Angami Naga Folk Tales: In Conversation with Kosau Talie

Angami Naga Folk Tales: In Conversation with Kosau Talie

in Interview
Published on: 22 October 2018

Menka Singh

Menka Singh has been working as Assistant Professor in History at Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi, since 2012. She is currently pursuing her PhD from the Department of History, University of Delhi. Her doctoral dissertation is titled, 'The Memory and Legacy of Colonialism in the Naga Hills, c. 1832–1947'. Her M.Phil dissertation was titled, 'State, Family, and Orphans of Partition, c. 1940–1980'.

Kosau Talie narrates indigenous folk tales at Khonoma village

Mr Kosau Talie is one of the oldest members of Thevoma khel (a khel is a sub-division in a village). In this interview, he narrates some of the local folk tales in his native tongue Angami. 


The first story is about the festival of Rase cha. In this festival, young boys participate in a competition in which they are pitted against the spirits. They carry long bamboo sticks and go out of the village gate. There they call out to the spirits to compete with them. They light a fire very close to the bamboo that they carry and thus by doing this repeatedly, try to come back to the village, outracing the spirits that pursue them. The winner is the boy who comes back with the longest bamboo. 


The second story is about the three sons of a mother—the devil, the tiger and the human. Each takes turn to take care of the mother. The devil scares the mother on the days he takes care of her. The tiger harasses her and threatens her that it would eat her body parts after she dies. The human, on the other hand, bathes her, cooks for her, and takes good care of her. The mother dies on the day when she is in the care of the human. He knows that the tiger would sniff out the body of the dead mother; he begins to think where to bury her. He therefore decides to burn her body under the traditional stove (chulha) to camouflage the smell. Thus, the tiger is unable to locate the dead body. Ever since that day, humans are allowed to cook on the stove but not animals. It is also why humans can even eat in the graveyard. A slightly different version of this story says that there is an argument between the human and the tiger over who would go to the jungle to live there. They decide that whoever manages to pelt a sculpture using a catapult would not have to go to the forest. The human is helped by the devil, and his stones hit the target. The tiger misses, and thus having lost against the human, has to go and live in the forest. 


The third story is of Neteya. He is a cunning boy who lives with his father. Both father and son own separate paddy fields. Neteya has a dry paddy field while his father has a khupo (a flat, beautiful, fertile field). Neteya says to his father, ‘Your field is wet and dark, it’s black and ugly, while mine is dry and fair.’ He thus manages to trick his father into exchanging his field with his and in the end gets a good harvest. Neteya and his father own a cow together and it is about to give birth. He asks his father, ‘Father, which part of the cow do you wish to own, its head or its tail?’ His father takes the head and thus Neteya gets the calf as well as the milk. His father is once again fooled. Both father and son own a banana plant too. Neteya once again asks his father if he would take the head or the tail of the plant. This time his father is determined not be fooled thinking that the lower part of the plant will be better. Once again, Neteya manages to fool his father and gets all the bananas. One day Neteya goes hunting. He falls in a gorge. He gets trapped under a pile of stones and is unable to come out. He takes out his necklace and gives it to his dog that has accompanied him. The dog carries his necklace back to the village. By the time the villagers find him he is suffocated to death. The saying therefore goes that, ‘You should never fool your parents.’