The Story of Jyamphi Moong, a Yeti
( a Lepcha folktale )
Once upon a time, there was a ranch owner in the foot hills of the Himalayas. He had sheep, goats and cattle. The ranch owner had employed a man called Atek, to look after his whole animals and the ranch. Living alone at such lonely, gloomy and remote place, in frustration, Atek, the herdsman, used to play his 'Puntaong Palit, a four holes Lepcha bamboo flute, producing a haunting and melancholy tune. In fact, Atek was an expert and skilful flute player.
One day at dusk, on completion of herding his animals and while he was playing his flute, suddenly, Jyamphi Moong, a Yeti, appeared from no where. Atek saw a tall, hairy, fierce and aggressive looking female Yeti in front of him. She had two long enormous breasts hanging from her chest. He noticed that she was reverse footed. Her heels faced the front and the toes backward. Atek was very much frightened and was at a loss; however, unconsciously, he continued to play his flute. The female Yeti came near him and listened to the playing of flute with immense interest, attention and curiosity. After playing the flute for a considerable time, out of tiredness, when he put his flute down on the ground, the Yeti picked it up and placed it near his lips signalling him to play on. This way Atek played his bamboo flute until dawn, when, suddenly, she left.
The next evening at dusk, on completion of his chores at the ranch, Atek, intentionally, did not play his bamboo flute hoping and thinking that the Jyamphi Moong, the Yeti, may not revisit him. To his disappointment, the Yeti appeared and picking up the flute, she placed it near his lips indicting and ordering him to start playing it, Atek was, once again, forced to play his flute until dawn. This routine, the visit of Yeti at dusk at the ranch, Atek playing his flute in fear for his life, and she leaving the ranch at dawn continued for a few days.
One night while Atek was playing his flute for Jyamphi Moong, out of tiredness, he placed his flute on the ground. The hairy, fearsome female Yeti picked it up and instead of making Atek play it, she tried to play it herself but as she did not have the necessary skills, she could not play it. She again placed the flute near Atek's lips and signaled him to play the flute. This went on until dawn when it was time for the Yeti to move out. Atek's life was in hell. The Yeti would not allow him to rest and sleep. It was beyond his endurance. Atek thought what he is going to do about it ? How is he going to escape from this misery and suffering ? Atek was determined to get rid of Jyamphi Moong, the Yeti, once for all.
Atek built a big fire and started to massage his whole body from head to foot with butter sitting next to the fire place at dusk before the arrival of the Yeti. He had a hunch that the Yeti would come and imitate him and the trick of his on the Yeti may work on her. He had plenty of butter in store at the ranch.
Jyamphi Moong, the Yeti, as expected, arrived at the time. This time, she saw and observed Atek applying and massaging his whole body from head to foot with plenty of butter placed near the fire place. Atek played his flute time to time to entertain the Yeti, and continued to apply the butter all over his body. The Yeti, to his sheer joy, also started to imitate, apply and massage her whole body from her head to foot with butter as Atek did. Her body became brown, shiny and looked beautiful. Atek then took out a piece of fire brand from the fire place and pretended to roast his body. Jyamphi Moong, the Yeti, imitating Atek, also took out a piece of fire brand from the fire place and started to roast her body with it but then, suddenly, her whole body was on fire because it was covered with long and thick hairs. In horror and pain, her whole body in flame, the Yen, fled towards the snow covered peaks in the Himalayas never to return to human settlement from that day onward.
The Lepchas believed that because of this incident, Yeti lives in inaccessible high Himalayan mountains. A Yeti whistles when he or she walks. Moving usually early in the morning and at night in search of food, it makes a long haunting whistling sound. Whistling and the playing of flute also attracts Yeti; therefore, whistling especially early in the morning and at night or in the high Himalayas is strictly forbidden; in fact, it is a taboo among the Lepchas. A male Yeti is described as smaller and gentler then the female Yeti. Male and female Yetis do not live together. They meet once a year during the mating season. As soon as they complete their mating, they go to their own separate ways because it is said that the female Yeti is more aggressive and fierce than the male Yeti.
In case of an encounter with a female Yeti in the high Himalayas and to escape from her, it is said and suggested that one needs to run down-hill because when she runs down-hill, her two long enormous breasts would keep rocking in front of her thus hindering her easy movements and speed! If one runs up hill to escape from the female Yeti, she rolls her long enormous breasts on to her shoulders and chases fast! If you happen to encounter a female Yeti in the high Himalayas, do not forget the trick, run down hill as fast as you can!
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 Lepchas-
“The Lepchas are one of the most indigenous of the Darjeeling District, Sikkim and Illam Himalayas. They call themselves the Mutanchi Rong Kup Rung Kup, meaning the Beloved Children of Mother Nature and God, in Lepcha. ….The Lepchas love, respect and worship Mother Nature as represented by mountains, rivers, clouds, water, stones, earth, soil, tree rain etc. In their prayers and invocations, the Lepchas call the names of mountains, peaks, rivers, two medieval trees, (Sungli-Songloak in that order) and other parts comprising nature.”- as written in the introduction of the book titled “Lepcha Folklore and Folksongs”, compiled, translated and edited by Lyangsong Tamsang, and published by published by Sahitya Akademi. This folktale is taken from that book.