The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: 'How the Tiger was Fooled' - myth
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: The tortoise went to the marten's jhum. They worked away all morning, and after a while the tortoise asked: "What shall we eat for our midday meal?" "Be quiet," said the marten. "There is food for us." They worked on and on and it was noon. There was food at the bottom of the jhum and zu at the top. The marten told the tortoise to stay in the field-house, and he fetched food and drink, so much that they could not eat it all. The tortoise said: "Very well, tomorrow we we work in my jhums."
text: The next day they went to the tortoise's jhum. They worked away all morning and the marten asked: "What is there for the midday meal?" "Be quiet," said the tortoise. "There is food for us."
text: When it was midday the tortoise told the marten to sit in the field-house, and he went to the top of the jhum but there was no zu there, and to the bottom, but there was no food there. The marten felt thirsty and went to the river to drink, and there found plantain trees, and he ran up and ate the fruit. The tortoise followed after, and looking into the water, saw the reflection of the marten in the tree above. "Oh, there's my brother!" he said, and caught at it, but only caught the water, and the marten in the tree above laughed and the tortoise realised what had happened.
text: "I can't climb trees," he said to the marten. "Throw down a bad plantain for me, and I'll eat it."
text: "No, I won't," said the marten. "I'll give you one later." Then he ate them all. When he had finished he carried the tortoise up to the top of the banana-tree and the tortoise tried all the fruit he could find, but they were only empty skins, for the marten had eaten the lot.
text: "Take me down again!" he cried, but the marten was angry and did not want to and went away.
text: The tortoise stayed crying out at the top of the tree, being unable to come down. A wild pig came past, and the tortoise called to him, saying: "Help me, please! Carry me!" The pig said: "No, I'm very busy," and went away. Then a deer came by and the tortoise called to him. The barking-deer said: "Very well, I'll carry you." The tortoise fell out of the plantain tree and in falling his hard shell struck the deer and killed it. The tortoise said to the tiger: "We will take the flesh. I will divide it equally between us." Out of his cleverness he said this. He filled the tiger's basket full of stones and put meat on the top, but his own basket he filled with good meat.
text: The tiger carried his basket. When he got home he said to his child: "Eat meat". The child unpacked the basket, and at first he found meat and afterwards nothing but stones. The tiger went at once to catch the tortoise. He found him and caught him,
text: "I shall toast you over the fire and eat you, " he said.
text: "All right, toast me," said the tortoise. "I shall be so angry I shall kill all your children."
text: "I shall tie you up to a piece of wood," said the tiger.
text: "I shall be so angry I shall kill all your children and your wife as well," said the tortoise.
text: The tiger was afraid to toast the tortoise in case what he threatened should come true, so he said: "Shall I throw you in the water?"
text: "Oh, no, don't do that!" said the tortoise. "I'm afraid of that!" Then the tiger threw him in the water and the tortoise went off very happy.
text: The tiger determined to drink up the pool and get the tortoise again, so he stuffed up his fundament with leaves so that the water should not get out that way and started to drink the pool. The cheripu kept on flying down and pulling the leaves out and the water all came out again. The tiger was angry and set a trap. He made a snare out of his hairs and caught the bird.
text: "I shall eat you," he said. "How shall I eat you? Teach me."
text: "Oh, if you catch me by the tail and then hit me and kill me, I shall be delicious to eat," said the cheripu. The tiger caught him by the tail and hit him with his paw, and before he hit the cheripu it flew away, saying: "Cheep!" and let its droppings fall on the tiger. The tiger ate a little of the droppings.
text: "Oh, excellent!" he said. "If only I had eaten the whole bird, how delicious it would have been!"