A ferocious wild boar once strayed off into a paddy field. As it began ravaging the crops, the annoyed villagers decided to chase the savage beast down. In hot pursuit of the ferocious boar, a lad from the group of villagers shot an arrow, which hit the boar on its hip. Staggering and struggling, it somehow managed to evade the villagers as it escaped into a gorge. The young man did not give up and eventually found himself in front of the mouth of a cave.

The cave was pitch-dark inside. As he entered the lair, a beam of light suddenly came flashing from its interior. He could make out a heavenly creature, seated on a cloud, floating toward him. However, the dense fog did not let him get a proper view. Upon reaching up to him, the creature asked, “Who are you? Are you the one who killed my beloved boar?”

Terrified out of his wits, the young man could not think of what to say. In a desperate bid to escape from the cave, he said, “Oh heavenly creature, I have come here to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.” Saying so, he fell on his knees. The creature was so overjoyed that he showered the boy with grand and heavily embroidered clothes. He then summoned his daughters and asked the suitor to choose one.

The eldest daughter was an ugly woman, but was dressed in beautiful clothes and gold ornaments. On the other hand, the younger daughter was a stunning lady dressed in rags. The boy chose the latter and was married to her with the blessings of his now father-in-law. He carried her back home in a splendid basket.

On reaching his village, he kept the basket in the safety of his workshop and set off to call all his relatives and parents. After all, he did not want to be found guilty of breaking the tradition of bringing his wife into the house with the blessings of his near and dear ones. While he was away inviting his elders, Hunchibili, an evil and wicked woman, who had seen everything from a distance, decided to switch places with the lady in the basket. She opened the lid and threw the lady inside, into the river, and took her place in the basket.

By the time the young man arrived, Hunchibili was sitting in the basket. Unaware of what had transpired behind his back, he opened the lid to present his beautiful wife to his parents. To his surprise, the woman he found inside was somebody else. Although shocked, he decided to marry her in order to prevent his family from becoming a laughing stock.

Meanwhile, his original wife, who had been tossed into the river, turned into an orange seed that found its way to the garden of her husband. She quickly grew into a beautiful tree and then became one of its fruit. One day, the young man noticed the beautiful tree and, more specifically, the peculiar orange fruit that swayed closer to him, but farther away from his wife. Once the fruit had ripened, he plucked and stored it in a basket. As days passed by, he became so preoccupied with his day-to-day affairs that he forgot about the fruit altogether. Every day, when Hunchibili and her husband went to the paddy field, the beautiful lady would emerge out of the basket, tidy up her husband’s bed and dump all the waste on to Hunchibili’s. This went on for many days.

Fed up of this inexplicable scenario, the young man decided to unravel this mystery. After Hunchibili went off to work, the enchanting lady emerged out of the basket. The young man, who was hiding under the bed, was stunned to see his real wife. Ecstatic, he came out of hiding and caught her red-handed. When he asked her about her arcane disappearance, she narrated the whole thing to him.

Hunchibili - A Naga Folk Tale

After listening to his wife, the man was so enraged that he decided to kill Hunchibili. When Hunchibili returned home with the firewood on her head, the young man stabbed her in the chest with a dagger. An Arum plant, which Hunchibili had cared for, got stained with her blood and turned red.

To this day, it is believed that whenever a man sees a red Arum plant, he becomes irritable and loses his cool.

…now that you’re here

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Ananya Susarla, Folk Tale writer at Ameya
Ananya Susarla

Ananya both loves to read and reinterpret folk tales from different parts of the country. Feel free to email her at ananyasusarla2915@gmail.com if you would like to know more about her.

Folk tale adopted and reinterpreted from Nezine.