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 there was nothing to eat in the house, so Asa said: "I'll go to the jungle and find something good to eat." Then he took a small spear and went off to the monkeys' village.
text: "Where are you going, grandfather?" asked all the monkey children.
text: "Today there is 'na' in the village and I'm going to the jungle to fetch fruit to eat," said Asa.
text: "We'll come too, we'll come too!" said they, and they all went along with him.
text: When they were in the jungle, Asa cut bamboos and sat down to make a big basket.
text: "What's that for, grandfather?" asked the monkeys.
text: "That's to put the mangoes in," said Asa.
text: When the basket was ready Asa sent the monkeys up the tree, and they played about there and skipped along the branches.
text: "A-aht!" said Asa. "Look out, you'll fall!" He fixed the basket at the foot of the tree and covered the mouth with leaves, and when the monkey children had picked the fruit and thrown it down to him, they called out to know if they should come down all together or one at a time.
text: "Come one at a time," said Asa. "If you come down all at once you'll fall." And he stood ready at the foot of the tree with a club.
text: The monkeys began squabbling as to which should come first, and when the first one did come down, Asa hit it with his club and dropped it into the basket; and when it kicked and struggled, he shouted out: "Don't play about like that, you'll spoil the fruit." One after another the monkeys came down, and he clubbed them all and dropped them into the basket and put a layer of fruit on top to hide them.
text: When he came to the monkey village the childrens' mothers said: "Where are your grandchildren? Why haven't they come home?"
text: "What am I to do with them?" said Asa. "They want more, and still more. When I said I was going home, they said they'd pick more and come along later. Have some of mine now." And he picked out some mangoes from the layer on top of the basket and shared them out among the monkeys.
text: When Asa reached home with his load he sent someone to fetch Ngaongpeo - Munsarung - and when he came, he set him to singe and cook the monkeys.
text: "Asi Asa, how did you get these?" asked Munsarung.
text: "Oh, singe them and cook and eat," said Asa. "I'll tell you later."
text: When Munsarung had got so far as cutting the meat up, he asked again.
text: "Oh, cook and eat," said Asa. "I'll tell you later."
text: No sooner had Munsarung put the meat into the cooking-pot than he asked again, and Asa gave him the same answer. When the monkeys were cooked and Munsarung had eaten a mouthful or two, he asked again: "Asi Asa, how did you get them?"
text: "Well," said Asa. "When there was a 'na' I took a small spear and went off to the jungle to gather mangoes; and I made a large basket and sent all the monkeys up the tree to gather mangoes -"
text: "Oh, I see, I see!" cried Munsarung, and grabbing up his cloth, he ran off to do likewise.
text: When he arrived at the monkeys' village, all the young monkeys called out: "Grandfather Munsarung, where are you going?"
text: "Today's a 'na', and I'm going to the jungle to fetch mangoes."
text: "We'll come with you, we'll come with you!" they cried, and went along with him. When they arrived at the tree Munsarung cut bamboos and sat down to make a basket.
text: "What's that for?" asked the monkeys.
text: "To put you all in!" said Munsarung.
text: Then he cut himself a large club.
text: "What's that for, grandfather?" they said.
text: "To kill you with!" said he, and the monkeys looked at each other in fear and alarm.
text: Then he sent them up the tree to pick the fruit, and when they had picked it all and thrown it down to him they called out: "There's no more. Shall we come down all together or one by one?"
text: "All together!" said Munsarung.
text: Then the monkeys whispered among themselves and agreed to come down all at once and knock over the basket and run away. Down they all came, and Munsarung swiped away with his club at the rush, but only managed to hit one. He had nothing to put it in as the monkeys had knocked his basket down, so he stuck it on the end of his spear and marched off home like that. When he reached the monkey village, the monkeys seized him and said: "Your brother did this to us yesterday, and now you're doing it!" And they tied him up and rolled him under a machan.
text: Then Munsarung called out: "Somebody tell Asa that the monkeys have seized his brother and tied him up! Tell him to come and speak to me!"
text: When Asa heard, he came to the monkeys' village with eight big strong hunting-dogs, and he and the monkeys sat down to discuss the situation.
text: "My brother is very foolish," said Asa. "I will take him back again, and give you these eight dogs as a ransom."
text: The monkeys agreed to take the dogs and let Munsarung go, and asked how they should tie the dogs up and whether it would be safe to tie them to the house-posts.
text: "No," said Asa. "They'll break them. Choose eight big, strong monkeys and let them tie the dogs' leads round their waists; then the dogs won't be able to run away."
text: The monkeys released Munsarung and he went off with Asa. When they were a little distance from the village but could see it clearly, Asa told Munsarung to cut a club, and then called the dogs. Off they all rushed as soon as they heard his voice, dragging the monkeys after them, and when they reached Asa and Munsarung, Munsarung clubbed all the eight monkeys with the greatest joy and they carried them home and ate them.