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


  1. Love this story so much more than the modified Robert Ludlum version :) This story is my all-time favorite and I still remember my mom telling me this every night before tucking me to bed. sniff sniff.

    Just a small point I want to add. I think the English translation for "ih ih ih..." would be "uh uh uh..."


  2. This story is one of the great Mizo classics, quite philosophical too. Keep up the good work, tranlators and publishers. Storyteller, when will the book come out?

  3. chemtatrawta my hero! am still thinking of how to translate "chem a tat ri rawt rawt a" in english!

    great work and we want it more....

  4. Thank you.

    mesjay, the book is actually Margaret's compilation of folktales which will be out later this year. Since she owns the copyrights she generously allowed me to publish them here before they come out in print.

  5. very well written..i have actually mixed up the sequence of events of this story..hope i'll never ever forget them again..

  6. yeah this is one of my fav bedtime story... remind me of my mom and those days...

    He is my hero too azassk