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 Wild Dog' - myth
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: Once, they say, there was a man who went hunting with his eight dogs, and they got so much meat that the house was full of it. He put it in a basket to dry, and it became a woman, and the man married her. Every day the man and the dogs went hunting, and every day they caught something and had meat to eat, till one day, after many years, they did not catch anything, and on the way home it came on to rain. The dogs ran off home quickly, and the man followed more slowly, because he was getting old. The dogs all came into the house and sat down round the fire, because they were wet and cold. The woman was sweeping out the house, and when she saw they had brought nothing she abused them for sitting round the fire instead of hunting, and hit them with the broom.
text: The dogs said: "Our grandmother is angry with us for not bringing anything, and beats us with the broom. Let us run away." Then they ran away from the house.
text: After a little while the man came in and asked where the dogs were, and the woman said: "They took up all the room round the fire when I was sweeping, and I beat them away with the broom, and now they have all run away."
text: Then the man was very angry, and said: "I am more fond of the dogs than of you, for you only came out of a lump of meat. I will go and call them back."
text: He hurried after them, calling to them to wait because he wanted to talk to them. The dogs heard, and some of them were for staying and some were not, but at last they waited and spoke to him. The man begged them to come back, but they refused and said: "No, our grandmother is angry with us and beats us with the broom. The broom is the worst thing of all to beat with, for if we are hit with one, we shall never be able to catch anything, however much we hunt."
text: "But if you go away, then how can I live?" said the man.
text: "Listen," said the dogs. "If, down by the nullah, you see our droppings and the places where we have curled up and slept, go and search on the hillside, because we shall have killed there, and you will find the bones we have left. If you see our droppings and the places where we have slept on the hill, then search down by the nullah, and you will find what we have left there."
text: "But if I take the bones you leave," said the man. "And a bit of bone gets stuck in my throat and blocks it, what shall I do then?"
text: "Now and then," said the dogs. "You will kill one of us or catch him in a trap. Take a bit of his tongue and stroke your throat with it and say what we are saying now: "Of old the dog gave this order. If it goes down, it goes down, if it comes up, it comes up" and whichever way it is going, it will go."
text: Then the dogs ran off into the jungle and the old man went home, and never again had such meat as he did before.