The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-two. Love and Poetry
caption: joking relationships, flirting; forbidden sexual partners; incest
medium: books
person: Shankok
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: For a young Konyak the girls of his village fall within two classes: potential mates with whom he may flirt and joke, and the girls of his own morung or morung group, whom he has to treat like sisters and in whose presence he is not to mention any sexual matters. You would think that daily contact with a large number of attractive young girls, ever present in the village and yet placed out of reach by the strongest of taboos, would give rise to many a secret and hopeless romance. Shankok's dreams of adventures with such 'forbidden' girls are perhaps the unconscious reaction to this system, and there can be no doubt that incest, although one of the most serious social crimes, is not without romantic associations. The incestuous love of a brother and sister -- standing here perhaps for any couple thwarted in love by the rules of exogamy -- is the subject of a short, terse song:
text: Yinglong and Liwang
Dearly loved each other.
Loving they lay together, (187)
Red as the leaf of the ou-bou tree.
Flamed love and desire.
On the paths to the village,
The two lit fires,
Skywards, upwards curling,
The smoke of the fires united,
And mingled, never to part.
text: In this poem the love of Yinglong and her brother Liwang is not condemned but idealized. Happy fulfilment of so unorthodox a passion was impossible and the lovers were doomed. But before they died, they lit fires on two paths leading in opposite directions from Wakching, and the smoke rising in two columns met and mingled over the village, and in it the lovers were forever united.