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 Story of Karumeona' - myth
medium: notes
person: Namkiabuing
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: The leopard-cat and the night-jar were friends. They went walking together. The leopard-cat said: "We are only walking together like this; where is your house?" The night-jar showed him her nest at the top of a tree and said: "That's my house." The night-jar asked the cat: "Where do you sleep?" The leopard- cat showed him. Then "How do you sleep?" asked the leopard-cat. "When I sleep I keep calling out 'Kou-o, kou-o'" said the night- jar. "At that time I am sleeping. When I don't call out, then I am not asleep. As long as I don't call out I am not sleeping."
text: The night-jar was calling out in the night. The leopard-cat thought: "Ah, she is asleep!" and went very quietly up the tree to catch her. When he got there the bird's eyes were wide open, and the night-jar looked at him and said: "What is it?" The leopard-cat went very quietly away again. He thought: "When she kept calling out she was not asleep."
text: Another day he went when the bird was quiet. The night-jar's eyes were shut and she was asleep. The leopard-cat seized her. There were eight eggs in the nest, and when the night-jar and the leopard-cat were struggling one fell out of the nest to the ground and was lost. The leopard-cat looked for it and could not find it. He took the night-jar and the eggs back to his house and ate them.
text: The egg which fell out of the nest went to the cat's house to make war on the leopard-cat. On the way it met some hornets. They asked it: "Friend Karumeona, where are you going?" The egg said: "I am going to fight the one who killed my mother." The hornets said: "We want to come too." "Then come," said the egg. The hornets went with him.
text: Then they met a man. "Friend Karumeona, where are you going?" "I am going to fight the one who killed my mother." "I want to go too." The man said this. Later they met a goat. "Friend Karumeona, where are you going?" "I am going to fight the one who killed my mother." "I want to go too". Then the goat came. Then they met some ants. "Friend Karumeona, where are you going?" "I am going to fight the one who killed my mother." "We want to come too," said the ants, and the ants came. Then they met a frog. The frog asked: "Friend Karumeona, where are you going?" "I am going to kill the one who killed my mother." "I want to come too." The frog also came.
text: They all went together, and came to the leopard-cat's house. In the main path they put the man. In the back path they put the goat and the hornets. All the other paths they blocked lest the leopard-cat should run away, and in the smallest path of all they put the frog. The frog cut himself a wooden club and waited with it ready to kill the leopard-cat.
text: Karumeona went in by the front door and the ants went with him. "Ah, I didn't find it before, and now it's come! Now we'll eat it!" The cat's family were very pleased. They caught the egg. "We'll eat it." "How will you eat me?" "We'll boil you." "No, don't do that, bury me in the ash and coals and put ash and coals on top of me, and do you all gather round the fire. If you do this I shall be delicious to eat." "Ah, that's all right," they said, and did as the egg told them. The egg blew up and the coals and ash flew into their eyes. The small ants had all gathered in the mouth of the water-chunga. Ash and rubbish had gone into the eyes of the cat's family. "What shall we do?" they cried. "We'll wash out eyes and bodies. Get water, get water!" They went to fetch the water and the ants came out all over their hands and faces and they could do nothing. The big ants bit their feet and legs.
text: "Oh, what shall we do?" they cried. "We can't stay in, we'll go out!" They went to the front door and found the man about to strike them, and they ran back again. They went to the back door and found the goat ready to butt them, and the hornets stung them, so they ran back again and didn't go out. There was a little drain where the frog was sitting. They squeezed out by that and it was so small that when they saw him they couldn't go back, and he raised his club and killed them all. There is no more. (From Namkiabuing, Impoi).
text: Karumeona - pronounced Kar'meona
text: Leopard-cat - Zemi 'hengye' or heng-nge'
text: Night-jar - Zemi 'heku' or 'hekupui', a dark-coloured bird with a lon tail. Said to have one call at night and a different one in the day-time. Not positively identified, but translated as 'Night-jar' for convenience.