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' (another version) - myth
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: HOW THE TIGER WAS FOOLED (another version)
text: The tortoise said to the marten: "Friend, let us work in each other's fields. Today we will go to your fields, tomorrow we will go to mine."
text: "Very well," said the marten.
text: They went to the marten's fields and worked away until noon. The marten had brought zu and rice and vegetables and hidden them round the edge of his field, but had put nothing in the fieldhouse. As they worked, the tortoise sang:
text: "When we go to the fieldhouse, what shall we eat?"
text: The marten sang in reply: "Work hard, there is plenty to eat!"
text: When it was noon they went to the fieldhouse, and the marten took a spear and said: "I shall throw for zu!" He threw the spear and went to fetch it, and came back with the zu he had hidden. Then he said: "I shall throw for rice and vegetables," and he threw in the opposite direction and went to fetch the spear, and came back with the rice and vegetables. Then he and the tortoise ate and drank and feasted, and came back very happy to the village in the evening.
text: The next day they went to the tortoise's field, but the tortoise had not made any food ready. As they worked away the marten sang: "When we go to the fieldhouse, what shall we eat?" and the tortoise answered: "Work hard, there's plenty to eat!"
text: At noon they went to the fieldhouse and the tortoise took a spear and said: "I shall throw for zu," and threw as the marten had done, but when he went to look there was nothing there. Then he said: "I shall throw for rice and vegetables," and threw, but when he went to look there was nothing there either.
text: "What shall we do?" they said. "We have nothing to eat. We'll go to the river and catch shrimps and crabs."
text: They went down to the river, and there came to a plantain tree with ripe fruit. The marten ran up and began to eat the fruit, and the tortoise called to him from below: "Oh, friend, give me some! Take me up there and let me have some too!" The marten kept on saying: "All right, all right," but he ate up all the fruit himself. At last he came down and said to the tortoise: "Hold on to the tip of my tail with your teeth, and I'll pull you up. When I cry out in pain: 'Oh, ah, alala!' you must let go at once."
text: Then the tortoise caught hold of the tip of the marten's tail with his teeth and the marten pulled him up to the top of the plantain tree; and when he reached the top he called out: "Oh, ah, alala!" and the tortoise let go and slipped down between two of the leaf-stalks at the crown of the tree and became stuck.
text: "Oh, friend, help me! Pull me out!" he cried, but the marten was angry at having worked all morning and had nothing to eat, and he ran away.
text: Presently a barking-deer came by, and the tortoise called out and asked it to help him, but the deer said: "No, no, I've a long way to go," and hurried off. Next a bear came by and the tortoise called out to it too, but the bear said the same as the deer had, and went away. Then a wild pig came, and the tortoise called out and said: "Oh, brother, please help me! You are strong; do you stand under the tree and break my fall." The wild pig agreed and stood under the tree and humped his back, and the tortoise tumbled himself sideways out of the tree on top of him; but the sharp edge of his shell struck the wild pig's spine and severed it, and the pig fell down and died.
text: Along came a tiger, tracking the pig.
text: "Ah", he said when he saw the carcase. "That's mine! I have been hunting it for miles."
text: "No, it isn't, its mine," said the tortoise. "Look, there's the wound by which I killed it."
text: They wrangled for a long time, and at last agreed to cut up the carcase and take half each. The tiger set to and made a basket and the tortoise cut up and divided the meat; but he filled the tiger's basket with stones and smeared with blood to look like meat, and a layer of real meat on top to hide his deception. The meat for himself he threw into a pool in the river.
text: The tiger went off carrying his heavy load, and when he reached home he said to his family: "Look! I've brought meat for dinner!" and turned the basket upside down. Out fell all the stones.
text: "Ah!" said the tiger. "I'll see about that tortoise, giving me stones instead of meat!"
text: The next day he went back to the pool and started to drink it dry, so as to catch the tortoise; but the water all came out through his vent, so he stuffed it up with leaves and started to drink again. He had almost emptied the pool and could actually see the tortoise when a cheripu flew down and pulled out the leaves, and out came all the water.
text: "Ah!" said the tiger. "I'll see about you!"
text: He made a snare of his hairs and went on drinking. Down came the cheripu again, but this time it was caught in the snare.
text: "Now I'll have something tasty to eat," said the tiger.
text: "How will you eat me?" asked the cheripu.
text: "Oh, I'll pluck you and singe you over the fire, " said the tiger.
text: "That's not the way my parents taught me," said the cheripu. "Do you pluck out all my feathers except my wings and tail, and then take me by the tail and dash my head on a stone and kill me, and then I shall be delicious."
text: "Then I'll do that," said the tiger. He plucked the cheripu and took it by the tail and dashed it down as hard as he could, but the cheripu jerked its tail out of his grasp and flew away, saying: "Cheep!" and leaving its droppings on his paw. The tiger licked his paw and said: "Oh, if the droppings are so good, how delicious to eat must the bird be!"
text: Then he went on drinking the pool, and drank it all up and caught the tortoise and carried him home.
text: "Now where shall I tie you up?" he said. "I'll tie you up to the leg of the bed."
text: "Tie me up, then," said the tortoise. "And when you're asleep I shall jerk the rope and pull down the bed and you and your wife and children will all be killed."
text: "Then I'll tie you up to the house-post," said the tiger.
text: "Tie me up, then, and I'll pull that down and the house with it, and kill you all," said the tortoise.
text: "Then I'll throw you in the fire," said the tiger.
text: "Do that, and I'll throw all the hot coals on top of you and kill you," said the tortoise.
text: "Oh, father, throw him in that big, deep pool down there," said one of the tiger's cubs.
text: "Oh, no, don't do that! I'm frightened! I shall die!" cried the tortoise, pretending to be terrified; and the tiger seized him and threw him into the pool, and off went the tortoise, very happy. There is no more.