The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter eighteen. The First Rains
caption: collecting folk tales
medium: books
keywords: AsaMunsarung
person: Namkia
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: I turned to recording folk-lore, for which there had hardly been the time before. Namkia himself had a fair collection of stories, but when I had pumped him dry there were only a few examples to be had in Laisong- just two or three good beast-tales from a junior headman. I collected one vivid Naga story, with the true ring and tone of old Zemi life in it, from Hangrum; and with that, the immediate neighbourhood seemed to be exhausted.
text: Then Namkia brought in a man from Impoi.
text: He was elderly, poor, and, I imagine, rather shiftless, but he was the nearest thing to a professional story-teller the area possessed. I wished to take down the Asa-Munsarung cycle, a vast corpus of linked stories about those two familiar figures of Naga tales, the clever trickster and his simple friend. The Impoi man sat down by my hearth and day after day for three weeks he dictated the cycle. Never, before or since, have I (136) heard such crisp and lucid Zemi spoken. I could take the material down on the typewriter as he talked, without preliminary transcription. He was superb as a story-teller. The stress, the balance, the skilled suspense, and particularly the use of rhythm and repetition, were the very voice of folk-lore. One who has merely read such stories and never heard them told, knows only the shell. The eye slips too quickly over the printed page, missing the 'leit-motifs,' the subtle variations and harmonies, of which a teller and hearer are so keenly aware. Written folk-tales are to the spoken as a musical score is to a full performance.