How The Dog Came To Live With Man
: Folk-tales Of The Khasis
In the happy olden days, when the animals lived together at peace in
the forest, they used to hold fairs and markets after the manner of
mankind. The most important fair of all was called "Ka Iew Luri Lura"
(the Fair of Luri Lura), which was held at stated intervals in the Bhoi
(forest) country. Thither gathered all the animals, each one bringing
some article of merchandise, according to the decree which demanded
very animal that came to the fair should bring something to
sell. No matter whether he was young or old, rich or poor, no one
was to come empty-handed, for they wanted to enhance the popularity
of the market. U Khla, the tiger, was appointed governor of the fair.
Man was excluded from these fairs as he was looked upon as an enemy. He
used to hunt the animals with his bow and arrows, so they had ceased to
fraternise with him and kept out of his way. But one day the dog left
his own kindred in the jungle, and became the attendant of Man. The
following story tells how that came to pass.
One day U Ksew, the dog, walked abroad in search of goods to sell
at the fair. The other animals were thrifty and industrious, they
worked to produce their merchandise, but the dog, being of an indolent
nature, did not like to work, though he was very desirous to go to the
fair. So, to avoid the censure of his neighbours and the punishment of
the governor of the fair, he set out in search of something he could
get without much labour to himself. He trudged about the country all
day, inquiring at many villages, but when evening-time came he had not
succeeded in purchasing any suitable goods, and he began to fear that
he would have to forgo the pleasure of attending the fair after all.
Just as the sun was setting he found himself on the outskirts of
Saddew village, on the slopes of the Shillong Mountain, and as he
sniffed the air he became aware of a strong and peculiar odour, which
he guessed came from some cooked food. Being hungry after his long
tramp, he pushed his way forward, following the scent till he came to
a house right in the middle of the village, where he saw the family
at dinner, which he noticed they were eating with evident relish. The
dinner consisted of fermented Khasi beans, known as ktung rymbai,
from which the strong smell emanated.
The Khasis are naturally a very cordial and hospitable people, and
when the good wife of the house saw the dog standing outside looking
wistfully at them she invited him to partake of what food there was
left in the pot. U Ksew thankfully accepted, and by reason of his
great hunger he ate heartily, regardless of the strange flavour and
smell of the food, and he considered the ktung rymbai very palatable.
It dawned on him that here, quite by accident, he had found a novel
and marketable produce to take to the fair; and it happened that the
kindly family who had entertained him had a quantity of the stuff for
sale which they kept in earthen jars, sealed with clay to retain its
flavour. After a little palaver according to custom, a bargain was
struck, and U Ksew became the owner of one good-sized jar of ktung
rymbai, which he cheerfully took on his back. He made his way across
the hills to Luri Lura fair, chuckling to himself as he anticipated
the sensation he would create and the profits he would gain, and the
praise he would win for being so enterprising.
On the way he encountered many of the animals who like himself were
all going to Luri Lura, and carrying merchandise on their backs to
sell at the fair: to them U Ksew boasted of the wonderful food he had
discovered and was bringing with him to the market in the earthen jar
under the clay seal. He talked so much about it that the contents of
the earthen jar became the general topic of conversation between the
animals, for never had such an article been known at Luri Lura.
When he arrived at the fair the dog walked in with great consequence,
and installed himself and his earthen jar in the most central place
with much clatter and ostentation. Then he began to shout at the
top of his voice, "Come and buy my good food," and what with his
boastings on the road and the noise he made at the fair, a very large
company gathered round him, stretching their necks to have a glimpse
at the strange-looking jar, and burning with curiosity to see the
U Ksew, with great importance, proceeded to uncover the jar; but
as soon as he broke the clay seal a puff of the most unsavoury and
foetid odour issued forth and drove all the animals scrambling to a
safe distance, much to the dog's discomfiture and the merriment of
the crowd. They hooted and jeered, and made all sorts of disparaging
remarks till U Ksew felt himself covered with shame.
The stag pushed forward, and to show his disdain he contemptuously
kicked the earthen jar till it broke. This increased the laughter and
the jeering, and more of the animals came forward, and they began
to trample the ktung rymbai in the mud, taking no notice of the
protestations of U Ksew, who felt himself very unjustly treated. He
went to U Khla, the governor of the fair, to ask for redress, but here
again he was met with ridicule and scorn, and told that he deserved
all the treatment he had received for filling the market-place with
such a stench.
At last U Ksew's patience wore out, he grew snappish and angry,
and with loud barks and snarls he began to curse the animals with
many curses, threatening to be avenged upon them all some day. At
the time no one heeded his curses and threats, for the dog was but
a contemptible animal in their estimation, and it was not thought
possible for him to work much harm. Yet even on that day a part of
his curse came true, for the animals found to their dismay that the
smell of the ktung rymbai clung to their paws and their hoofs, and
could not be obliterated; so the laughter was not all on their side.
Humiliated and angry, the dog determined to leave the fair and the
forest and his own tribe, and to seek more congenial surroundings;
so he went away from Luri Lura, never to return, and came once more
to Saddew village, to the house of the family from whom he had bought
the offending food. When the master of the house heard the story of
the ill-treatment he had suffered from the animals, he pitied U Ksew,
and he also considered that the insults touched himself as well as
the dog, inasmuch as it was he who had prepared and sold the ktung
rymbai. So he spoke consolingly to U Ksew and patted his head and told
him to remain in the village with him, and that he would protect him
and help him to avenge his wrongs upon the animals.
After the coming of the dog, Man became a very successful hunter,
for the dog, who always accompanied him when he went out to hunt,
was able to follow the trail of the animals by the smell of the ktung
rymbai, which adhered to their feet. Thus the animals lived to rue the
day when they played their foolish pranks on U Ksew and his earthen
jar at the fair of Luri Lura.
Man, having other occupations, could not always go abroad to the
jungle to hunt; so in order to secure a supply of meat for himself
during the non-hunting seasons he tamed pigs and kept them at hand in
the village. When the dog came he shared the dwelling and the meals
of the pig, U Sniang; they spent their days in idleness, living on
the bounty of Man.
One evening, as Man was returning from his field, tired with the day's
toil, he noticed the two idle animals and he said to himself--"It
is very foolish of me to do all the hard work myself while these two
well-fed creatures are lying idle. They ought to take a turn at doing
some work for their food."
The following morning Man commanded the two animals to go to the field
to plough in his stead. When they arrived there U Sniang, in obedience
to his master's orders, began to dig with his snout, and by nightfall
had managed to furrow quite a large patch of the field; but U Ksew,
according to his indolent habits, did no work at all. He lay in the
shade all day, or amused himself by snapping at the flies. In the
evening, when it was time to go home, he would start running backwards
and forwards over the furrows, much to the annoyance of the pig.
The same thing happened for many days in succession, till the patience
of the pig was exhausted, and on their return from the field one
evening he went and informed their master of the conduct of the dog,
how he was idling the whole day and leaving all the work for him to do.
The master was loth to believe these charges against U Ksew, whom he
had found such an active and willing helper in the chase: he therefore
determined to go and examine the field. When he came there he found
only a few of the footprints of the pig, while those of the dog were
all over the furrows. He at once concluded that U Sniang had falsely
charged his friend, and he was exceedingly wroth with him.
When he came home, Man called the two animals to him, and he spoke
very angrily to U Sniang, and told him that henceforth he would have to
live in a little sty by himself, and to eat only the refuse from Man's
table and other common food, as a punishment for making false charges
against his friend; but the dog would be privileged to live in the
house with his master, and to share the food of his master's family.
Thus it was that the dog came to live with Man.