Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The history of fish (and women)

In the next few posts, you will get to read some Tharu folk tales passed down from generation to generation. Here's the first one collected by Ulrike Mueller-Boeker. 

School of fish. Image by Alexandru Stoian. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The history of fish (and women) [Slightly edited for clarity] 

A long time ago a barber (hajam) was going about his work during jitiya parab (women's festival). As he was going from house to house to cut the nails of women, he suddenly saw a strikingly beautiful woman named Chanawa. She and her husband Lori Amir were new to the village. When the hajam caught sight of Chanawa, he lost consciousness.

Then he ate soil seven times, pissed seven times and shat seven times. When he came back to consciousness, he got the idea to go to the king of the village, Raja Mahore, in order to tell him of Chanawa's beauty, and to suggest that he might kill the woman's husband and then take Chanawa as a wife.

When the king heard the plan he said that the woman's husband was very strong. The hajam proposed to the king that he should write a letter to the king of Maranpur (Murder City) for Lori to deliver. In this letter the king would write that Lori was to be killed in Maranpur. The king was pleased with this proposal, and he wrote the letter: 'Head of Lori, sword of Maranpur'.

Lori was summoned by the king and the letter was handed to him with the instruction to take it to the king of Maranpur. Lori did not see through the king's plan: he thought that he simply had to deliver an important letter.

Lori was unable to read and write, but his wife Chanawa could. She asked permission from her husband to read the letter. When she had read the words, she understood that her husband was to be killed in Maranpur. She proceeded to alter the letter by switching the words head and sword: 'Head of Maranpur, sword of Lori'. She advised her husband to return to the village of King Mahore and ask him for a horse to convey him more quickly to Maranpur, the way being long.

Lori went to the king and asked for a horse. When the hajam heard this, he got a new idea of how Lori could be killed without being sent to Maranpur.

A horse named Mangal had been stuck for 12 years in the swamp of Pokhara Sagar (ocean). It was a very wild horse, one that only let its master ride it. The horse had belonged to Lori's grandfather, which Lori, however, did not know. The hajam now suggested that the king charge Lori with retrieving this horse from the ocean. The horse would kill Lori as soon as he approached it. The king, therefore, directed Lori to fetch the horse Mangal.

When Lori approached the horse, it became very happy, for it smelled that the grandson of his own master had come. The horse neighed with delight! The hajam heard the neighing and thought that now Lori would be killed. But Lori freed the horse from the sagar and took it first to Pokhari Tal (lake), the horse being very dirty. In the feet of the horse were living many worms and maggots which caused the horse much pain. Lori began to remove the worms.

The worms swam about in the water, not knowing what was happening to them. Then they went up to God and complained of their fate. The God decided: You will become fish of various types and sizes, according to your present size. Humans will eat you during Kalijug (the current age). There have been fish since that time!"

Narrated by: Somla Mahato, Chitwan district
Collected by: Ulrike Mueller-Boeker
Courtesy: The Chitwan Tharus in Southern Nepal
Used with permission from Ulrike Mueller-Boeker

Read an earlier version of the story published in this blog.

Read this story in Nepali

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