Sunday, June 29, 2008


Translated by Dr. Margaret L. Pachuau

Chepahakhata was a very ugly young man. So ugly was he that no one wanted to marry him and so he remained a bachelor for many years. At long last he found someone who was willing to marry him. However, it turned out that she was actually a witch and after they were married she turned the entire foliage of wild plantains where they lived into a marvelous town. Much to his fortune, his wife also belonged to royal lineage and so Chepahakhata lived in great comfort.

After some time a daughter was born to them and so the three of them lived together happily. One day, Chepahakhata went out for a stroll. The people of the town treated him with great respect and they even slaughtered an animal for him. He enjoyed himself thoroughly and very soon he forgot all about the time. A great deal of time ensued and by then his little daughter had grown into a young lady. Her mother told her, “My dear, your father is still not back from his jaunt, do go and ask him to come home.” So his daughter called out to him, “Father, do come home. Mother has asked me to call you home.” He replied, “Alright. I shall be on my way shortly.”

However he did not go home even after a long while and his wife became very angry. She told her daughter, “Dear, go and call your father yet again.” Her daughter went once more to do as she was told, “Father, do come home right away for mother is very angry.” He replied, “Alright! I shall come home directly.” Yet he did not do so.

His wife was greatly enraged by then and she told her daughter, “Dear, go and ask your father to come home once more and tell him that if he does not do so, we will go away from this place.” So his daughter implored once again, “Father do come home, or else mother and I will go away from here.” Chepahakhata replied, “Alright, I promise you that I shall be home right away.” Alas! he had no intentions of returning home. His wife was livid with fury and so she turned the entire town back into a foliage of wild plantains. Then she took her daughter up to the heavens and went to dwell with Pu Vana¹.

At that time Chepahakhata was fast asleep. When he awoke from his slumber he realized that he was surrounded by the wild foliage. “Ah…is this all a dream?” he wondered.

Yet it was all too real. He wandered aimlessly without food for several days. His daughter saw her father from the heavens in his hapless state and felt very sorry for him. She pleaded with her mother, “Mother, I can see my father wandering about in search of food.”

Her mother replied, “If you are feeling sorry for him you may send down the bottomless pot for him.” His daughter did so and soon he had enough food to eat every time he was hungry.

One day he went into the village of a vai² chieftain, and the chief took a strong aversion to him since he was very ugly. He challenged Chepahakhata, “Let us compete with one another. We will both dole out rice from a pot and you must dole out more rice than me from the pot, or else you shall be put to death.”
They both began doling out great mounds of rice and soon the chief exhausted his share. As Chepahakhata was doling out the rice from his bottomless pot, it was impossible for him to exhaust his share. The chief was enraged and he declared, “Break his pot into pieces!”
The attendants did so and after that they tied Chepahakhata atop a banyan tree.

At that time within the banyan tree, the hill mynahs and the drongos were gathered together. The hill mynahs were on the side of the vais, while the drongos were on the side of the Mizos. The debate that was underway was, “Who are more clever? The Mizos or the vais?” To this the hill mynahs replied, “The vais of course. Very soon a mother and daughter duo will appear on the scene and the Mizos will not be able to distinguish the difference between the pair.”

The drongos replied, “That is easy, just give them a few lashes and the mother will cry out, “Ah, my dear daughter!” while the daughter will exclaim,
“Alas! Mother!”

The hill mynahs retorted, “Mizos will not be able to denote the difference between the two ends of a cow.”
Yet the drongos said, “That is easy.They will merely chase the cow and observe the direction in which it runs. As such, they will be able to make out the head of the cow very easily.”

The hill mynahs challenged once more, “The Mizos will not be able to make out the difference between the top and bottom of a thul³.”
The drongos defended, “That will also be an easy task, they will just have to upturn the thul and the lid will fall off.”

The entire debate was overheard by Chepahakhata and he listened with great attention. After a time the birds flew away. Later, the Mizos and the vais gathered together in a bid to test their wisdom. Everything that had been debated upon earlier by the birds took place. Chepahakhata then put all that he had overheard from the birds to good use. He outwitted all the contestants each time. Thus, the villagers marveled at his wisdom and very soon they no longer strapped him astride the tree!

¹ The God of the heavens
² Foreigner
³ A large basket with a close fitting conical lid or cover

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Translated by Dr. Margaret L. Pachuau

Once upon a time there lived a beautiful damsel by the name of Rimenhawihi. She was married to a man named Zawlthlia. They were an extremely loving couple. Rimenhawihi was very good looking and her beauty was legendary. Apart from her exquisite countenance she was noted for her lustrous locks of hair. She too was well aware of the attractive sight that her locks of hair presented and she was proud of them. She would often bathe in a river near her home and whenever she did so, she would never tire of gazing at her lovely reflection in the water.

One day while she was having a bath, a lock of hair fell into the water and it was washed downstream by the current. Soon a huge fish swallowed the lock of hair but as the strand of hair was very long, the fish soon became swollen and bloated up. It so happened that some distance down the river, there lived a chief who had ordered his servants to catch some fish. Strangely enough the servants caught the very fish that had swallowed Rimenhawihi’s strand of hair. The fish was still bloated and puffy and the servants wondered as to why it was so and they decided to cut up the fish in order to find out why. When they eventually cut up the fish they found out that it was stuffed with the strand of hair from Rimenhawihi’s locks. They pulled out the lock of hair and even then it was so lustrous that it filled an entire pate¹. As the servants wanted to display the strand of hair intact to their chief, they carried it carefully all the way home.

When the chief saw the strand of hair he was greatly astonished and he sent his servants to seek out the damsel who bore such locks. The servants went upstream and carefully searched every nook and cranny of the land till finally they arrived at the house of Rimenhawihi. Her house was built of iron and it was difficult to enter and so they had to first seek permission in order to enter the house. However, it so happened that Rimenhawihi had locked herself up securely inside the house because her husband Zawlthlia had gone on a journey and so she staunchly refused to let them in.

In the meanwhile, the chief’s servants were very persistent and so they appealed to her in song:

O you inside the house of iron, inside the house of brass
Pray do tell us your name

As soon as she heard these words, she replied in song:

A name, a name I do not have
I am one who feeds on water
One who feeds on vegetable broth

The servants then paid immense heed to the song, and they tried to memorise the song in earnest and finally they headed swiftly for home. When they reached their village they reported the incident to the chief. The chief was annoyed and he stated, “There can be no such name. You must find out what her name really is.”

Once again he commanded his servants to seek out the name of the damsel with the lustrous locks and so very soon, they set off to do as the chief had ordered them to.Yet again, they appealed to her and she too chanted the same lines to them in response. However, the chief could not be placated and so he sent them to her several times over. Finally Rimenhawihi relented and told them her name.

Rimenhawihi is my name
Menchanghawihi is my name

The servants of the chief were very pleased as they had finally achieved their task.However, they were worried that they would forget the name so they decided that the best way to remember her name was to chant it continually on the way back home. As such, they walked back home, earnestly chanting, “men men men.”

So fervent was their concentration that even if they tripped upon the way, they would still get up and continually repeat the word “men”. Unfortunately, by the time the entire group reached their village,there was not a single person who could repeat the name in full to the chief. All that everyone could repeat was, “She told us that her name was Men.”

The chief was furious. “There can be no such name. All of you must set off once more and this time you must make sure you seek out her name in full. If you do not learn of the same, you shall all pay dearly.”

And his servants beat a hasty retreat and proceeded once more to accomplish the task. They reached Rimenhawihi’s house once more and they began to cajole her as before. Once again she gave them the same rejoinder. However this time round, fortune favoured them and they could actually remember her name. So they went back to the village and told the chief all that he wanted to know. The chief commanded, “Ah…now that would be the name that I have been seeking. Now, you must all go back there once more and you bring her here to me. I do not care whether she is married or not.”

As it was orders that came from the chief, his servants had no choice but to obey. When they reached Rimenhawihi’s house they discovered that her husband had gone away on a journey. As he was afraid that his wife would be captured by miscreants in his absence he had locked her up very securely. He had bolted the doors so firmly that even she could not open them from inside. The chief’s servants then made several attempts to enter the house from the outside and they began circling the house in order to seek a way in which to break in. Eventually, they decided to climb atop the roof in order to lure her with the choicest fruit. They began to drop luscious fruits that the chief had sent for her. At first Rimenhawihi did not pay any heed. At length they dropped the most delicious fruit that they had brought with them — the orange! The lure of the orange was all too great and she could not resist it. As she reached out hesitantly for the orange, one of the servants grabbed her by the hair and as she was too vain and too scared of even losing a strand of hair, she allowed herself to be captured.

But as she was being led away, she racked her brains in terms of disclosing her predicament to her husband. So she hastily told the dogs and the fowl in their courtyard on how she was taken captive. She also disclosed that she would leave an easy trail by throwing a strand of thread upon the ground. Saying this she hastily walked alongside her captors.

After a long while her husband returned home. Upon his return he was greeted by the fowl and the dogs who narrated the entire incident in the manner that Rimenhawihi had instructed them. Her husband then asked of the dog, “O dog, where is my wife?” The dog answered, “You must follow the strand of thread.” Then her husband asked of the hen, “O hen, where is my wife?” And the hen replied, “You must follow the strand of thread.”

By then, Rimenhawihi’s husband was in a tearing hurry to find his wife. He rushed out of the house and sure enough his wife had left behind a trail marked by a strand of thread. He continued to follow the trail and after he had followed the trail for quite a while it became dark gradually. However the darkness did not deter him. He soon overtook his wife and her captors. He killed all the servants of the chief and soon both husband and wife returned home and they spent the rest of their lives in great happiness.

¹The name of a small bin or basket for storing tobacco, cotton, rice.

Picture: Art by Tlangrokhuma

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Translated by Dr. Margaret L. Pachuau

One day a young man by the name of Chemtatrawta set off on a hunt. He began to sharpen his dao along the length of the river. Suddenly, a prawn bit him on his testicles. He was greatly enraged and in his anger he cut off the large bamboo from where the khaum¹ creeper hung. The khaum was furious and in turn, he landed atop the spine of the jungle fowl below. The jungle fowl was very annoyed and in turn, it scattered the nest of the large ants. The large ants in turn, bit the testicles of the wild pig. The wild pig turned livid and it scattered the wild plantains where the bats nestled. The bat was furious and it flew up the elephant’s trunk. The elephant in turn, was infuriated and it destroyed the house of an old woman nearby. The old woman was incensed and she defecated by the mouth of the village well. This angered the entire village and the villagers began to rally in great rage.

After a while the villagers gathered together and asked the old woman the reason as to why she defecated at the mouth of the village well.

“Old woman,why did you defecate at the mouth of the village well?”
She replied, “Why did the elephant destroy my home?”

The villagers went across to the elephant,“O elephant,why did you destroy the old woman’s home?”
The elephant replied, “Why did the bat fly up my trunk?”

They asked the bat, “Why did you fly up the elephant’s trunk?”
And the bat replied, “Why did the wild pig destroy my hamlet?”

They asked the wild pig, “Why did you destroy the bat’s hamlet?”
The wild pig replied, “Why did the large ants bite my testicles?”

They asked the large ants, “Why did you bite the testicles of the wild pig?”
The large ants replied, “Why did the wild fowl destroy our home?”

They asked the wild fowl, “Why did you destroy the home of the large ants?”
The wild fowl said, “Why did the khaum hit my spine?”

They asked the khaum, “Why did you hit the wild fowl on his spine?”
The khaum demanded, “Why did Chemtatrawta slash away the large creeper from where I hung?”

They asked Chemtatrawta, “Why did you slash away the creeper from where the khaum hung?”
And Chemtatrawta said, “Why did the prawn bite me on my testicles?”

They turned to the prawn and realised that he had no excuses whatsoever. He was at a loss for words and so he merely said, “Ih, ih, ih if you roast me in the fire I will turn a fiery red, much to the delight of the children, and if you drop me in the water I will turn white and pale.”

So they did likewise and roasted him in the fire and he turned a fiery red, then they took him out of the fire and placed him in the water and he turned white and pale. But he soon regained consciousness in the water and declared, “Ah… nothing compares to the home of one’s parents!!”

And saying this, he glided away to freedom. He swam inside a cave and they continued to chase. They poked him about with the leaves of the hnahthial² plant. They prodded about the edges of his mouth and eventually it became scruffy and grungy. And that is why till today the prawn’s mouth still retains such a shape!

¹The name of a climbing plant and its fruit.

² The name of a plant and also its leaves.

Picture: Detail from "Mami pa, hmanhmawh teh", acrylic on canvas by HK Jerry

For a light-hearted reworking of this folktale, check out this link

Monday, June 9, 2008


Translated by Dr. Margaret L. Pachuau

Once upon a time there lived two children. The older of the two children was a young girl by the name of Nuchhimi. One day her mother told her, “Today you must go to your aunt’s house and give her some pork.” Nuchhimi replied, “I do not know the way to my aunt’s house.” Her mother said, “You must walk as the crow flies, until you come to a fork at the end of the path. You will find two paths and one path will be neat and clean and the other will be very dirty and unkempt. You must follow the path that is neat and clean. It will lead you to your aunt’s house while the other path will lead you to the house of Hmuichukchuriduninu. Make sure that you follow the right path.”

Unknown to them, Hmuichukchuriduninu was listening carefully to the entire conversation, so she ran home and cleared up the path that led to her house. She then piled up all the dirt and the debris along the path that led to Nuchhimi’s aunt’s house. After a time, Nuchhimi and her younger brother set off towards their aunt’s house. They followed the instructions which their mother had given them and very soon they came to the path which was neat and clean. And because they thought that the clean pathway was the path that they had to follow, they went up the path and finally they reached the house of Hmuichukchuriduninu and delivered the pork to her.

Nuchhimi became suspicious from the very beginning because she felt that it was the wrong house that they had come to and so she was very puzzled. But Hmuichukchuriduninu was very cunning and she spoke well to them and treated them just as their own aunt would. “How nice of you both to visit me. Keep your luggage aside, you must be very tired.”

When it was dusk and as night fell gradually, Hmuichukchuriduninu told Nuchhimi, “I will cradle your little brother in my arms at night and you can sleep by yourself in the corner.” And in that manner they went to sleep.

A little while later Hmuichukchuriduninu tried to devour Nuchhimi’s younger brother by digging her sharp beak into the little boy’s head. He cried out in pain and called out for his elder sister. Nuchhimi asked, “What is it dear brother?” But Hmuichukchuriduninu said, “It is nothing. It is only the ants that are biting him.You may go back to sleep.”

Saying so, she dug her sharp beak into the little boy’s head and killed him in the dead of the night. She laid the bones from his head and his limbs in a trivet. When dawn broke, Hmuichukchuriduninu rasped to Nuchhimi, “Go and light a fire at once.” Nuchhimi rose to do as she commanded and in the process of lighting the fire she saw the bones of her younger sibling and she began to weep. Hmuichukchuriduninu called out, “What is the matter? Why are you weeping? Just light the fire.” She replied, “I am not weeping, the smoke from the fire is making my eyes water.”

After the morning meal, Hmuichukchuriduninu caught Nuchhimi and strapped her inside a basket and tied her to the crossbeams of the house. She then shut the doors fast and went off to her jhoom. Nuchhimi could not get out and she was in great dismay. At that very moment a mouse came by and Nuchhimi pleaded, “O mouse, please gnaw away at the ropes that bind me for I want to escape.”

The mouse then bit away at the ropes that held her fast and so very soon Nuchhimi was able to flee to her own house. When Nuchhimi’s parents heard about the manner in which Hmuichukchuriduninu had tormented their children, they were enraged and they declared, “We will take revenge.”

And they thought up of a plan to torture Hmuichukchuriduninu. They went to her house while she was still away at the jhoom. They hid an egg inside the hearth and placed a nest of white ants inside her blanket. They also placed a snake inside her water jug. Then they hid a bamboo knife in the wall of her hut. After that they placed a number of tiny red ants inside her oil can. They smeared her bedpost with all kinds of filth and grime. By the opposite end of the door they placed a large wooden pestle. And finally they put a ferocious huge dog under her ladder. Then before they left the house they instructed the mouse very carefully, “You must respond every time Hmuichukchuriduninu calls out to Nuchhimi.”

In the evening Hmuichukchuriduninu came back from her jhoom. She had caught a barking deer that was pregnant with child and she was all wet and bedraggled after a heavy thundershower. When she reached the front porch, she called out to Nuchhimi, “Open the door fast.” And the mouse responded, “How can I open the door for you? Have you forgotten that you have strapped me to the crossbeams of the house?”

Hmuichukchuriduninu was beside herself with rage and she broke open the door in fury. The mouse then quickly scampered inside a hollow bamboo tube. When Hmuichukchuriduninu realized that Nuchhimi was not in the house she was greatly perplexed. She grumbled and began to light a fire to warm herself. As soon as she did so the egg burst in her eye. She rushed to get a drink of water from the water jar but the snake bit her hard and she howled in agony, ‘Awi! Awi! Awi! how painful this is …let me rest awhile upon my blanket.”

She pulled the blanket over herself and the white ants bit her all over her body. She grabbed hold of the bedpost in a bid to escape, only to smear dirt all over herself. She then tried to clean herself by wiping her hands on the wall of her hut, only to be pierced by the sharp bamboo knife that had been cleverly inserted in it. She then tried to smear some oil over her wounds but the moment she poured the oil over herself, the tiny red ants began biting her.

In alarm she cried, “There are too many pests inside my house. I must escape.” And as she ran out the large wooden pestle hit hard against her.

At the platform in front of her house, Hmuichukchuriduninu wept copious tears, “Nuchhimi has run away and so has the barking deer that I captured.”

And she began to jump about in painful frenzy. Soon the platform gave way under her weight. The ferocious dog and the equally wild goat began to bite her viciously. A little later Hmuichukchuriduninu died, much to the delight of Nuchhimi and her family, who headed for home and lived happily every after.

Picture: A u, pangang a mi, acrylic on canvas by HK Jerry