Lengthui the Prankster

FolktalesKhararchānLegendsPhungcham Lengthui

Long, long ago! This creates a thrilling and suspense among the readers right? Because almost all the folk tales or legendary stories begin with that. There was a man called Lengthui. He was born in Phungcham, a village in Ukhrul district of Manipur. He was a well known person in the Tangkhul Naga history. He was not very handsome but an average looking man. He was known for his tricky, manipulative, deceitful and psychological means to charm and make other people blindly fall for his false story.

He was intelligent, informative and skillful but had an inevitable knack of committing fraud and deceit. He was lustful and had sexually abused many women. He had traveled from one village to another to satisfy his sexual desire. One of his trademarks was that, “he created a problem which he only could solve.” One of his hobbies was playing prank. In this way, he played with people’s life and inflicted pain on them, but people never realized that. People never retaliated on his action because they were nothing in front of him. Thus, in this way he took advantage and became a notorious person.

In those days, people were ignorant and lived their life without using their common sense. ‘Lengthui’ came into the scene, who used his common sense to manipulate people’s wealth and satisfy his utmost desire-lust.

Lengthui, people used to call, “come lets go for work” and he would respond, “My back is paining” He would make other excuses as well. Lengthui, “let’s go eat, we have prepared country chicken for meal” and he would be the first person to get ready. For eating, he will be the first person; but for work, he will somehow escape. By this, one can understand what kind of person he was. If a person is cunning or lazy people would refer to Lengthui saying, “You are becoming more like Phungcham Lengthui”. Life would be boring without having such kind of person.

It was hot afternoon. As usual Lengthui was taking care of his aging mother who was at the last stage of her life. In other words she was not completely bedridden but needed lots of attention. Nobody knew about his mother’s condition in the village. She was a hindrance to him as she could not move freely on her own.

          “At this age, who likes to sit at home doing nothing,” grumbled Lengthui. Lengthui was waiting for her to die so that he would be free from her. But she took little longer than he expected. Was it a blessing or a curse for Lengthui? This made him lose his patience.

Was it a blessing in disguise for Lengthui?

Then it happened.

He went to the jungle to collect fire wood. He returned home little  late and cooked food for her. He took the food when he called out to her. There was no answer. He was shocked to see the dead body of her mother lying on the floor peacefully. On the other hand he was happy because from now onwards he could go out and enjoy with his friends and now he has nobody to care for. As he was about to call the neighbors, just then a thought struck his mind, “How will I make use of my dead mother? Not a bad idea, Lengthui” congratulated himself. “But how do I execute?” was a big question in his mind. He then thought for a moment and came up with an idea. He thought, “I will place her in the center of the road just before the cattle returns to the village. I will tell the buffalo boy, that my mother has gone to fetch water so be careful. And when the buffalo boy finds out the dead body, I will ask for compensation.”

          “What shall I ask for?” Thought for sometimes, scratching his head. After a long pause he got an idea. “I will ask him a question and if he gives the wrong answer I will take away all of his buffalos.” Lengthui was eagerly waiting for the sunset.

As the sun went down slowly, the time came for him to execute his master plan. As planned he placed the dead body of her mother in the center of the road along with bamboo jars (used for carrying water in those days) and basket. He also reminded the buffalo man to take extra care, that, his mother had gone to fetch water.  All these were a trap.

“Oh my god….oh my god…!” shouted, the buffalo man with a surprise. “My buffaloes….my……..buffaloes…….”  “What happened to your buffalos?” Lengthui pretended. “My buffaloes stamped your mother to death,” said the buffalo man in a depressed voice. “Didn’t I warn you earlier”, said Lengthui in a heartless manner. Now the buffalo man was trapped and his eyes were full of tears. He tried to defend himself crying that, it was not his buffalos that killed his mother. But Lengthui took advantage of him. Lengthui then argued, “I’m sure it was your buffaloes.” In a threatening way Lengthui told again mercilessly to the buffalo man, “If your buffaloes do not have the upper teeth, then it’s your buffaloes,” said Lengthui firmly. In fact buffaloes do not have the upper teeth. “How could it be possible”? The buffalo man stood still in disbelief and thought for a moment, but then he challenged Lengthui, saying that, “his buffaloes have both upper and lower teeth.”

In fact Lengthui was taking advantage of his ignorance.

“Well then”, said Lengthui. He then told him to check one by one. To his surprise all the buffaloes did not have the upper teeth. The buffalo man was spell-bound at this sight and didn’t know what to do. The buffalo man went home very sad, with a heavy heart and an empty hand.  In this way Lengthui took all the buffaloes and sold it in the neighboring villages. And nobody spoke of this afterwards.

Years passed by and life became boring for Lengthui playing prank with the same people. “I’m fed up staying here”, said Lengthui. So he decided to go to another village to have fun amidst adventure; and thus he went to one of the villages on foot. It was afternoon when he reached the village.  In fact Lengthui had already passed through the village and has seen a beautiful girl. Luck continues to shower in his life. The father of that girl was working in the garden. He was very happy at what he saw. He went to her father who is working in the garden and said, “Uncle I’m going to Phungcham and I’m very thirsty will you give me some water to drink?” The generous father without seeing the face of the stranger, sent to his house. He then told Lengthui, “My daughter is there and go and ask her,” telling this and continued to work again. Upon reaching the house he saw the same beautiful girl which he has seen long ago, as he was passing the village. The desire arose immediately and he then told her without wasting any time that, “your father has given permission to make love with you.”

“What?” She replied.

He repeated the same thing again.  She did not believe and asked her father from the house, “Have you given the permission to make love with him?”

“Yes” replied the father because he could not hear properly what she said because of the disturbances of the wind. Thus Lengthui used the full opportunity and used her. After finishing the business, he went to the girl father and said, “Thank you uncle!  It satisfied my thirst.”  “You can come again young man,” said the father. “So kind of you” replied Lengthui and went away with full of satisfaction.

The girl’s father after sometime went to the house and saw her crying and asked her, “Why are you crying?” and she replied, “You told him to make love with me and because of the pain I’m crying.” He was shocked and became very angry at the stranger. “I told you to give water not your body,” said her father. But the girl replied, “When I ask you, whether you gave him the permission you said, “Yes, “so I allowed him.”“You fool” replied her father angrily.

 Lengthui was a stranger who made fool of him.

He then decided to go and search in Phungcham. “Don’t worry my daughter, I will go and kill that person”, said the father. Then, took the big knife, spear, and his dog and went to search the stranger at Phungcham. By then Lengthui had reached Phungcham and changed his dress. He dressed as if he was getting ready to go to the field. The girl’s father reached Phungcham and saw Lengthui sharpening his big knife. The girl’s father could not recognize him and asked, “Have you seen any stranger passing by sometime ago?” Lengthui fooled him again saying, “Just before five minutes one stranger hurriedly passed this road”.

“Thank you sir”, said the girl’s father and went the direction where Lengthui had shown him. Lengthui fooled him again. When the girl’s father left he said, “You are welcome sir.”


-By Ramhorchan Mashangva


Acknowledgement: This folktale was one of the top five submissions in Open Folktale Writing Competition organized by Tangkhul Naga Welfare Society, Bengaluru (TNWSB) in its 5th Luira Phanit, 2020

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