The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: 'Asa' - myth
medium: notes
keywords: NamutanAraipeoTsieperai
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: III
text: Namutan's father was Araipeo. They agreed to try to see which was the cleverer, and decided they would take a pigeon's egg from the nest and see which of them could put it back without the bird knowing. Araipeo took the egg, but the bird knew that it had been moved. Namutan took the egg and put it back so cleverly that the bird never knew.
text: Araipeo sent Namutan to the fields and made magic so that rain fell heavily. Araipeo turned himself into a tiger and lay in wait by the road home and sprang out with a roar as Namutan came along, but Namutan only said: "Ah, that's my father!" and Araipeo could do nothing to him at all.
text: The next day Namutan sent Araipeo to the fields and then made magic so that all the streams and pools dried up except for one which was much fouled by cattle. Araipeo was so thirsty that at last he went and drank from that, and Namutan appeared and said: "There, look what you are drinking!" and Araipeo had to admit that his son was more cunning than he.
text: Another day when Namutan was in the fields Araipeo changed himself into a rock and came rolling down the hill towards him. Namutan looked and said: "That's no rock, that's my father!"
text: The next day when his father was in the fields Namutan changed himself into a flash of lightning and struck near Araipeo, who was terrified and crouched down and covered his head. Namutan took his own shape again and said: "There, you do not know as much as I do."
text: Namutan said to Tsiuperai: "Which would you rather be, lucky or cunning?"
text: Tsiuperai answered: "I would rather be lucky".
text: "And I would rather be cunning," said Namutan, and so they became as they had chosen.
text: Namutan said to Araipeo: "We will steal Tsiuperai's cow and eat it."
text: Araipeo said: "How shall be kill it? If we kill it with iron, Tsiuperai will ask the iron who did it and the iron will answer of itself."
text: Namutan answered: "The daos and spears which are buried with the dead have died too, and if we use those they will not be able to answer."
text: "But how shall we cook it?" said Araipeo. "The fire and water will tell Tsiuperai who we are."
text: "The water in which a smith cools iron is dead," said Namutan. "And so are the coals on which he heats the iron. We will cook with those and they will not be able to answer."
text: "But what pots shall we cook it in, and with what salt and chillies?" asked Araipeo.
text: "With those from the grave-goods of the dead," said Namutan. "They are all dead too, and cannot answer."
text: "What shall we eat it from, then?" said Araipeo.
text: "We shall eat it from the leaf gum-ni, which belongs to the dead, and we shall make spoons of wood from a dead tree, " said Namutan.
text: So they stole and ate Tsiuperai's cow, and Tsiuperai asked all the trees, water, wood and iron and every other thing, and they none of them knew anything. He turned himself into an old man and went about asking them all, but none knew. When he came to Araipeo's village Araipeo saw him and said to Namutan: "Look, there is Tsiuperai."
text: Namutan said: "Ah, yes, that reminds me of the day we ate his cow!"
text: Tsiuperai heard and understood who the culprits were, and caught them.
text: "With what did you kill my cow, and how did you cook it and eat it?" he asked.
text: "We killed it with a dead man's spear and dao," they said. "And cooked it with water and fire from a smithy, and ate it on dead men's leaves with spoons made of dead wood."
text: "Very well," said Tsiuperai. "I will not harm you, but when you plant two basketfuls of seed in your fields you will only reap one; when you plant one basketful, you will only get half a basketful, and you will live by what other people give you."
text: Araipeo and Namutan made a big field, but what Tsiuperai had said came true and from two basketfuls of seed they only reaped one basketful at harvest.
text: Araipeo said: "I am going to die. My bull mithan was stolen by the Goat-People, and I have always been afraid to get it back, but you know more than I do, and are cunning and know how to do magic. When I am dead, do you recover it." So saying, Araipeo died.