Friday, July 4, 2014

Khasi: How the Cat came to live with Man

This story is part of the Khasi Folktales unit. Story source: Folk-Tales of the Khasis by Mrs. K. U. Rafy (1920).

How the Cat Came to Live with Man

In olden times, Ka Miaw, the cat, lived in the jungle with her brother the tiger, who was king of the jungle. She was very proud of her high pedigree and anxious to display the family greatness, and to live luxuriously according to the manner of families of high degree, but the tiger, although he was very famous abroad, was not at all mindful of the well-being and condition of his family, and allowed them to be often in want. He himself, by his skill and great prowess, obtained the most delicate morsels for his own consumption, but as it involved trouble to bring booty home for his household, he preferred to leave what he did not want himself to rot on the roadside or to be eaten by any chance scavenger. Therefore, the royal larder was often very bare and empty.

Thus the cat was reduced to great privations, but so jealous was she for the honour and good name of her house that, to hide her poverty from her friends and neighbours, she used to sneak out at night-time, when nobody could see her, in order to catch mice and frogs and other common vermin for food.

Once she ventured to speak to her brother on the matter, asking him what glory there was in being king  if his family were obliged to work and to fare like common folks. The tiger was so angered that she never dared to approach the subject again, and she continued to live her hard life and to shield the family honour.

One day the tiger was unwell, and a number of his neighbours came to enquire after his health. Desiring to entertain them with tobacco, according to custom, he shouted to his sister to light the hookah and to serve it round to the company. Now, even in the most ordinary household, it is very contrary to good breeding to order the daughter of the house to serve the hookah, and Ka Miaw felt the disgrace keenly, and, hoping to excuse herself, she answered that there was no fire left by which to light the hookah. This answer displeased the tiger greatly, for he felt that his authority was being flouted before his friends. He ordered his sister angrily to go to the dwelling of mankind to fetch a firebrand with which to light the hookah, and, fearing to be punished if she disobeyed, the cat ran off as she was bidden and came to the dwelling of mankind.

Some little children were playing in the village, and when they saw Ka Miaw, they began to speak gently to her and to stroke her fur. This was so pleasant to her feelings after the harsh treatment from her brother that she forgot all about the firebrand and stayed to play with the children, purring to show her pleasure.

Meanwhile the tiger and his friends sat waiting impatiently for the hookah that never came. It was considered a great privilege to draw a whiff from the royal hookah, but, seeing that the cat delayed her return, the visitors took their departure and showed a little sullenness at not receiving any mark of hospitality in their king’s house.

The tiger’s anger against his sister was very violent, and, regardless of his ill-health, he went out in search of her. Ka Miaw heard him coming and knew from his growl that he was angry; she suddenly remembered her forgotten errand, and, hastily snatching a firebrand from the hearth, she started for home.

Her brother met her on the way and began to abuse her, threatening to beat her, upon which she threw down the firebrand at his feet in her fright and ran back to the abode of mankind, where she has remained ever since, supporting herself as of old by catching frogs and mice, and purring to the touch of little children.


(700 words)





No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at laura-gibbs@ou.edu.