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: KatsingpeoTrruwong
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: Then he became Asa again, and changing himself into a fly, went to Tsiuperai's house, and watched Tsiuperai's wife Kamadile every time she went to urinate. Tsiuperai knew he was there, and warned Kamadile over and over again against going near that place. Still Asa stayed there patiently waiting.
text: Meanwhile Munsarung had gone down to the bazaar and was wandering about there when he came across a stray scrap of paper. He picked this up and gazed at it very learnedly, as if he were reading. Along came a Kachari and saw him, and said: "Friend, do you know how to read?"
text: "Read? Yes, certainly," said Munsarung, who could do nothing of the kind.
text: "Then I shall arrange for you to teach my son," said the Kachari.
text: "By all means," said Munsarung. "In two or three weeks he'll know it all."
text: The Kachari gave him the boy to teach, and Munsarung killed and ate the child. After a while along came the father and asked how his son was progressing.
text: "Oh, in a little while he'll know more than I do," said Munsarung.
text: Next the father came to Munsarung's house and wanted to see his son.
text: "He's gone to the jungle to fetch firewood and wild vegetables," said Munsarung. "How stupid these children are! I told him to hurry home, but he's not back yet." The Kachari waited and waited, but of course no boy came, and in the meantime Munsarung had slipped into the jungle and made good his escape.
text: He wandered about there for some time, and presently made friends with a tiger and a bear and went about with them. They killed a deer, and took it down to the river to cut up and share out. Munsarung said to the bear: "You go upstream and clean the entrails, and as you clean them, drop them into the water." The bear went off and did as he was told, and as the cleaned entrails floated down to where Munsarung and the tiger were, Munsarung ate them on the sly. When the bear had finished his work he came downstream again and Munsarung asked him where the tripe was.
text: "I dropped it into the water and sent it down to you," said the bear.
text: "It never came here," said Munsarung. "You must have eaten it."
text: Then he said to the tiger: "We can't be friends with the bear any more, since he ate the tripe we gave him to clean; just you and I will be friends. Do you fight the bear." So the tiger fought the bear, and after they had fought for some time the bear ran away and the tiger came back to Munsarung.
text: "This meat will be indigestible raw," said Munsarung. "I'll cook it, and we'll both eat it. Now you can run faster than I can, so go and fetch fire from that light over there." And he pointed to a star low down on the horizon. The tiger galloped off as fast as he could, but the more he ran, the less could he come up with it; and Munsarung ate all the meat and made off back to the bazaar.
text: All this time Asa was biding his time near Tsiuperai's house, and at last Kamadile forgot her husband's warning and went to urinate at the place where Asa was; and Asa, disguised as a fly, flew into her womb and became a child there.
text: In the course of time he was born as Kamadile's son, but he was born with hair on the upper lip, and Tsiuperai knew at once that the child was not his, and said so many times. The child Asa was always up to mischief and chopping at the house-posts with a dao, and he asked Tsiuperai's mother, whom he called grandmother, what everything in the house was. Now there was one big house-post called Tsailitsing, and the old woman forbade him to cut that, for it had magic properties. "If you cut that, your father will be very angry," she said. "If an old man cuts it, he will become young again, and if it be cut for a dead man, he will live again."
text: "How does one cut it?" asked Asa.
text: "With the axe which lies on the tray over the fire," said his grandmother. "One must make as if to cut the foot, and then strike high up; only in this way can it be cut."
text: Asa lived in Tsiuperai's house till he was a youth, and Tsiuperai knew then that he was about to go, and told Kamadile so. Kamadile believed him to be her own child, and would not credit what Tsiuperai said. One day when Tsiuperai was away Asa took the axe from over the fire, and first making as if to cut the foot of the post, he cut at the top and struck out a piece of the wood. Snatching it up, he threw away the axe, changed himself into a pigeon and flew away as fast as he could with his prize. Tsiuperai heard the noise as the axe fell and ran home, knowing well what had happened. Then he changed himself into a hawk and flew after Asa.
text: Growing weary, Asa dived into a river and became a fish and swam away, but Tsiuperai changed into an otter and kept up the chase. Asa left the river again and became a munia, but Tsiuperai changed into a swift and still followed him. Coming at last to Katsingpeo's house, Asa went in and begged Katsingpeo to hide him, offering to share his prize with him if he would. Katsingpeo agreed, and when Tsiuperai came hot in chase, crying that Asa had gone into Katsingpeo's house, Katsingpeo went out and greeted Tsiuperai politely and denied that Asa was there. Tsiuperai would not believe him and insisted that Asa was hiding in the house; but Katsingpeo still denied. Then Katsingpeo made hairy caterpillars go and crawl on Tsiuperai's eight dogs, which were helping him in the chase. The dogs yelled with pain, and Tsiuperai created scalding water and killed the caterpillars with it. At last, seeing that Katsingpeo would not admit that he was hiding Asa, Tsiuperai said: "Very well, my younger brother, deny it if you will; I know he is here; but after I have gone, do you beware."