otter went to eat the fish in the basket-trap it could not get out again, and when the man came in the morning he found it.
text: "Ah!" he said. "So you are the one who has been eating my fish! Now I shall take and eat you."
text: He went off carrying the otter in the basket, and when they came near the village the otter heard a pig grunting.
text: "What's that?" he asked.
text: "When I have killed and eaten you," said the man, "And go to the jungle to ease myself, the pig will come and eat the dung."
text: The otter was frightened, and when they had gone a little further and heard a cock crowing, he asked what that was.
text: "When the pig has eaten the dung and got rid of its droppings in turn," said the man. "The cock will come and eat them and so eat you up for the third time."
text: The otter was frightened still more, and said: "Don't eat me! Let me live, and I will give you a useful piece of advice."
text: "What is it?" said the man.
text: "When one of your children gets a fish-bone stuck in its throat," said the otter. "Take a piece of skin from an otter's throat and stroke the child's throat with it eight times, and say: 'This order the otter gave of old. If it goes down, it goes down, if it goes up, it goes up,' and the fish-bone will go one way or the other."
text: Then the man let the otter go, and to this day, when anyone gets a fish-bone stuck in his throat, men do as the otter told them.