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
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: One day Munsarung went off to the fields, and Asa said to him: "Whatever you do, don't throw stones at that knoll near the fields." When Munsarung came near the knoll, he said to himself: "Now why did my brother tell me not to throw stones at that? I'll throw one and see what happens." Then he threw a stone.
text: "Who's there!" shouted the herameva who lived in the knoll. "Don't throw stones, you'll break my children's heads!"
text: "Let them break!" shouted Munsarung, and went on throwing. Out rushed the herameva with a screech of rage and attacked him, and there they struggled. Munsarung overcame her and tied her up and carried her back to his village, and as they neared it they heard a dog barking.
text: "What's that?" asked the herameva.
text: "Oh, when I've eaten you and picked the bones," said Munsarung, "I'll throw them away and he'll come along and eat them." The herameva was frightened at this. A little later they heard a pig squeal.
text: "What's that?" asked the herameva.
text: "When I've eaten you and go to defaecate, " said Munsarung, "that will come along and eat up the faeces." He herameva was still more frightened, and when they had gone a little further still and heard a cock crow, she asked what that was.
text: "When the pig has eaten my faeces and defaecated in its turn," said Munsarung, "that will come along and peck at the pig's droppings."
text: The herameva was more frightened than ever, and said: "Don't eat me! I'll give you a fine and magic thing."
text: Then she vomited, but first of all she brought up a charm for being eaten by tigers, and that he would not have; next she brought up a charm for being killed by men and that he would not have either.
text: "If you go on like this, I'll eat you for certain," he said.
text: Then she brought up a charm which, if a man kept it in his mouth, would keep him from ever being hungry, even if he did not eat for years; and Munsarung took that and let her go.
text: Then Munsarung popped the charm in his mouth and went off wandering without ever feeling hungry; and when he saw a barking deer, he said: "Didi," and it fell down dead, and he played with it till he was bored and then went on. When he met a tiger he said: "Didi," and that fell down dead too, and he played with it, sitting on it as if it were a horse; and when that palled, off he went without going home to Asa, since he never felt hungry.
text: When he did not come home, Asa sent a message after him, saying: "Tell Munsarung that his brother Asa has a fever." Then he watered and washed down the floor of the house and made the ground as slippery as he could with water and naga soap. When Munsarung came home and entered the house, calling: "Asa Asa!" he slipped on the floor and came down with a bang and the charm dropped from his mouth. Asa caught it up and straightway popped it into his own mouth.
text: Munsarung did nothing but worry Asa to give it back to him, and at last Asa said: "You won't give it up to me and I won't give it up to you; we'll cut it in half and share it."
text: Then he put it on a stone and chopped it in half with his dao, but one half shot up and away to the hills and the other down and away to the plains, and they neither of them had any of it; but a dog licked the place where it had lain, and that is why dogs don't feel as hungry as men do.