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: There was so much meat from the monkeys that they could not eat it all, so Asa said: "We'll call the heramingba (spirits of less evil character than the herameva) to share it. I've closed one path with leaves. Don't call up that, call up the other one." Off went Munsarung, and came to the path which Asa had closed. "I wonder why my brother told me not to call up that one?" said he. "I'll call up it and see what happens." Then he hallooed up it: "All you who wish to eat meat, come!"
text: Instead of the heramingba a croud of man-eating herameva came, with huge eyes and snouts. When they saw them coming, Asa and Munsarung said: "We'll fetch the meat for you. Just wait a minute, we shan't be long." Then they took a gourd and went off to the jungle to fetch the sap of a wild rubber tree, and smeared it on the bench in the house. Then they sat the herameva down on it and Asa and Munsarung said: "Herapiek wong-gu-da!" - meaning that they would come along the line of herameva, pretending to cut at each of them (apparently means literally: "The spirits cup will come". Drink at a feast is served by two waiters to the seated guests. See notes on Kamarum-ki). The herameva sat there and sang:
text: "Asa neo midu bhi nsann-le
text: Sai rao le, sai rao le,
text: Munsarungnu le hai ntsa,
text: Asanu le hai ntsa."
text: - meaning: "Asa will kill us, we don't want to die; it is by Munsarung, it is by Asa."
text: Then Asa said to Munsarung: "You start at the bottom, I'll start at the top, and we'll meet in the middle." They went to the top and bottom of the line and Asa cut off the head of one herameva and shouted: "One!" and Munsarung cut the head off one at the bottom of the line and shouted: "One!" and along the line they went, cutting off the heads of all the herameva, who struggled wildly to escape; but they were firmly stuck to the bench and though they shook it till it rattled and clattered, only one managed to wrench himself off and run away with red buttocks, leaving the best part of his skin behind. All the rest were killed. When it was all over, Asa gave Munsarung a thorough scolding and said: "If it weren't for me, we should have both been dead today, from your calling up the wrong path when I told you not to!"
text: When they came to cut up the herameva for cooking there were no leaves to put the meat on, so Asa told Munsarung to go and fetch some from the garden of an old herameva woman, who owned a suitable tree.
text: "Now mind," he said. "When the wind comes roaring strongly, you cut it down. Don't cut it when there's a lull, or she'll hear, and shout: "Who's there?"
text: Off went Munsarung and came to the garden. "Now I wonder why my brother Asa said that?" said he, and when there was a roaring gust he stood and waited, and as soon as there was a lull he cut down the tree and it fell with a crash.
text: "Who's there?" shouted the heramevapai.
text: "It's me," said Munsarung. "I'm fetching leaves from your garden, but don't worry, we'll call you to share the meat when it's ready."
text: The heramevapai came along when the meat was ready and shared it with them, but there was so much left over that she said: "Call my children and let them have some."
text: Munsarung went to her house, and picking up one of the hearthstones, he knocked all her children on the head and killed them, saying as he did so: "Your mother had plenty to eat, why should you have some?" Then he went back to Asa's house and told the heramevapai: "Your children don't want any, so they're not coming."
text: "Oh, very well," said the heramevapai, and finished her helping and went home. As soon as she had gone, Munsarung said to Asa: "I knocked all her children on the head and killed them!"
text: "Ah!" cried Asa. "She'll kill both of us! Quick, quick, we must hide!"
text: Munsarung crawled into a chunga to hide, but Asa pulled him out and dived to the bottom himself and Munsarung had to squeeze in head-first on top of him. A few minutes later in came the heramevapai in a raging fury at finding her children dead, and began searching the house for the culprits.
text: "I want to pass wind!" whispered Munsarung to Asa. The heramevapai went on searching everywhere for them, till at last she came to the chunga; but just as she picked it up Munsarung made wind, and she gave a snort of disgust,and crying: "Bah, what a horrible smell! There must be something bad in there!" threw the chunga as far out of the house and down the hill as she could, and it rolled away into the jungle. Once safely there, Munsarung and Asa crawled out.
text: "There!" said Munsarung. "If it weren't for me, we should both have been done for today!"