Viewing Myth and the concept of Death of an Author, in the Legend of Mehoviû and Morûsa (Angami-Naga Folktale).
Storytelling and folktale has been an integral part of Naga society. Traditionally it has been passed down by word of Mouth from one generation to next. However, only in the recent past; these oral narratives have been rendered into written form. In the Literature form Nagaland as storytelling will never cease to exist.
Folktale gives a glimpse of moral, values, and ancient lifestyles of each community, culture; race etc .It is universal as it exists among all people of all ages. `These tales which exist in the memory of people cannot easily be recognizable and categorised. Students of the folktale are primarily concerned with the origin and dissemination of tales as well as the folktale as an art. As an art form it concerns the conditions of folktale telling such as by the kind of people that tell tales, circumstances of the telling, the reception of the audience, the way they are handed down, and the stylistic effects of this oral art’ (Shipley 1993:124-5).
These folktales deal with a variety of themes: The Legend of Mehoviû and Morûsa (Angami-Naga Folktale) intricately knit the nuances of ancient practices of some of the community of Nagaland.
Morûsa was a native of Kidima village. He was handsome and wealthy. Above all, he was a great warrior. Such qualities made him popular not only in his village, but he was known by young and old even in the neighbouring villages. He was unmarried. However, there was no girl in his village who could measure up to his expectations of a wife of a great warrior like Morûsa. So his female relatives began to gather news of young eligible, nubile girls in the neighbouring villages and learn that there’s an exceptional girl called Mehouviû in another village.
Now Mehouviû and Morûsa were oblivious of each other’s appearance. But she has heard of him. In fact, she had had dreams that she was eating and drinking at Morûsa’s place. After some time, the household of Morûsa sent representatives to Mehouviû’s place and attained the consent of her parents to give her hand in marriage. A date was fixed, whereupon Mehouviû would go to Morûsa’s village. This information about the specific date was given to the bridegroom’s household. Now he does not know Mehouviû nor to which village does she belong. Morûsa decides that the day before his betrothed reaches his place; he will go for head-hunting so that he will serve his village to the ceremonial feast of rûprie. He wants his bride to see with her own eyes the prestige and honour that he enjoys as a warrior in his society.
However, Morûsa was at lost as to where he would go hunting because his village had made friendly pacts with its neighbouring villages. But due to ill-luck, that day, he could not find warriors with whom he could combat and whose head he could take home. So he was compelled to turn his steps towards villages in search of casualties. In this way, he entered a village, but all he could find was only little children whom he didn’t want to kill. Then he saw a girl alone in her house doing household works. So he entered into her house, killed her and severed her head. Triumphantly, he carries the head home, and in the evening, he invited his entire village for the ceremonial feast. The people gather around his front yard feasting and anticipating the coming of Morûsa’s bride. Time passed but Morûsa’s bride did not turn up. Soon the terrible news came that Mehouviû had been killed and beheaded by a warrior when she was alone in her house that day. It so happened that since she was going to be married, Mehouviû had stayed home that day so that she could sort out her belongings and finish the necessary household chores before leaving her parents home for her husband’s village. It was in this condition that Morûsa found her and beheaded her. The truth then dawned; the warrior was none other than Morûsa himself who had gone and killed his own wife-to-be and had borne the head home. Morûsa realized to his anguish that he had no other to blame for this tragedy but himself.
According to Barthes, myth is a form of signification. What Barthes terms as "myth" is in fact the manner in which a culture signifies and grants meaning to the world around it. For Barthes every cultural product has meaning, and this meaning is conditioned by ideology, i.e. myth, and therefore any cultural product can be the subject of mythological analysis and review. To Barthes myth, as a form of speech, is not limited to lingual signs; visual, musical etc. can also take part in a myth because they convey secondary meanings that surpass their referential denotation. The first level of signification is the denotation one –Morusa entering the neighbouring village and accidently beheading Mehouviu his wife to be. But the second level of signification denotes- vanity and pride as the tragic flaw which brought about the downfall of the protagonist. It conveys the universal moral lesson that pride goes before a fall. The above folktale reflects the glory and as well as the tragic consequences of head-hunting practice by this community in the olden days. It also reflects the Aristotelian concept of ‘hamartia’ in a tragedy.
In` Death of an Author ‘Roland Barthes is of the opinion that an author's words are never his own. His work is inspired by a muse. In a way he is just a mediator who merges ideas and language together presents it before the readers. This is where the concept of, ` Death of an Author ‘emerges. In the case of the folktale the author is death his narration is not his own but of the practices that intertwine the community, and it is these juxtaposition of tradition that give birth to folktale. And therefore every narrator is an Author and every listener is a reader. The legend remains but the author disappears.
1) Kuolie, Kevizonou. The Legend of Mehoviû and Morûsa (Angami-Naga Folktale). Journal of Literature, Culture and Media Studies. 2009. 213-14. Print.
2) Barthe Roland. Death of an Author.
3) Barthe roland .Myth today.
4) Joseph, Shipley. ". Dictionary of World Literary Terms.." (1993): n.pag. Web. 24 Feb 2014. <www.museindia.com/viewarticle.asp?myr=2009&issid=24&id...>.