Haiguing - Zeme Folktale


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There was once in the village of Niem a man called Dimansareng, who had a son named Haiguing but no other kinsmen at all. The warriors of Nke constantly asked Niem to give Dimansareng up to them, when they would leave the rest of Niem alone; and eventually Niem agreed and betrayed Dimansareng to the Nkemi, who killed him and took his head. At first Haiguing was far too young to know what had happened, but as he grew older the other boys with whom he played used it as a term of abuse against him when they quarrelled, that his father had lost his head to another village. Dimansareng's sister had married a man of Niem, and it was with this couple that Haiguing lived, and he went to the woman time and again and asked her what had happened to his father. At first she would not tell him because he was still a child, but after a while she said: "The villagers here betrayed your father to the men of Nke, who killed him. You are still young, but when you grow strong, remember that."

When Haiguing was a youth some travellers from Nke came to Niem, and while they were sitting in the dekachang one of them asked what had become of Haiguing.

"He is dead," said Haiguing.

"I'm not surprised," said the man who had asked. "He was only a puny child years ago, when I killed his father."

Hearing this, Haiguing looked well at the man and made sure of knowing him again.

When Haiguing was full-grown he demanded over and over that the village should arrange a fish-poisoning in conjunction with Nke, to which neither side should come armed. The villagers would not agree and Haiguing grew so angry that he slashed at the dekachang benches with his dao singing:

"If you will not call the men of Nke as I ask you

I will make war with the village,

I will find out who betrayed my father and kill him!" and seeing his fury, some of the villagers were so scared they fled from the dekachang and hid in their houses.

His uncle by marriage had always cared for him and showed him kindness, and he backed up the request, and at last the villagers agreed and arranged with Nkemi that on a certain day they should hold a fish-poisoning and that neither side should bring spears and daos, but should come carrying poison-creeper only. On the day appointed, Haiguing sharpened a spear-head till it was as keen as he could make it, and carried it down to the river in one of the big chungas used for carrying fish. When the creeper had been beaten out and the fish were coming to the surface, and all the men were hurrying downstream to see what they could catch, Haiguing kept a close watch on the man who had killed his father, and coming near him, stood with his foot in the water and shouted: "Apao, come and help me, I have a fish here under my foot."

"Can't you catch it, atsapeo?" asked the man.

"No, apao, if I bend down it will slip away," said Haiguing. The Nke man came to help him, and as he bent to grope for the imaginary fish Haiguing took the spear-head from the chunga and stabbed him in the back, killing him. Then Haiguing took his head and ran, shouting as he went: "The men of Nke's treachery is beyond belief. Let the men of Niem run to their own village, let the men of Nke run to their own!"

Hearing this, and seeing the river come down red with blood, the fishers one and all left their fishing and fled, and Haiguing came safely home with the head which avenged his father's.

(Said to be a true story.)

(Recorded in the North Cachar Hills, 1940-1942. In 1962, Mowu of the Merhema Khel of Khonoma, then commanding the nominal 10,000 men of the Nzemi and Angami "rebel" forces, recalled to me (At Ardura, in Mull) that he had heard this story in the form of a song, and had been told that it was based on fact.)

Ursula Graham's Collection

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