Saturday, April 18, 2009

Rairahtea

A long, long time ago, there was a poor little boy in a village by a river. His name was Rairahtea. He lived with his stepmother who was very cruel to him and always made him do the hardest of work.

One day, all the boats on the river near his village were stranded in water and unable to sail. The sailors had never had any major problem because they had a bahhnukte, an axe which had magical powers. But it had now been stolen by a python so the sailors, helpless without their magic axe, decided to offer a human sacrifice. When Rairahtea's stepmother heard of this, she sold him to the sailors in return for a bowl of money.

Rairahtea stayed with the sailors and guarded their stores of rice. One day, as he was on duty, a python suddenly crawled towards him. It was the same python which had stolen the sailors' magic axe and was running away from them.

The python begged Rairahtea to save him but he refused saying, "I am also a captive and you are too big for me to hide. So if we must die, let us die together." But the python said, "I can make myself smaller and I will give you anything if you hide me." He then made himself smaller and smaller until he was reduced to the size of a needle. Rairahtea then took the needle-sized python and hid him in his hair.

The sailors soon came in search of the python and asked, "Rairahte, have you seen a python?" He replied, "No, I have not. Why do you ask?" They did not believe him because the trail left by the python ended next to Rairahtea. But Rairahtea insisted, "I have not seen any python and even if I did, how can I possibly hide it?" The sailors believed him and went away.

After they left, the python came back to his original size and crawled down from Rairahtea's head. "You have saved me from death so I will give you anything you want. Just name it, " he said and vomitted out jewels and money.

But Rairahtea did not want the jewels or money. Instead he said, "Open your mouth wide." As the python opened its mouth out wide, Rairahtea saw a shiny object in the corner. When he realised it was the sailors' magic axe, he said to the python, "I want that shiny object in your mouth." The python was very reluctant to part with the magic axe but in the end, he agreed to let Rairahtea borrow it for a while in return for saving his life.

Rairahtea was very happy to have the magic axe and immediately ordered it to set free all the stranded boats in the river. This made the sailors very happy and one of them even decided to adopt Rairahtea and bring him up as his very own son.

So Rairahtea grew up as the dearly beloved son of the sailor and his wife. Many years later, he asked his father to get him a wife and said the girl he wanted to marry was the daughter of the great Chief of Tripura. When his father heard this, he was not very hopeful. However, he set off for the Chief's house with a proposal of marriage. The place was heavily guarded sevenfold by soldiers. At the gate, they asked him why he wanted to se the Chief. The old sailor barely managed to say, "We want your princess..." before he was struck down and killed by the soldiers. They then threw his body into the river.

Rairahtea became very worried after his father failed to return from the Chief's house. Taking his magic axe with him, he went along in search of his father. When he could not find him, he realised he must have been killed. He ordered his axe to bring back his father to life. The old sailor at once reappeared beside him and was very surprised to be brought back to life. He decided to go back to the Chief's house where he was killed once again. Rairahtea again restored him to life and the old father again went back to the Chief's house. When the soldiers saw him reappear for the third time, they were filled with fear and let him into the house. The father then informed the Chief the purpose of his visit to which the Chief replied, "Your son can marry my daughter only if you change my house into a golden palace with the river of life flowing beside it." Rairahtea's father became very sad because he knew his son would never be able to do such a thing. He went home and told Rairahtea what the Chief wanted. But his son was not at all worried and went to sleep peacefully.

The next morning, Rairahtea's father woke him up before sunrise. Rairahtea ordered his magic axe to turn the Chief's house into a golden palace with the river of life flowing next to it. And there it was, golden and shining! The Chief was overjoyed to see it and at once asked for Rairahtea and announced, "You may now marry my daughter!"

Rairahtea had some very faithful animals and he sent them off to test what kind of girl the princess was. When they reached the Chief's hose, they tried to make the princess angry in a number of ways. But the princess remained calm. Back at Rairahtea's house, they told him that the princess was very kind and gentle. So Rairahtea married the princess of Tripura.

Unfortunately the princess was in love with a man who lived up in the sky. She knew that Rairahtea had a magic axe and she was always looking for a chance to steal it so she could go away up in the sky and live with her beloved. One day, she had the opportunity to steal the magic axe while Rairahtea was taking a bath in the river. She quickly grabbed the axe and flew up into the sky.

As soon as she was gone with the magic axe, the power of the axe disappeared and the Chief of Tripura's housde returned to its original form. This made the Chief very angry. He sent his messengers to Rairahtea. They told him that if he did not turn back the Chief's house into a golden house within eight days, the Chief would kill him. Rairahtea was very worried. He sent his animals in search of the magic axe and they soon realised it was with the princess high in the sky. Using a long chain made by the monkey, the climbed up into the sky. When the princess saw that they had come for the magic axe, she quickly put it inside her mouth and went to sleep. So the animals sat down and worked out a plan. The rat tickled her nose with his tail and the princess sneezed. Out came the magic axe and the rat quickly grabbed it and ran away.

After many difficulties, the animals were finally able to bring home the magic axe. But Rairahtea was not at home. He was being kept a prisoner in the Chief's house. The animals headed towards the Chief's house but could not give him the axe because he was guarded by the soldiers. The animals again sat down and wondered how they could give the magic axe to Rairahtea. In the end, the cat was chosen to pass the axe to their master. Since a cat is a familiar sight in any household, the cat easily got inside the house and left the magic axe in a place where Rairahtea was sure to find it. Meanwhile Rairahtea was rolling on the floor in pain. When he felt something hard under him, he reached out to see what it was. He saw it was his magic axe. Gladly, he took it in his hand and ordered it to fill the place with mosquitoes. Immediately, the place was filled with mosquitoes and the soldiers all ran away.

The next morning, Rairahtea once again ordered his magic axe to change the Chief's house into a golden palace. At the same time, the soldiers had returned to the Chief's house to kill Rairahtea. When he saw them coming, he quickly looked out of the window and shouted, "Magic axe, bring down the princess and her lover!" At once, the princess and her lover fell from the sky and were killed instantly. That was the end of Rairahtea's wife and her lover from the sky.

On seeing his golden house once again, the Chief was overjoyed and offered his younger daughter to Rairahtea for his wife. Rairahtea again sent his animlas to find out what kind of girl the younger princess was. Just like before, they tried to make the princess angry. The younger princess was very angry with the mischief caused by the animals. They then ran home and told their master that his prospective bride was very short-tempered. However the two were married.

A few days later, one of the animals came to Rairahtea and said, "Master, it is time for us to return to our old master, the python." So Rairahtea, thankful for all they had had done for him, released them and sent them back to the python with the magic axe.


Taken from Selected Mizo Folk Tales, 2008, published and edited by the English Language Teaching Institute (ELTI), SCERT Mizoram.

2 comments:

mesjay said...

Rairahtea's story & his son Chhawna... is among the most interesting of Mizo folk tales.

An idea has just hit me - those of us who translate or retell these folk tales, i think, need to do it in a slow, unhurried pace, so the reader could savour the whole atmosphere. So far, most of us seem to narrate them in a kind of breathless hurry,as if we can't wait to be finished with it. What do you say?

feddabonn said...

might it be possible to record the actual telling of these stories? the written versions leave me kham lo. :)