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: They sold the gold and lived on the proceeds, and when it was all finished and they had nothing to eat Asa said he would go and set a trap in the jungle. He set one and caught a barking-deer, and when he had brought it home he sent a boy to call Munsarung. When he came and saw the deer he said at once: "Asi, Asa, how did you get it?" "Cook and eat'" said Asa. "I'll tell you later." Munsarung asked again when he had cut it up, and again when it was cooking, and had the same answer. When it was cooked and he had eaten a little he asked again, and Asa said: "I made a deadfall trap and then killed a big pig and put the meat in there, and while the deer was eating it the trap fell and caught it."
text: "I see, I see!" cried Munsarung, and rushed off to do likewise. He made a trap and killed a big pig and cooked the meat and put the pork in the trap, and along came Asa on the sly and ate his fill of the meat. He had almost finished when the trap fell and caught his hand, but he got it out and went away. Munsarung saw what must have happened, and made up his mind he would play the same trick on Asa if he could.
text: Asa made another trap, and tied up a pig as though he was going to kill it. Munsarung heard it squeal, and thought to himself: 'Ha, I'll eat that!" Asa quietly let the pig go, and brought a load of wild taro, which he cooked and put into the trap. Along came Munsarung and started to eat it, thinking it was pork, and while he was still eating down came the deadfall on top of him and pinned him there. The wild taro irritated his throat frightfully, and he lay there shouting for help: 'My throat itches, my throat itches! Oh, Asi Asa, help me, get me out of this!"
text: Asa knew very well what had happened, and along he came with bitter 'kameo' and salt ready mixed.
text: "What are you doing in there?" he asked Munsarung. "What a fool you are to go into a trap!" Then he extricated him, and gave him the 'kameo' and salt to eat and ease the pain in his throat.
text: One day Asa cut a big bundle of thatching grass and left it by the path, and asked Munsarung to carry it up to the village for him. While Munsarung was on his way there, Asa ran by another way and hid himself inside the bundle, which Munsarung duly picked up and carried. When he arrived panting and sweating at Asa's house with the load and put it down, out came Asa.
text: "Yah!" cried Munsarung, very indignant, and off he went determined to play the same trick on Asa if he could. He cut a load of grass and left it as Asa had done, and asked him to carry it home; Asa agreed, and while he was on his way there Munsarung ran by a short cut and hid himself in the bundle. When Asa arrived he had a spear in his hand, and said: "There may be a snake in this - I'll spear it and see. I wonder if I can put the spear right through at one blow?" and giving a loud yell, he prepared to do so.
text: "No, no, I'm here!" cried Munsarung in alarm, and scrambled out.
text: "What are your doing in there?" said Asa. "What a fool you are! Come along, pick up your bundle and carry it." So Munsarung picked it up and plodded home with it himself.
text: Asa went to look for a large hollow log, and having found one, brought it to the path and then went and told Munsarung to carry it in. When Munsarung went down to fetch it, Asa went secretly ahead and hid inside, and Munsarung duly carried him up without knowing. When he reached the house he laid the log down very slowly and carefully, as Asa had told him to do, and out came Asa.
text: "Yah!" said Munsarung, very indignant, and went off determined to play the same trick himself. He went to the jungle and found a hollow log and left it by the path, and then went and asked Asa to carry it in. Off went Asa to do so, and Munsarung went secretly ahead and hid in it. "There's probably a snake in here," said Asa, when he came to the log, and he stopped up both ends of the hollow with leaves. Then he carried the log up to the village, but on reaching the house he let it fall with as violent a bang as he could, and bump went poor Munsarung inside.
text: "Ah, there's certainly a snake in there," said Asa, and blew smoke into the hollow till Munsarung crawled out half-suffocated, with eyes and nose streaming.
text: "What are you doing in there?" exclaimed Asa. "What a fool you are!"