The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter Seven. Fishing with Tactful 'Savages'
caption: walk to the river
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching Shiong
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Everyone was in excellent spirits, and happy to leave the monotonous work on the fields for one day. The sun ahead of us glittered and sparkled on the million drops covering the grasses and reeds; it was as though a silver rain had fallen over the thicket. So must the world have shone on the first day of Creation in the rays of the new morning sun. It will always remain the mystery of the tropics that hell can change into paradise with hardly any transition. Unfortunately paradise can just as quickly change into hell ! I wanted to burst out in song, but I knew that the Konyaks would only roar with laughter at my song -- a reaction so completely in accord with that of my friends in Europe that it would have appealed to every advocate of the fundamental similarity of the human mind.
text: When we arrived at Shiong, the village seemed completely deserted. Nearly every one had already hurried down to the river, and only a few stragglers joined our party. The path now led along a steep slope, and we could see the winding river deep down in the valley beneath us. I had already realized that we would have to drop more than 3,000 feet to the river, but at the sight of that steep precipice I shuddered at the thought of the way home. We continued our way on a narrow path through the ripening rice fields of Shiong. But the rice fields soon receded, and a high thicket of reed swallowed the long serpent of our column. Every time I (68) was surprised anew at the height of those reeds and grasses. They did not look so very tall from a distance, but when you came up to them they towered above you. Even an elephant would have been lost among them, for prickly creepers, mixed with the reeds, formed two impenetrable walls on either side of the path. This path was rarely used, but is was tolerably well cleared, and the people before us had trampled down grass and undergrowth. Now each of the men would casually improve it as he passed, here and there cutting off an overhanging bough or an obstinate creeper.
text: Gradually trees mixed with the thicket, and soon we crept through green tunnels and struggled over trees fallen across our path. I was relieved to notice that I was not the only one to stumble over the smooth bamboos hiding maliciously in the grass. Suddenly the path descended so sharply that we were forced to hold on to climbers and bushes to prevent ourselves from slipping, and where the path was particularly difficult to negotiate, the people would queue up patiently and wait their turn.
text: At last we entered the dusk of the high forest. Here walking was easier, for the undergrowth, cut off from the light, was not so exuberantly developed. Delicate mauve orchids grew high up from the bark of old trees.
text: We emerged from the forest into the full sunshine, and knew by the denseness of the reeds that we must be close to the river. Quite abruptly the narrow path led into the river, and, without any hesitation, my Naga friends waded into the brown water up to their hips. With my heavy shoes and more extensive dress, I could hardly afford to follow their example. Quickly I constructed, with the help of my belt and a handkerchief, a costume which was perfectly correct in the Konyak country. For the Naga boys, too, had only small pieces of cloth hanging down from their belts, while the older men did not even bother with a belt when fishing.