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
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: The two lived with the girl's parents for some time and then the parents died and the young couple inherited all their property. They left the village and went down to live in the village of a Kachari king.
text: Namutan said to the king: "Let us go to the jungle and hunt." They went, taking bows, but before they left he said quietly to his wife: "I am going to hunt with the king. Cook geese and ducks and hens for our supper, for we shall come home hungry, and have zu and hot water ready."
text: They hunted in the jungle and shot some birds, and then Namutan said to the king: "I will shoot for some zu when we get home," and he fired an arrow into a tree-trunk. "And for some hot water to mix with it," and he fired again. "And for some goose for dinner, and for some duck, and for some chicken," and he fired again and again.
text: When they reached home Namutan searched about the house for zu, saying: "There must be some here - I shot for it". He found it, and said: "Ah, there must be some hot water too, I shot that as well," and he hunted about and found that, and the goose, the duck and the chicken.
text: When they had had supper the king said: "Namutan, will you sell me your bow? How much do you want for it?"
text: "Oh, no, I won't sell it," said Namutan. "If I sell it, how can I live? Whatever you shoot for with it, you get. If I sell it I shall starve!"
text: "Ah, now, please sell it," said the king. "I'll give you thirty rupees for it".
text: At last Namutan consented to sell the bow, and said to the king: "Rub it carefully with sweet oil and put it aside for six or seven days, and take great care of it, for if a rat so much as nibbles it you will never shoot anything, however much you try."
text: The rats smelt the oil and came and nibbled the bow and when the king took it out after a week he said: "Oh! Namutan told me to be careful of it and see that the rats did not spoil it; they have nibbled it a little, but I will take it out hunting just teh same and see."
text: He hunted in the jungle and when he was ready to go home he fired at a tree, as Namutan had done, for zu and hot water and goose, duck and chicken. When he reached home he said: "I shot some zu and some hot water and some goose, duck and chicken. Now look for them." Everyone searched about the house, but found no zu or hot water or anything else.
text: One day the king went for a stroll in the village and found Namutan eating what looked like dog's faeces, but was really 'nkiaira' seeds cunningly disguised. The king asked him what he was eating.
text: "Oh," said Namutan. "I am so poor, I have nothing else to eat; I have a little puppy in the house, and I'm eating its faeces. Try a little."
text: The king ate a little, and it was delicious, for Namutan had mixed the seeds with salt and honey and all kinds of condiments.
text: "It's excellent!" said the king. "Even though we ate nothing else, I and my wife could live on that. Sell me your puppy."
text: "No," said Namutan. "If I sell it, what shall I have to eat?"
text: "Please sell it, please sell it," said the king. "I'll give you thirty rupees."
text: So Namutan agreed to sell the puppy, and said: "Take it away under your cloth and don't show it to anybody. Tie it up under your bed and don't let it loose or hit it. Wait for a week, and after that its faeces will be fit to eat; any it makes before that will not be edible".
text: So the king took the puppy away and tied it up as Namutan told him, but before the week was up there was such a mess that the king's wife took a broom to sweep it out. It smelt so much that she lost her temper and hit the dog with the broom, and the pup yelped and defaecated. the king snatched up the faeces and tasted them, and gave a cry of disgust and vomited.
text: "There!" he said to his wife. "Namutan told me it would be no use if it were beaten, and you hit it with a broom. Turn it out." So they turned the dog out.
text: Namutan stole a pumpkin, and the king hearing this, followed up the thief's tracks and sure enough they went to Namutan's house. Namutan's wife was in the front porch pounding paddy.
text: "Where's Namutan?" said the king.
text: "He's in the back room hatching a horse's egg," said the wife. "It's just about to hatch."
text: The king went into the back room and found Namutan sitting on a large white pumpkin.
text: "What are you doing?" he said.
text: "Oh, my father, I'm so poor I can't afford to buy a horse, so I have bought an egg and am hatching it. It's just ready to hatch and if I leave it now or even shake about on it it won't hatch at all," said Namutan.
text: "Show me," said the king.
text: "Oh, no, I can't: if I get off it even for a little it will grow cold and be spoiled."
text: "Sell it," said the king.
text: "No, no," said Namutan. "I sold you other good things and you spoiled them all. I won't sell you any more."
text: "Ah, now, please sell it," said the king. "I'll give you thirty rupees."
text: "Very well," said Namutan. "I'll sell it. But it's almost ready to hatch - only two months short. You will have to sit on it most carefully the whole time. You mustn't get off it even for a second, and when you make water or ease yourself, don't get up, but tell your wife to clean it up with a broom."
text: The king took the pumpkin away under his cloth and put it in the back room of his house and sat on it as Namutan had done. After sitting on it for four or five days without intermission he began to be rather stiff an uncomfortable; and while his wife was doing the sweeping she accidentally hit him on the leg and he lost his balance and fell off the pumpkin, which rolled out of the back door and down the slope till it hit a tree and burst. A barking deer which had been lying asleep nearby leapt up at the bang and galloped off, and the king and his wife, crying: "It's hatched, it's hatched!" rushed out of the house and into the jungle in pursuit, but though they ran and ran till they were covered with scratches and quite exhausted, then never caught up with the deer.
text: After a while the king realised how Namutan had cheated him and taken all his money, and in revenge he ordered all his subjects to go and defaecate in Namutan's house. When they arrived at the house Namutan asked them what they had come for and they told him what the king's orders were.
text: "Ah," said Namutan. "And did he tell you to urinate as well?"
text: "No, he didn't mention that," said they.
text: "The king's orders are the king's orders," said Namutan. "If he told you to defaecate here, then you must, but if he said nothing about making water, then I will take my dao and kill any man of you who does that."
text: This alarmed all the people so much that not one of them would carry out the king's orders, because they could not defaecate without making water. Numutan went to the king and asked: "Is it your order that all the people should defaecate in my house?"
text: The king said that it was.
text: "And did you not give any order that they should urinate?" pursued Namutan.
text: "No", said the king.
text: "Very well," said Namutan. "A king cannot go back on his word; that is the custom. You ordered them to defaecate, and that I cannot stop; but if any one of them urinates, I will kill him with my dao."