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What Makes The Lightning






Source: Folk-tales Of The Khasis

In the early days of the world, when the animals fraternised with
mankind, they tried to emulate the manners and customs of men, and
they spoke their language.

Mankind held a great festival every thirteen moons, where the strongest
men and the handsomest youths danced "sword dances" and contested in
archery and other noble games, such as befitted their race and their
tribe as men of the Hills and the Forests--the oldest and the noblest
of all the tribes.

The animals used to attend these festivals and enjoyed watching the
games and the dances. Some of the younger and more enterprising among
them even clamoured for a similar carnival for the animals, to which,
after a time, the elders agreed; so it was decided that the animals
should appoint a day to hold a great feast.

After a period of practising dances and learning games, U Pyrthat,
the thunder giant, was sent out with his big drum to summon all the
world to the festival. The drum of U Pyrthat was the biggest and the
loudest of all drums, and could be heard from the most remote corner
of the forest; consequently a very large multitude came together,
such as had never before been seen at any festival.

The animals were all very smartly arrayed, each one after his or her
own taste and fashion, and each one carrying some weapon of warfare
or a musical instrument, according to the part he intended to play
in the festival. There was much amusement when the squirrel came up,
beating on a little drum as he marched; in his wake came the little
bird Shakyllia, playing on a flute, followed by the porcupine marching
to the rhythm of a pair of small cymbals.

Every one was exceedingly merry--they joked and poked fun at one
another, in great glee: some of the animals laughed so much on that
feast day that they have never been able to laugh since. The mole was
there, and on looking up he saw the owl trying to dance, swaying as if
she were drunk, and tumbling against all sorts of obstacles, as she
could not see where she was going, at which he laughed so heartily
that his eyes became narrow slits and have remained so to this day.

When the merriment was at its height U Kui, the lynx, arrived on the
scene, displaying a very handsome silver sword which he had procured at
great expense to make a show at the festival. When he began to dance
and to brandish the silver sword, everybody applauded. He really
danced very gracefully, but so much approbation turned his head,
and he became very uplifted, and began to think himself better than
all his neighbours.

Just then U Pyrthat, the thunder giant, happened to look round, and he
saw the performance of the lynx and admired the beauty of the silver
sword, and he asked to have the handling of it for a short time,
as a favour, saying that he would like to dance a little, but had
brought no instrument except his big drum. This was not at all to
U Kui's liking, for he did not want any one but himself to handle
his fine weapon; but all the animals began to shout as if with one
voice, saying "Shame!" for showing such discourtesy to a guest, and
especially to the guest by whose kindly offices the assembly had been
summoned together; so U Kui was driven to yield up his silver sword.

As soon as U Pyrthat got possession of the sword he began to wield
it with such rapidity and force that it flashed like leaping flame,
till all eyes were dazzled almost to blindness, and at the same time he
started to beat on his big drum with such violence that the earth shook
and trembled and the animals fled in terror to hide in the jungle.

During the confusion U Pyrthat leaped to the sky, taking the lynx's
silver sword with him, and he is frequently seen brandishing it wildly
there and beating loudly on his drum. In many countries people call
these manifestations "thunder" and "lightning," but the Ancient Khasis
who were present at the festival knew them to be the stolen sword of
the lynx.

U Kui was very disconsolate, and has never grown reconciled to his
loss. It is said of him that he has never wandered far from home
since then, in order to live near a mound he is trying to raise,
which he hopes will one day reach the sky. He hopes to climb to the
top of it, to overtake the giant U Pyrthat, and to seize once more
his silver sword.





Next: The Prohibited Food

Previous: U Ksuid Tynjang



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