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

much-advertised contents.

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.