Print

The custodian of the Tais

Description
Once long ago when people had only goat skin and tree bark to wear as clothes there was a hunter who would go to the forest each day to hunt birds with his bamboo hunting pipe. One day when he was returning home he became lost. In the distance he saw a big snake which looked like a python but as he got closer to the snake it turned into a beautiful woman wearing exquisitely coloured cloth and weaving tais (woven cloth). She called out to the hunter 'do you want to take me as your wife?' The hunter replied, 'I already have a home with a wife and children'. However, he did like this beautiful woman. The woman liked him too and asked again, 'do you want to take me as your wife?' The man replied again 'No, I already have a wife and children', and with that he continued on his way.

The next day the hunter went to the forest again and once more when he was returning home he saw the snake which again became a woman weaving tais. The woman asked again, 'do you want to take me as your wife? Again he replied 'No, I already have a wife and children' and went on his way. 

The same thing happened to the hunter for seven days. Each day he saw the 'snakewoman' and each day she asked the same question. On the seventh day the woman followed the hunter out of the forest. He stopped and turned around to her when they reached the boundary between the forest and the fields. He said to the snakewoman, 'if you cross this boundary and come with me into the fields, do you realize you can never return and never again can you become a snake'. The snakewoman listened carefully and accepted the bargain. She crossed the boundary from the forest to the fields and went with the hunter to become his wife. From that day, she never became a snake again, rather she spent her days weaving tais and teaching the other women how to do likewise. The weaving patterns they followed were the same as those of a python's skin.

(A 'plain tale' from Boleha, retold by Louisa Freitas)