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: KatsaAasanpeo
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1940-1944
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
refnum: box II file 2
text: Then Tsiuperai went away, and Katsingpeo and Asa divided the prize, each taking half, and Asa went away with his share. Tsiuperai told the spirit Tumutpa to go every month and make war on Katsingpeo. and so he did [Men used to see him making his way along the stream-beds, carrying a shield reversed on his way to Katsingpeo's house on the peak above Pangnol, but he has not been seen in recent times.] Meanwhile Asa went as far away as he could, and growing weary, lay down to sleep on the way. The white ants came and ate up all his body, leaving only his eyes and bones, but he took his piece of magic wood and with that made himself whole again. When he had gone as far as he could possibly go, he came to the place where Trruwong lived, and near his house there lived an old woman, in whose house Asa stayed. Asa longed to take Trruwong's place, but did not know how to get there or to overcome him; for round his house were eight zones of land and water alternately, and they circled round first one way and then the other the whole time. Trruwong himself was immensely strong and was always changing his shape, so that one day he was a strong man, one day a monkey, one day a boy, one day a baby, one day a bird and one day a langur; Asa asked the old woman what he should do and she advised him to wait for the time when Trruwong was a tiny baby, and in the meantime to make an iron basket and take it with him when he went. Asa did as she said, and waiting till Trruwong was a tiny crying child, he rushed in and seized him and cut his head off. Then he put the cut end of the neck into the basket he had made, so that the head and body could not come together again and live once more. Neither head nor body died, and they pressed and struggled to come together again, but could not because of the iron basket; and so they do to this day, they say.
text: Then Asa took Trruwong's place. Munsarung meantime was searching for his elder brother, and following him all the way, arrived at the place and embarked on the circling rings of earth and water. Sometimes the path swept near the house and Asa heard him shouting quite near, and sometimes it whirled round and round and carried him right away out of earshot, and sometimes it brought him near again. At last he reached the house and told Asa he wanted to live with him. Asa said that this could not be, unless Munsarung could wear Asa's cloth of nettles.
text: "If you cry out, you cannot stay," said Asa. "If you squeal with pain you will be a pig and if you yelp you will be a dog."
text: Then he put the cloth on Munsarung, who yelped with pain. "You cannot stay," said Asa, and sent him away. Munsarung went back along the circling paths to the outer world, and when he reached it, Tsiuperai seized on him and Asanpeo because they were Asa's kinsmen and imprisoned them in his house. Then Katsa, Tsiuperai's younger brother went to Asa's house to take revenge for Asa's theft of the magic wood. He arrived when Asa, like Trruwong before him, had become a baby, and seizing Asa by the throat, he tried to strangle him, but try as he would, he could not. Asa gradually grew stronger and stronger, and seeing this, Katsa grew frightened and changed himself into a bird and flew away. Asa leapt up, and seizing the dao he had laid by the bed, he slashed at Katsa and cut off one of the bird's toes; and so to this day Katsa is short of a toe, they say.