A benevolent deer ( An Angami Naga folktale )
Once upon a time, there lived a hunter. One day he went into the jungle with his friends. He carried a gun with him and shot many birds with it. He was an expert hunter and did not miss a single target. While he was successful in hitting each target, his friends failed to hunt a single bird. Yet, his friends would not give him any share of the meat. One day they had come across a barking deer, but he refused to shoot it. Thus, the life of the deer was saved!
One day the hunter went out to travel around the country. He came across a snake on the way. The snake instantly turned into a human being and became a beggar. It asked the hunter about his destination.
“I am out to travel around the country”, answered the hunter.
“I also wish to travel around the country. Let’s travel together”, the beggar proposed.
So they started moving together.
On their way, they came across a frog. The frog too, turned into a human being and asked them where they were going.
“We are out to travel around the country”, they replied. The frog too joined them.
The trio started moving together. On the way again, they suddenly met a barking deer. The barking deer turned into a very beautiful girl and started washing her hair in the river. She then called out to them from there, “where are you going…all of you?” They told her of their travel plan. The girl too, became interested to move around with them. The trio agreed to take her along.
Finally they reached a new country. There the hunter married the beautiful girl. All of them started to live happily. One day the hunter came across a Sahib. Meeting the hunter the Sahib cruelly said, “I will kill you if you fail to flow water to this paddy field and grow rice within a day!”
The frightened hunter narrated this to his wife in extreme sorrow.
After listening to him the wife said, “Ok, now don’t worry. I’ll do that on your behalf. You just behead me with a Dao.”
The hunter strongly refused to do this. However, after her repeated requests, he did so, but immediately broke down in deep sorrow. The lady, however, had flowed water to the paddy field, grew rice over there within a day, reached home and cooked rice and eagerly waited for her husband to offer him.
The hunter, however, had not returned home. She then requested the beggar and the frog-man to look out for her husband and bring him home. They met the hunter but he refused to come home. The two friends then forcibly took him to home.
Inside home, his wife asked, “Why did your refuse to come?”
Amazed with extreme pleasure the hunter exclaimed, “Oh, I had beheaded you then...but how come you are here again!”
The lady then happily offered the cooked food to her husband, the beggar and the frog-man. Together they ate and following the dinner she said to her husband, “Let’s return to our own countries. That day you saved my life. Today I have saved you from the jaws of death.”
Saying this, she again turned into a deer and went into the deep jungle in front of them.
The frog-man too turned into its original form of a frog and jumped into water.
And the beggar too retransformed into a snake and disappeared into the forest.
The hunter returned home with a heavy heart.
TRANSLATION FROM ASSAMESE - Ratna Bharali Talukdar
Illustrations - Utpal Talukdar.
(Utpal Talukdar is an illustrator and a cartoonist. He has completed several projects of children literature with National Book Trust of India. He is a reciepient of Parag Kumar Das Journalism Award)
About the Angami Nagas-
Angami Nagas is a colourful tribe of Nagaland. They live on the hills of Nagaland. They are agriculturists but also known for their unique craft of wood and bamboo. They have expertise in terrace cultivation where the grow wet-rice. The most important festival of the Angami Nagas is called Sekrenyi, which spans for 10 days and is celebrated in the month of Kezei, according to Angami Calendar. The festival begins on February 26. The great Angami Nagas have four main divisions - The Southern Angamis living in southern part of Kohima located on the foothills of Mount Japfu, the Western Angamis, who live in the western part of Kohima, the Northern Angamis living in the northern part of Kohima and Chakhro Angamis.