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 and Munsarung' - myth
medium: notes
keywords: Namutanheramingbaherameva
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: When the Kachari king was dead, Namutan changed his name to Asa and went to the Barak River to look for his younger brother, Munsarung. He came from upstream, and Munsarung called out: "Oh, elder brother Asa!" and Asa answered him: "Oh younger brother Munsarung!" and they agreed to go along together. They went to a big pool and made a smithy by it and worked away there. A great python lived in the pool, and on hearing the puffing of the bellows and the clang of the hammering, he sent one of his subjects to find out who was making the disturbance and tell them to stop. The small python came up out of the pool and said: "Who's there? You're disturbing my king with your noise." Asa and Munsarung quickly caught the small python with the pincers, roasted it on the coals and ate half each.
text: When the small python did not return and the noise and hammering only continued, the king python sent another to find out what was going on. The second python came out of the water and spoke to Asa and Munsarung as the first one had done; but they caught that one too and roasted it and ate half each. When the second messenger failed to return the king python sent yet another, and another, but Asa and Munsarung caught and ate them all until there was no one left to send and the king python had to come himself.
text: "Who is working here?" he said.
text: "Aha!" said they, and caught him with the pincers. "We'll eat this one too."
text: "No, no!" said the king python. "Don't eat me! I'll give you a fine and magic thing."
text: They agreed, and he vomited up a charm; but it was a charm for being eaten by tigers, and that they would not have.
text: "No, that's no good!" said they.
text: The second thing he produced was a charm for being killed by men.
text: "No, that's no good!" said they. "If you can't give us something good, they we shall most certainly eat you."
text: Then the python brought up a charm whose name was Didi, and that Munsarung took, and one whose name was Engtueng, and that Asa took.
text: The two of them took their charms and went wandering, and presently they saw a barking deer. At the word 'Didi' it fell down dead, and they ate it. Next they saw a sambhar, and at the word 'Engtueng' that fell down dead, and they ate that too.
text: They decided they would start jhuming, so Asa made a jhum at the place called Maitsuiloa and Munsarung one at what is now Asalu.
text: "Let us go and look at our fields," said Asa, and he put his head right down to the ground to look at his jhum, so that it appeared to be full up with paddy. Then they went to Munsarung's jhum, and when they got there Asa climbed up a tree and looked down on the field so that all the earth could be seen red between growing rice.
text: "There," he said. "Your field is bad - look at all the earth showing, how bare it all is!"
text: Munsarung was taken in by the trick, and said: "Let us change fields, brother!" and so they did.
text: They agreed that when Munsarung went to the fields, Asa should stay at home and mind the house, and that when Asa went to the fields, then Munsarung should stay at home.