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Lisu Folklore


In 2019, Lisu Cultural Heritage Center started “Lisu Legends and Beliefs Archival Project, Baan Doi Lan, Wawee, Mae Suai, Chiang Rai” supported by The Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre (public organization). This project was initiated to gather, manage and archive information on the legends and beliefs of Doi Lan village.

A year of work has resulted in altogether 22 folk tales, a community history, a community map and a community calendar.

The Cicada’s Singing

Retold by Somkid Saeju and Wanida Saemee

Once upon a time, there was a cicada. Like all the other animals and insects, the cicada had an intestine, lungs, a liver, a heart and excrement inside of it.

One day, the cicada sang out of loneliness. The voice was so loud, it startled the barking deer living nearby. The barking deer instinctively ran to the mouse’s hole and started digging. The mouse shuddered and asked “Why are you digging my hole”.

The barking deer answered, “I didn’t know there was a cicada living nearby. He sang so loudly, I’m startled”

The mouse was also startled by the barking deer. The mouse ran and hit a pumpkin. The mouse bit the pumpkin’s stem. The pumpkin fell of its vine. It rolled and hit the banana tree. The banana tree shook. A flock of bats who were sucking the banana blossom pollen shuddered.  

The bats asked the pumpkin, “Why would you hit the banana tree?”

The pumpkin replied, “Please do not blame me. Go ask the mouse, the mouse bit my stem.”

The bats were startled, they flew into an elephant’s trunk. The elephant was so irritated; he danced around and hit the villagers’ huts with his trunk.

The villagers asked the elephant, “Why would you destroy our homes?”.

The elephant said, “Because the bats flew into my trunk, it’s very irritating. Please ask the bats to leave.”

The villagers were now blaming the bats.

The bats said, “Go blame the pumpkin.”

The villagers went to the pumpkin.

The pumpkin told the villagers to “Go blame the mouse.”

The villagers went to the mouse.

The mouse said, “Go blame the barking deer.”

The villagers went to the barking deer.

The barking deer told them, “The cicada caused all of the chaos.”

The villagers went to the cicada. Instead of apologizing, the cicada told the villagers that, “If you find it so troublesome, why don’t you take 3 pieces of my poo and steam for a meal?”

All of the animals and the people troubled by the chaos agreed that the cicada caused their trouble. The villagers punished the cicada by gouging out all of the cicada’s intestine.

This was why there is nothing left inside the cicada’s anal section.

Khwa Ta Sapa, the Tricky Man

Retold by Asapa Seemee and Somkid Saeju

Once upon a time, during sowing season. Farmers in a village gathered to help sowing rice in a neighbor’s field. The field’s owner asked one of the men named Khwa Ta Sapa to look out for the police.

He stressed, “You must yell if the police come around.”

At noon, the field’s owner was throwing a feast for the farmers who came to help him. There were many menus such as grilled pork, chili paste and spicy stir-fried minced pork etc. as well as liquor.

While everyone was about to start the meal, Khwa Ta Sapa yelled repeatedly, “The police are here. The police are here. The police are here. (Ta nu lau. Ta nu lau. Ta nu lau)”. Everyone was startled, they just ran and left the feast.

       Then, Khwa Ta Sapa collected all the food and liquor. He wrapped them well and buried them in different spots. Then he walked home.

On the way home, Khwa Ta Sapa met an old man. The old man was walking with a silver cane.

He asked the old man, “Where are you going, Apa?” (Apa means grandpa in Lisu.)

“Would you like anything to eat or drink, Apa? Would you like some water or meat or spicy stir-fried minced pork or rice?”

The old man mourned, “I’m very hungry.”

Khwa Ta Sapa asked again, “Why don’t you trade your silver cane with mine, Apa?”

The old man replied, “My cane is made of silver, yours is only wood.”

Khwa Ta Sapa then tricked the old man, “Apa, you will see which cane is better, mine or yours.”

He challenged the old man, “Try poking your cane to the ground, see if there’s any food underneath.” The old man did accordingly, and there was no food under the ground.

Khwa Ta Sapa asked the old man, “What would you like to eat, Apa? Would you like to eat some pork?”

Then he poked his wooden cane into the ground where he buried the grilled pork. And so they both found pork under the ground as wished. “See, Apa, how wonderful my cane is!”

Then Khwa Ta Sapa continued asking the old man, “Would you like some liquor?”

The old man said yes. So Khwa Ta Sapa poked his cane onto the ground where he had buried some liquor. They found the liquor ‘as wished’.

Then Khwa Ta Sapa challenged the old man, “Try it with your own cane. See it it’d work like mine”.

Of course it did not work. The old man decided to trade his silver cane with Khwa Ta Sapa’s wooden cane.

The old man then continued his journey with Khwa Ta Sapa’s wooden cane. When he became hungry, he poked Khwa Ta Sapa’s cane onto the ground. It did not matter how many times he tried at different spots, no food was found.

The old man finally starved to death.

Why Tigers Will Not Come Close to People

Retold by Akuemer Saeyang

       Once upon a time, a tiger came across a buffalo ploughing the paddy field.

The tiger asked out of curiosity, “You are a lot lager than human. You have big long horns. I wonder why you serve human.”

“You know what? Human are really smart and bright. They can defeat us with their intelligence.”, replied the buffalo.

“Are they really that smart?”, the tiger continued.

“Yes, they are very intelligent and efficient in so many ways”, the buffalo insisted.

“Right, could you please ask your human to teach me and share their intelligence?”, the tiger proposed.

       When the tiger met the man who kept the buffalo, he asked the man,

“Human, I heard from the buffalo how smart you are. Why don’t you teach me something? Share your intelligence with me.”

The man replied, “I left my intelligence at home today”.

The tiger insisted, “Please just go back home and bring it here. Show it to me.”

The man refused, “No, you might run before I get back.”

The tiger proposed, “If you want to make sure I will wait right here, why don’t you put me into a sack. Once I get in there, you can tie it”

The man asked, “Are you sure?”

The tiger confirmed, “Yes, I am sure.”

The man then put the tiger into a sack. He tied it close and hung it to a tree. Then the man told the tiger to wait, “Wait here. I am heading home to bring my intelligence.”

“Good”, the tiger replied from inside the sack.

       The man cut down a log and carved it on one side so he could handle it tightly. He walked back to the tree where he hung the tiger.

He said to the tiger, “Tiger, I am back. I have brought my intelligence.”

The tiger answered, “I heard you.”

Soon as the tiger finished his sentence, the man stroke the tiger around his forehead with the log 3 times, it made a loud noise, dtong, dtong, dtong.

And the man said, “Here is my intelligence”.

“Ouch, ouch, ouch”, the tiger screamed.

He pleaded, “Human, I beg of you, please don’t hit me anymore. It hurts so badly.”

The man asked, “What do you have to propose so I’d stop?”

The tiger replied, “During daytime, I promise to stay 3 mountains away from human. I will not let you see me. And during nighttime, I will be 6 meters away from human. Please release me and I will keep these promises. I have learned my lesson.”

       The man released the tiger and the tiger kept his promises.

       Lisu believe that Lisu who are ungrateful to their parents are sinners. Sinners will get to see the tiger’s stripe, meaning tigers will come near them. Others who are grateful to their parents are not sinners, so they will never come across any tiger or if they do, they will see tigers in red flesh and not their stripe.

How Dogs Came to Be Our Pets

Retold by Somkid Saeju

       Once upon a time, there was a free wild dog. One day he wanted to have a master who would feed him and give him shelter. 

       He decided to approach an elephant because she was enormous, she must be able to keep him under her care. The elephant let the dog stay. Late that night, the dog laid by the elephant. When the dog felt cautious of something around, he barked.

The elephant told him, “Don’t bark. You might attract the tiger.”

The dog then said to the elephant, “You are enormous, yet you are afraid of the tiger. Why should I call you my master?”

And so, the dog moved to live with the tiger. Then it barked out of cautiousness during the night just as when it lived with the elephant.

“Be quiet, if human heard us, they may attack and kill us.”, the tiger warned.

The dog said, straightforwardly, “You are a tiger and yet you are afraid of human beings. I do not see why I should call you my master. I’d better be with human”

       This was why dogs became our pets.

Tale of the Dog and the Rice Grain

Retold by Akuemer Saeyang and Asapa Seemee  

       Once upon a time, there was a household of a woman, her toddler and their pet dog. The mother was careless and unclean. One day the toddler pooed his pants. The careless mother wiped the child’s bottom with rice grain, then threw the grain into the water. Not only she wasted the rice grain, but she also disrespected the grain which is valued greatly by Lisu people.

God punished the woman for not seeing the rice grain’s worth by taking all of her rice grain. The woman cried because she had no rice left for her next meal. The dog also cried out of starvation.

The dog then went to see God and asked for some rice grain for his master as well as some cooked rice as a meal for himself. God gave the dog a rice meal and 3 rice grain to be carried on his tail.

Soon as the dog arrived home, his master took the grain from his tail to sow.

This was how Lisu had their rice which feed them until now. And so, Lisu would cook rice for dogs before themselves at their rice harvest season festival.

An Ignorant Husband and His Crafty Wife

Retold by Asapa Seemee and Somkid Saeju

       Once upon a time, there was a household of a couple and their small children.

One day, the wife told the husband, “You can’t just sit around, dear husband. You should go into the woods and hunt or set up a trap. I feel like eating some meat today. Perhaps, you’d get a barking deer from a trap.”

The husband asked the wife, “How do I set a trap?”

The wife suggested, “First you go cut down a bended joint. Then make a trap like those people use with wild boar.”

The husband grabbed a knife and head out.

       A little later in the day, the wife presumed the husband was working hard deep in the forest.

She told her children, “Your father is in the woods, he must be hungry when he gets back. We should cook some rice for him now.”

Suddenly, the wife heard a scream from the backyard. She rushed to see. She found her husband had been trying to make a trap in the backyard. And instead of cutting down a bended bamboo joint, he cut his own knee joint. He was bleeding all over.

The wife sighed, “Oh, husband, how could you be so dumb?” 

The husband replied, “How does one make a trap?”

The wife told him, “Go into the forest, not here. Go cut down a bended bamboo tree, not your own joint!”  

       Three days later, the husband’s wound had healed. Having learnt how to set a trap from his wife, he went into the woods. He was able to trap a barking deer, but he felt sorry for the deer and set it free.

When he came back home, his wife asked if he got anything back.

The husband said, “I got a barking deer, but I let it go. I felt sorry for it.”

His wife told him off, “You are so dumb. Meat is red and vegetable is green, don’t you know?”

The next day, the husband went into the forest again. This time, a monk on his pilgrimage fell into his trap. The husband assumed the Buddhist monk was meat for the color of his robe. He stroke the monk with a log and hit him again and again despite the monk’s plead and scream out of pain. Soon enough, the monk was killed. The husband carried the monk’s body home for his wife.

The wife shouted, “This was a man, not meat!”

The husband replied, “What? You told me meat is red and vegetable is green. This is meat, isn’t it?”

The couple then discussed a way out to get rid of the monk’s body. They made a coffin and put the body inside, then put the coffin at their back door.

Later that day, three fish merchants travelled by. They asked to stay the night at the couple’s home. The couple let them stay.

The wife firmly told the merchants, “Never open the coffin! We keep gold in there.”

The merchants promised they would not touch the coffin. But then late at night, they stole the coffin and left their fish casket behind. They believed the host really kept gold in the coffin. That much gold could make them rich.

The merchants opened the coffin after three days and found a monk’s dead body instead of gold. The body started to rot and smell.

This tale was how Lisu learned about women’s wit and craftiness.

Why Tigers Never Prey on Buffaloes

Retold by Luang Tamee and Somkid Saeju

       Once upon a time, there were a tiger and a rabbit who were close friends. One day, they went out together to set traps. Then came home to rest.

       Next day, the rabbit went out early to check the traps without the tiger. He found a crow in his trap and a barking deer in the tiger’s trap. The rabbit swopped the crow with the barking deer.

The tiger arrived a little later. They untied the dead crow and the dead barking deer.

The rabbit asked the tiger, “Dear friend, I cannot carry the barking deer all by myself. Please help me and I will share the meat with you.

So, the tiger helped the rabbit carry the barking deer home.

At home, as they were butchering the barking deer, the rabbit asked the tiger to get the water from the creek. The rabbit replaced a half of the barking deer with a big rock, then painted the rock with the deer blood to trick the tiger.

When the tiger came home, he asked the rabbit, “Dear friend, which piece between the two had more meat?”

The rabbit replied, “Try lift them up, which one is heavier that’s the one with more meat.”

The tiger did accordingly, he lifted both pieces of what he understood to be the barking deer meat. The blood-coated rock was a lot heavier, so he took the rock to cook.

No matter how much the rabbit ate, its share of the barking deer meat hardly seemed decreased. While the piece the tiger took could never be cooked, no matter how long it was boiled. The tiger could not even bite the meat.

He asked the rabbit, “Dear friend, how come my meat is not cooked yet?”

The rabbit answered, “Friend, you mustn’t have boiled it long enough or perhaps the fire is not enough. Keep on boiling. Leave the fire on.”

Then the tiger said, “I am very hungry now. What should I do?”

The rabbit suggested, “I have grilled my tail for a meal before. Why don’t you try grill your tail for a meal?”

The tiger said, “I’m afraid it would be painful.”

The rabbit said, “Come here, I can help you cut your tail.”

And the rabbit suddenly cut the tiger’s tail.

“Ouch, that hurts!”, the tiger screamed.

The rabbit threw the tiger’s tail at the tiger, “There you go! Grill it.”

One day, the rabbit and the tiger agreed to migrate. They cut lalang grass to build a roof for their new home. Once they finished cutting the grass, the rabbit asked the tiger to carry it all,

“Please help. The grass is too heavy for me.”

The tiger helped as usual.

       While the tiger carrying the grass on its back, the rabbit set fire to the grass. The fire burnt the tiger. He tried to get rid of the grass, but he could not. The rabbit told him to run up the mountain. So, he ran, but it did not matter how far up the mountain he ran, the fire would not be put out.

       The tiger ran into a horse. The horse told him to run to the horse’s field. The tiger ran to the horse’s field, but the fire would not be put out.

       The tiger kept going anyway. He ran into a buffalo. The buffalo suggested that the tiger dip himself in a muddy swamp to put out the fire. And so, the fire on the tiger’s back was successfully put out.

       Lisu people believe this story was the reason why tigers would not attack buffaloes.

How Banyan Trees Came to Have Aerial Roots

Retold by Somkid Saeju and Asapa Seemee

       Once upon a time, there were six young men. Five of them practiced magic. The five were good friends. The other young man was an outcast. He was an orphan and he did not know magic.

       One day, the six went hunting in the forest together. They hunted for 2 days and the orphan’s food was running out. He asked the other men to share some food with him. Not only they would not share food, they would not even let him share their sleeping space. The orphan decided to head back home by himself.

       The sun set before he reached home, so he found a banyan tree where he could rest for the night. He asked for the tree’s permission before he lay down.

       That night, the other men slept under another banyan tree. They did not ask for the tree’s permission. They thought their incantation would protect them from all harms in the forest.

There were a group of ghosts residing inside the banyan tree where the 5 men were lying and there was a ghost residing inside the banyan tree where the orphan was lying.

At midnight, the group of ghosts from the banyan tree where the 5 men were, came to the banyan tree where the orphan was resting.

“There are 5 deer lying under our tree. Please come join the feast and eat them with us.”

They meant the 5 men.

“I cannot go out. I have a guest tonight.”, The ghost at the banyan tree where the orphan was lying replied.

“Who is your guest?”, asked the group of ghosts.

The ghost pointed at the orphan, “This man. He asked to sleep here. I am not certain if he would really sleep here. He’s taken off one shoe, but left the other on. Please enjoy your deer feast without me. I cannot leave my guest. I must take care of him as a host.”

And so, the group of ghosts went back to their banyan tree.

       An hour later, the group of ghosts were about to start the feast. They could not tear or bite any part of the 5 men at all. They went to seek advice from the ghost at the other banyan tree.

“We cannot eat the 5 deer. They have knives, axes and magic.”

“You should make sound of chirping birds or crowing roosters.” The ghost suggested.

       The group of ghosts went back to their banyan tree. They made chirping birds sound. When the men heard the sound, they thought there were birds for them to shoot. They stopped chanting the incantation. Now the ghosts could attack them and ate them all.

       In the morning, there was human flesh hanging all over the banyan tree branches.

       Moral of the tale is for people to be respectful to the places they visit, especially the nature.

It is believed the human flesh hanging out the banyan tree branches became the aerial roots.

The Importance of the Naming Ceremony

Retold by Somkid Saeju

       Once upon a time, a baby was born in a village. The ghosts in the cemetery wanted to join the naming ceremony.

A ghost asked the other ghosts, “A baby is born in that village. We should join the celebration and help naming the baby.”

One of the ghosts said, “I have guests today. I cannot join you. Please head to the party without me.”

       Except for the ghost who had guests, all the other cemeterial ghosts went to the newborn’s home. They came back to the cemetery all too quickly.

Soon as the ghost who did not leave saw his friends, he asked, “How was it?”

The other ghosts sighed and replied, “We arrived too late. The tiger had already named the baby.”

The ghost who did not leave asked, “When did the tiger say he’d come get the child?”

The other ghosts answered, “As soon as he is old enough to do carpentry, making the first food tray for his livestock.”

       Time passed, that baby grew into a young man. One day he went into the woods with his father. They cut down a tree to make food trays for their pigs. While the young man was shaving the wood, the tiger was gazing nearby, getting ready to attack.

       The father saw the tiger trying to attack his son. He shot the tiger. The tiger died in an instance. The father told the son to sit on the tiger’s body.

He said, “You will live long now, son.”

The young man stroked the tiger. His finger was accidentally cut by the tiger’s whisker.

       This tale is related to Lisu’s newborn naming ceremony, ‘Sha Chua Duea’. It must be arranged within 3 – 7 days after birth. Lisu people believe that if we do not name babies in time, tigers would name them first. And their lives would end too soon, just as the young man in this tale.

       In case a family cannot organize ‘Sha Chua Duea’ in time, the family must mark the baby’s forehead with the soot from the pot as a sign to protect the baby from beasts and bad spirits.

The Dead’s Treasure

Retold by Nareema Maewpa

       Once upon a time, there was a woman named Samathuma. She was known for her stinginess. She was never married, so when she passed away, traditionally, her relatives were responsible for her funeral.

       One of her nephews asked a man in the village to help him carry Samathuma’s body to the graveyard. The man agreed to help without asking for anything in return. This man was Samathuma’s age and traditionally, her nephews called him uncle even though they were not related.

       Samathuma’s other nephew who hosted the funeral grabbed one of Samathuma’s Indian rupee coins to reward the man for his generosity.

“Uncle, please take this Indian rupee coin as a token of our family’s gratitude.”

The Indian rupee coin was rather big, it got in the way of carrying the body. The man put it into a bamboo tube.

After the funeral, he brought the bamboo tube with the Indian rupee coin home.

At night, the Indian rupee coin kept rolling inside of the bamboo tube on its own. The noise was very disturbing that it kept him awake. The coin was rolling for 3 continuous nights. The morning after the third night, the man decided to return the Indian rupee coin to Samathuma’s nephew. The nephew put it into the earthen jar with the rest of Samathuma’s treasure buried next to Samathuma’s body.

       A month later, a visitor came to the man’s home.

This visitor asked, “Please tell me where you buried Samathuma’s body. I want to dig up the treasure.”

The man who helped bury the body refused to give the location of the body and the treasure.

He also warned the greedy man, “Do not trouble yourself. Her nephew gave me only one Indian rupee coin and she came to ask for the coin back for 3 continuous nights. The coin was rolling on its own inside the bamboo tube, it kept me awake.”

The greedy man insisted, “I am not scared.”

The man finally told the greedy man where Samathuma’s body was buried.

       The greedy man went to dig up the treasure jar. He could not find it at first because Samathuma’s relatives had moved it to the other side of her body. Then when he found the right spot, the more he dug, the deeper it sank into the ground. He tried harder and he could finally dig up the treasure jar. He carried the jar full of treasure back home with delight.

Soon enough, all of the greedy man’s daughters passed away one by one.  His older sister fell into chronic illness. It is believed all the unfortunate events happened to the greedy man’s family was because he stole the dead’s treasure. And since he would not return the treasure even after one bad incident had taken place, the bad events continued.

Two Orphan Brothers and the Monkeys

Two Orphan Brothers and the Monkeys

Retold by Asapa Seemee


Once upon a time, there were two orphaned brothers. The older brother got married and brought his wife into their house. The older brother and his wife did not feed the younger brother. They had him working in the fields all day without a meal. The younger brother picked some beans in the field to stay alive.

One day, the younger brother had too many beans; he felt bloated, so he took a nap in the field house. A troop of monkeys passed by and saw him. One monkey said “Hey, there’s a dead man here.”

The monkeys thought they should do something with the man they understood to be a dead body. “Let’s tie up the dead body and carry it out of the field house”, so they tied him up first. While tying the body, one of the monkeys sniffed at the man’s nose just when the man burped “urp”, and that monkey said “Oh, this body is swollen. It’s already swollen!”

He sniffed once more, and the man burped “urp” again. The monkey said “The body is rotten. It’s already rotten!”

Then the monkeys divided the work to cut down some bamboo to make a stretcher. They made the stretcher, then tied the body to the stretcher and carried it into a cave. 

  The monkeys arranged a funeral for the man in the cave. They called two yellow-cheeked tree shrew shamans to perform a spirit ceremony. 

They chanted in ritual language “Kku tae, kku tae” and then “You get you eat, I get I eat.” One of the monkeys disliked the words of the chanting. He said that the shamans were not skillful at doing the ceremony, and he slapped the tree shrew shamans in the face. Then the two shamans ran away.

The monkeys then asked a black giant squirrel shaman named Hae-be Ma Ka to lead the ceremony instead. 

The black giant squirrel shaman made the sound “Khwe khwe.” One of the monkeys hated the sound of the chanting. He said that the shaman was not skillful at doing the ceremony. He knocked the shaman’s head with his knuckle so hard that it swelled. The black giant squirrel shaman also ran away.

Then the monkeys asked a dwarf squirrel shaman to lead the ceremony. This squirrel chanted in his language Hae shae su que thue ma mue mew lu ja mue” (The large squirrel does not get a wooden hole pierced, tell the spirits’ customs).

Suddenly the sleeping man woke up and shouted out “Boo!” The monkey troop was startled and ran away. The man got up, looked around and the cave was full of glittering lights. When he went and looked, he saw that the glitter turned out to be glittering silver and gold bowls. He filled up his big bag with the valuable things. Then he returned home to his older brother and his sister-in-law. 

As soon as the older brother saw him with all the valuable bowls, he quickly asked “Oh younger brother, where did you get all these treasures?”

The younger brother said with a sigh “Eh, I have no father, I have no mother, only my older brother and my sister-in-law. After going to the field and the stream, I was then carried into the forest and into a cave by a troop of monkeys, and I got these things there and brought them back.”

After the older brother heard, he said he would do as his brother had done. He went to the field, ate some beans and laid down in the field house. While he was lying down, the troop of monkeys came and carried him away into the cave. 

When they reached the cave, the older brother opened his eyes a bit and looked; when he saw a troop of monkeys and a very dark cave, he was startled and ran out. However, he fell into another cave.  

In that other cave, a tigress who had just had babies lived. She was about to jump and grab him. When the older brother said “Please don’t eat me yet, I am not yet plump”, the tigress said “I will bite you, I will eat you.” The older brother begged again and the tigress did not jump to grab him.

The older brother built a fence of bamboo spikes around himself. When he finished putting up the fence, he told the tigress “Tigress, you can eat me now.”

Intending to eat him, the tigress jumped to grab the man. The bamboo spikes pierced her body and she died. 

The older brother went home and told his younger brother what happened, saying “I almost died in the claws of a tiger.” Then the older brother said “From today on I will not bully you, my younger brother.”

Father-in-Law and Son-in-Law

Father-in-Law and Son-in-Law

Retold by Asapa Seemee


Once upon a time, there were a father-in-law and a son-in-law who had a corn field. They kept their corn in the field house. One day, a problem occurred.

The father-in-law told the son-in-law “Son, we must do something, we can’t rest.” The son-in-law asked “Why, father?”

The father-in-law replied “The monkeys have been eating the corn and have almost finished it. We must wake up early tomorrow morning, sharpen our knives and build a fence around our field to keep the monkeys out.”

At dawn, the son-in-law sharpened the knives as his father-in-law said, and the two went together. While walking towards the field, the father-in-law told the son-in-law “Once we reach the field, whatever I do, you must do the same. Don’t answer!”

At the field, they cut down bamboo trees to make the fence. As they were whittling the bamboo, a splinter went into the father-in-law’s eye. He went to his son-in-law, then widened his eye to show the son-in-law to help get the splinter out. The son-in-law remembered his father-in-law’s words that he must do as his father-in-law did, so he stayed silent. 

The father-in-law was upset, he spit “Thuy!”

The son-in-law followed his father-in-law’s order by spitting back “Thuy!” 

The father-in-law became even more furious. He was speechless and told the son-in-law it was time to go home.

Once they reached home, the father-in-law asked the son-in-law “I only wanted you to take the splinter out of my eye but you spat at me. Why did you do that?”

The son-in-law replied “Father, you told me to do everything that you did. I wouldn’t dare answer back to my father!”

A Dishonest Man

 A Dishonest Man  

Retold by Luang Tamee


Once upon a time, there were two men named Hwacasapa and Talicipa. They went to steal, kill and eat a buffalo. Hwcasapa thought Talicipa was not as smart as him. He made Talicipa watch a buffalo that was tied to a stump while he looked out on the path. They said to each other that if the buffalo’s owner returned to his buffalo, Hwcasapa would hit tied bunches of grass to let him know.

Hwcasapa was really dishonest and planned to hit the bunches of grass when the owner was not returning, so that Talicipa would jump up and run away. He thought that he would have the whole buffalo for himself to eat. 

When the time came, Talicipa heard the sound of the grass bundles being hit. Talicipa said nothing and carried the buffalo to his house, then killed, butchered, cooked and ate it.

Talicipa got revenge on the dishonest Hwcasapa, he took only discarded meat, put a little bit it in a bowl and gave it to him.

The Orphan and the Pumpkin Seeds

The Orphan and the Pumpkin Seeds 

Retold by Somkid Saeju


Once upon a time, there was an orphan boy who lived together with a father, a mother and their son. One day, the parents told the orphaned boy and their son to go to the field and plant pumpkin seeds, they told them “Don’t come home until the pumpkin seeds that you plant have sprouted.”

The parents gave unroasted pumpkin seeds to their child and gave roasted pumpkin seeds to the orphaned boy. The two went together to the field

The two boys walked to the field together. Halfway along the path, the couple’s child smelled the good-smelling roasted seeds that the orphan was carrying, and said that they should swap the orphan’s seeds and his. The orphan swapped, exactly as he was asked. 

After the boys planted the pumpkin seeds, the orphan’s pumpkin seeds sprouted, but the ones planted by the son really would not sprout. And so the son could not go home, but the orphan could go home.

The Dishonest Rabbit

The Dishonest Rabbit

Retold by Asapa Seemee


Once upon a time, there was a dishonest rabbit and a dragon whose brain was not clever. 

One day, the rabbit asked the dragon “Dragon, what are you doing? Did you go to the Dragon Pond?”

  The dragon answered “No, I have never seen the Dragon Pond.”

The rabbit continued “I saw the Dragon Pond. The water was green and clear. It seems good to wash in.”

The dragon asked “Where is this Dragon Pond? Please take me there.” The rabbit said “I will be able to take you there. But dragon, I can’t walk well, please let me ride on your back.” Then the rabbit again said “I can’t walk well, please let me ride on your back. I should take you to the Dragon Pond.”

The dragon shouted “Please ride, come up and ride on my back.” The rabbit jumped up onto the dragon’s back. The rabbit took the dragon all over the mountains and mountain tops, but they did not see the Dragon Pond.

The dragon asked the rabbit “Now, where is this Dragon Pond?”

The rabbit tricked the dragon and said “Stay here, I will walk around there. I’ve forgotten where the pond is.”

Now that the rabbit had ridden enough on the dragon’s back, it had to find a way to run from the dragon. The rabbit went and hid under a bush, but the dragon found it. Because it had ridden on the dragon’s back for a long time, the dragon was furious. The dragon saw the rabbit, put the rabbit in its mouth and said this: “You fooled me. You tricked me to have a ride on my back. I will make you do things correctly!”

  The rabbit said “If you punish me, you’ll never see the Dragon Pond; if you open your mouth, you can see the Dragon Pond.” 

The dragon believed him and opened his mouth, and the rabbit got the chance to jump out and go away and the dragon could not see it. After the rabbit escaped from the dragon, the dragon searched for him but could not find him, and was very angry. Wherever he looked, he did not see it, and in his heart he thought “When I see the rabbit, I will eat it.” 

The dragon then hid behind a field house, waiting for the rabbit to come. When the rabbit came near the field house, the rabbit said, “Field house, field house, field house.” The rabbit thought that there must be something around the field house.

Then suddenly it heard the sound of a reply “What is it?” The rabbit realized it was the dragon’s voice, jumped and ran away. Again this time, the dragon could not catch the rabbit.

Then the dragon hid beside a stream, waiting for the rabbit. When the rabbit reached the stream, it said “Stream, stream, stream” and then thought “I think there is something at this stream.” 

Then the dragon said “What?” The rabbit jumped and ran away again. The same as the last time, the dragon could not catch it.

The rabbit then jumped into a mustard green patch. It was the season when the yellow mustard green flowers bloomed and were about to fall. When the rabbit jumped out of the mustard green field, its entire body was yellow, and the dragon saw it.

The dragon said “I see you! Today you will die.”

The rabbit replied “What are you going to do to me? What have I done to you?”

The dragon said “You tricked me and rode on my back, that is what you did!”

The rabbit replied “That wasn’t me. I don’t know anything about that.”

The dragon asked “Wasn’t it you? It was!”

The rabbit asked “It wasn’t me. Can you please try to tell me what that rabbit looked like?”

The dragon described the rabbit: “It was white with ears this long.”

The rabbit quickly replied “Hey, look at me. I’m yellow, aren’t I? I’m not the rabbit who rode on your back, do you see?”

The dragon stopped and thought and then let the rabbit go.

The dragon then hid at a bridge, waiting for the rabbit. When the rabbit came near the bridge, it said ‘Bridge, bridge, bridge.” 

This time the dragon was clever, and did not reply. He stayed silent and caught the rabbit. He put the rabbit in his mouth like the first time. While the rabbit was in the dragon’s mouth, the rabbit said “Oh, here in this hole it’s nice and warm.”

The dragon heard and opened his mouth, then the rabbit jumped out and ran away. The dragon could not catch it.

After escaping from the dragon, the rabbit saw a tiger. The dishonest rabbit was clever and called to the tiger “Oh tiger, oh tiger, oh tiger.” When it said to the tiger “Let’s go gather wild nuts to eat,” the tiger wanted to go and the two of them went to collect wild nuts to eat.

When they reached the wild nut tree, they collected and piled up the wild nuts. The tiger asked “What should we do with the wild nuts?” The rabbit said “Hoe the ground and bury them. Hoe around the fire and bury them.” 

The tiger asked “After we bury them, what do we do next?” 

The rabbit said “I will tell you what to do next.”

The rabbit went away from the fire. It saw the tiger’s eyes getting red. The rabbit said a spell, and soon the heated wild nuts buried around the fire burst. They burst with the sound “Tong” and blinded both the tiger’s eyes.

The tiger shouted and begged “Rabbit, I am blind now. Please go and get some medicine for me!”

The rabbit did what the tiger asked and went to God for medicine. God told him “Mix Ageuca vine with milk and put it in the eyes, and they will get better.” The rabbit learned the medicine recipe and went back to the tiger.

The tiger quickly asked “What did God say?”

The rabbit told it “God said you must mix pounded chili with salt and smear it on your eyes.” The tiger believed the rabbit, made it and smeared it on. The tiger roared loudly in pain. The rabbit saw the tiger scratching and vomiting, and jumped away.

The tiger was very angry. It hid under a bridge, hiding until the rabbit came, when it would bite it and kill it. While it was hiding, God met it. The tiger asked God “God, did the rabbit come to get medicine from you a few days ago? God, what did you tell it?”

God replied “I told the rabbit to mix Ageuca vine with milk and put it in the eyes, and they will get better.”

The tiger said to God “But the rabbit told me to mix chili powder with salt and smear it on my eyes.”

 When the tiger said this, the rabbit was under the bridge and heard the tiger curse the rabbit: “Let the rabbit give birth only once in nine years! And let her eat all her babies!”

Then the rabbit jumped out from where it was hidden and said “Hey! Tiger!” to the tiger.  

The tiger was startled and said “What? What?”

The rabbit cursed the tiger: “Give birth only once in nine years. And eat all of your cubs.”

Since then, when that tiger gave birth, she ate all of her cubs.

A Stupid Father

A Stupid Father

Retold by Asapa Seemee


Once upon a time, there was a boy who became ill. No matter what medicine they made, he could not be cured. The boy finally passed away. The neighbors heard and came to the house to help with the burial. The boy’s father wrapped his son’s body in bamboo boards. Along with the villagers, he carried the body away.

The bamboo boards were slippery. The boy’s body slid out of the bamboo boards and fell on the way. The body slipped out in front of someone else’s rice mortar. The father and the neighbors did not notice. They kept on walking and buried the bamboo boards. Then they went back to the village.

While going home, the boy’s father saw his wife sitting in front of someone else’s rice mortar, crying. He consoled his wife “Don’t cry, hey, even the child of this rice mortar can be dead. It is not only our child who died!”

He did not know that this was the body of his son that had slipped out and fallen down in front of the rice mortar. After he looked carefully, he realized that it was his son. He then asked the neighbors and they buried him again. 

The Girl Weaving on the Moon

The Girl Weaving on the Moon 

Retold by Somkid Saeju


Once upon a time, there was an old lady living with her grandchildren, a boy and a girl. One day the old woman went to hoe and weed in the field. She came home and told her grandchildren “Tomorrow morning you two go and chase the birds from the field.” 

Next morning, the grandchildren went to the field as their grandmother told them. When they reached the field, they shouted at the birds “Shrr Shrr” and there was a sound “Shhrr Shhrr” coming from the side of the stream at the bottom of the field.  When they shouted “Woo, woo”, the sound “Woo, woo” came back again.  

The children came home and told their grandmother “Grandmother, we shouted “Shhrr Shhrr” and someone shouted back from down there at the bottom of the field. Then we shouted “Woo, woo”, and someone shouted back again.” 

The grandmother replied “I don’t believe you. Maybe you two want to trick me and eat the two rice cakes that I have hidden.” Then she gave her grandchildren the two rice cakes.

The next day, the two children went to the field to chase away the birds again, and the same thing happened as the day before. Someone answered their shouts from down there at the bottom of the field. 

They told their grandmother when they came home “Grandmother, the same thing happened as yesterday! Someone shouted back from down there at the bottom of the field again.” The old woman asked her grandchildren “Is that really true? Let’s see. I will go to the field myself. You two stay home.”

At dawn, the old woman grabbed a large basket and took a very long rope and put it in, then headed to the field. When she reached the field, she stretched the rope down to the bottom of the field and shouted “If you are here with good will, please climb up the rope; if you are here with ill will, please go away.”

The Pishi (cannibal female spirit, Bia Chuma) climbed up the rope. The spirit had long hair and such big breasts that she could carry them on her shoulder. 

Once the spirit reached the old woman, she said “Shall we help each other get the lice out of our hair?” 

The old woman started with the Pishi’s hair first. The spirit had a lot of huge lice in her hair. Every time the old woman found one, the spirit would eat it.

The old woman finished with the Pishi’s hair. Now it was the spirit’s turn to get the lice out of the old woman’s hair. The Pishi pretended to search for lice in the old woman’s hair while she was actually biting and eating the old woman’s head; blood poured down. The old woman asked the Pishi “Pishi, why is there blood coming down over my shoulder?” The Pishi answered “Oh, that’s the betel nut juice I’m chewing.”

Not long afterward, a group of hunters passed by the field. One of them shouted “Old lady, the Pishi is eating your head.” As soon as the hunter finished his sentence, the Pishi ate the old woman completely.

The Pishi put on the old woman’s clothes, picked up and carried her basket and went to the old woman’s house. When she got there, she knocked on the door.

The grandchildren asked “Who is it?”

The Pishi replied “Your grandmother.” The grandchildren opened the door and saw an old woman they had never seen, a person with a very ugly face. They said to her “You are not our grandmother. Our grandmother doesn’t look like you.” 

The Pishi asked “What does your grandmother look like?” 

The two children replied “Our grandmother’s hair isn’t so long. And her breasts aren’t as big and flabby as yours.”

The Pishi asked “How long is your grandmother’s hair? How big are your grandmother’s breasts?”

The two children answered “Our grandmother’s hair is short and her breasts are small and not flabby.”

The Pishi went out and sliced off her breasts and fed them to the fish so they became small. She also cut off her hair, then went back to the old woman’s house, knocked on the door and shouted “Grandchildren, open the door!”

The granddaughter replied “We won’t open the door for you. You are not our grandmother.”

The Pishi ghost asked “What does your grandmother do?”

The granddaughter said “When grandmother comes home she brings a large basket full of firewood, puts the load down and after she says “Hui” she tells us to open the door.”

The Pishi carried the large basket away, put in a full load of firewood, brought it back to the old woman’s house and put the load down. When she reached the door, she put down the basket and shouted out to the granddaughter “Granddaughter, open the door.” This time the granddaughter opened the door and the Pishi came into the house. 

Once the Pishi got in the house, she told them “Granddaughter, tonight put some drinking water on the headrest and some wild fruit on both the headrest and at the foot of the bed.  Grandson, please wash and come sleep with me. Granddaughter, you can sleep on the other side of the house.” 

A short time after they went to bed, the Pishi got up and started biting the boy’s neck, sucking his blood. The blood sucking made a “Slurp, slurp” noise.

The granddaughter was surprised and asked “Grandmother, what are you doing?”

The Pishi answered “I woke up and am drinking some water.” 

The girl kept listening. It was eating the grandson’s flesh, making a sound “Smack, smack.”

The granddaughter asked “What are you eating, grandmother?”

The Pishi answered “I’m having some fruit before dawn.”

The granddaughter asked “Grandmother, can I please have some?” The Pishi gave her younger brother’s thumb. The girl ate it; after that, they both went back to sleep.

The girl got up at dawn to start the fire, cook the rice and sweep the floor, then the Pishi got up.   

The spirit pointed to one direction and asked “My stomach hurts (I need to go to the bathroom). Can I go there?” The granddaughter replied “No, you cannot. That’s where we weave.”

The Pishi pointed to another direction and asked “What about that way?”

The girl replied “No, you cannot. That’s where we forge the knives.”

The Pishi asked “So where can I go?”

The girl brought out a big roll of rope. She let it roll out and told the Pishi “Follow this rope and go to the bathroom where it ends.”

When the Pishi had gone, the girl had a chance to check up on her younger brother. He had been eaten up completely, only his bones were down there on the floor.

To get away from the Pishi, the granddaughter climbed to the top of a tree and was weaving. When the Pishi came back from going to the bathroom, she looked for the granddaughter. The Pishi saw the granddaughter weaving at the top of a tree, the spirit also tried to climb the tree but could not. 

The Pishi asked the girl “How did you climb up there?”

The granddaughter said “Spit and blow your nose, then wipe the tree with your saliva and your mucus. That way you will probably be able to climb the tree.”

The spirit did as she suggested but could only climb with difficulty. However, the Pishi climbed up the tree until she almost reached the granddaughter. The granddaughter then told the Pishi “Grandmother, can you get the spear that grandfather made? Can you heat the tip in fire and bring it up here with you?”

The Pishi did everything the girl told her to. After the Pishi heated the spear until the tip was red, she brought it to the granddaughter. She told the Pishi “Grandmother, close your eyes and keep your mouth wide open while slowly climbing up.”

The Pishi shut her eyes and opened her mouth very wide while slowly climbing up the tree to the girl. When she had almost reached the granddaughter, she grabbed the spear from her hands and tried to stab it into the spirit’s mouth, but she missed.

The Pishi said “Careful, you almost stabbed me in the mouth.” 

The granddaughter said to the Pishi “Grandmother, please heat the spear again.”

The Pishi carried the spear and reheated the tip and brought it. This time, the granddaughter would be more careful and aim the spear correctly. 

She told the Pishi “You can come up. Close your eyes and open your mouth like last time.”

The Pishi shut her eyes and opened her mouth very wide while she climbed up the tree to the granddaughter. When she had almost reached the girl, the girl grabbed the spear and threw it straight into the Pishi’s mouth. The Pishi fell to the ground, and the ground around the tree became a big pond. 

When the granddaughter realized that she could not come down from the tree because of the pond, she called a frog. “Oh Frog, please help and drink the water.” The frog drank most of the water. Then the frog asked the granddaughter for a needle. After she gave him the needle, he pierced his belly, the water came out and the pond was full again.

The granddaughter, who now had no relatives left, asked the moon for help. She asked “Moon, please help drink up all the water in the pond.” The moon drank all the water, then pulled out the tree where the girl was sitting and weaving, carried it and planted it up there on the moon. Now the girl had no worries, so she came down from the tree and is weaving under the tree.

So now, when we look at the moon, we see an orphan girl weaving under a tree.

The Mother and Her Baby Monkey

The Mother and Her Baby Monkey 

Retold by Luang Tamee


Once upon a time, a woman married a monkey. They had a child together who was a monkey. Not long after the infant was born, the woman’s parents came to visit her and their grandson. The woman did not want her parents to see that her baby was a monkey, so she hid the baby in the bedroom. 

One day, the woman went to visit her parents at their home. 

Her parents asked her “Where is our grandson?” 

“He was asleep, so I didn’t bring him”, the woman replied.

When she went back to her village, her younger brother thought it was strange and followed his older sister back to her village. When she reached home, she went in to her baby and brought him out to play in front of the house.

She said to her child “Your grandmother doesn’t get to see, your grandfather doesn’t get to see.” 

The younger brother came out from hiding and shouted “Hey” to his sister. The woman was startled and let go of the baby monkey, which fell down off the cliff and died.

Hairy Caterpillar Stepfather

Hairy Caterpillar Stepfather 

Retold by Narima Maewpa


Once upon a time, there was a widow. This widow had a daughter who had already married and moved away. After her daughter was gone, the widow remarried. Her new husband was a hairy caterpillar. The daughter was informed of her mother’s marriage, but she had not yet learned that her stepfather was a caterpillar instead of a man.

One day, the daughter came home to visit her mother. The caterpillar had gone out to the field in the early morning. He had not brought lunch. So the mother told her daughter to feed him lunch when he came back.

She said “Daughter, your stepfather has been ploughing the field since early morning. He must be hungry by now. Please take him lunch.”

The daughter carried lunch to the field, and when she reached it she called out to her stepfather “Oh father, oh father, oh father.”

The caterpillar replied with the caterpillar’s sound “Tsi, tsi, tsi.”

The daughter was annoyed by the caterpillar’s sound, so she crushed the caterpillar to death. Then she brought lunch home.

When she got to her mother’s house, the mother asked “Why did you bring lunch back?”

The daughter answered “Mother, I called out for stepfather, but I didn’t see him anywhere. I called ‘father’, but I only heard a caterpillar’s ‘tsi’ sound, so I crushed the caterpillar to death.”

The mother was shocked. She said “Don’t you know that he was your stepfather? Wait at home, I will go and look. And you mustn’t open this wooden box.”

After the mother had gone out, the daughter wanted to know what was in the wooden box and opened it to look. It was full of a lot of baby hairy caterpillars. She poured boiling water onto the baby caterpillars in the box until they all died. 

The mother saw the caterpillar’s dead body in the field. She cried all the way back home. When she got home, she saw that her daughter had killed all her baby caterpillars with boiling water so she could not raise them.

The Wife Who Rose from Death

The Wife Who Rose from Death

Retold by Narima Maewpa 


Once upon a time, there was a married couple. One day, the husband travelled outside the village for some work. His wife died while he was away.    

The neighbors organized the funeral and the burial. Three days after the burial, the wife rose from death. She came home to work in the house as usual. The husband returned the same day. The wife even helped with the husband’s chores. The husband had not learned of his wife’s death, so he lived with his wife happily as it always had been.

The husband noticed something after a while. He said to his wife “Some days, you look green and some days you look beautiful.” The wife did not respond.

Many days later, one of the neighbors had a chance to tell the husband            

“Your wife passed away. She rose from death to be with you.” The husband did not believe the neighbor, he argued “That can’t be true. My wife is still alive. She cleans the house, does the laundry, makes meals and feeds me every day.” 

Four or five days later, another neighbor approached him, suggesting “Your wife is really dead. Look at your wife carefully. She really rose from death to be with you.”

After that, the husband started to observe his wife. One day, during a meal, he noticed something and said to her “There’s a maggot coming out of your nose.” The wife answered “No, that’s just some mucus.” 

After this bad incident, the husband, who now believed his neighbors, planned to run away from his dead wife. He asked his wife to fetch water. He thought he would have time to run away, but soon the wife came back.

The husband went to a neighbor. The neighbor gave him the advice “Chop down some bamboo and make bamboo tubes with holes in the bottom and ask your wife to fetch water again.” 

The husband followed the neighbor’s advice, and when he got a chance to flee, he rode a horse away from the village. 

A neighbor suggested “Wherever you reach at dusk, find a hollow in a tree. Go in and shut the hollow with a stone and sleep.”

That whole night until dawn, his dead wife was in front of the hollow licking the stone. When dawn came, the husband looked and saw that she had licked the stone until it was as thin as an eggshell. The husband realized that he had escaped from his wife.

There Is a Lunar Eclipse Tonight

There Is a Lunar Eclipse Tonight 

Retold by Asapa Seemee


Once upon a time, it was believed that whenever someone passed away in the village, if anyone said “There is an eclipse of the moon tonight”, the corpse would awaken and eat people. And so it was forbidden to talk about a lunar eclipse when someone had just died.

One day, an old man passed away. Traditionally, Lisu people would keep a dead body inside the deceased’s own house and have a person watch over the body for three nights before the funeral. Since people believed dead bodies could awaken and eat the living, no one wanted to keep an eye on this old man’s body during the three nights, except for an opium addict. He said he would watch over the body during the first night for a payment. The villagers collected Indian rupee coins from each household to pay him the morning after the first night. They even prepared a bucket of liquor for him as a tip.

In the evening of the first night, when the man was already at the deceased’s house, a villager shouted carelessly “There is a lunar eclipse tonight.” As soon as that neighbor finished his sentence, the corpse got up. The watcher poured some liquor into the dead body’s mouth so the dead man would be drunk and fall back to sleep.  

The next morning, the man received his payment and a bucket of liquor as a tip.

Another opium addict heard about this, he wanted to be paid too. So he asked for the job on the second night. This man was different from the first man. He feared the dead. 

That night, the corpse got up again. The new watcher gave the corpse some opium. The dead man smoked opium for a long while, but he would not lie down. The addict got scared, he started to run. He did not reach the door before the dead man bit him to death.

This is why Lisu people still believe today that a dead body must be watched over very carefully. Additionally, a corpse must be kept away from cats, because it is believed that the dead body would revive if a cat jumped over it.

The Zombie Brother

The Zombie Brother 

Retold by Asapa Seemee


Once upon a time, there were two brothers. One day, they went into the forest to pick fruit. Around noon, they found a tree with fruits looking like betel nuts. The younger brother climbed up to pick the fruit. The older brother stood under the tree to collect the fruit into a large basket. When they had enough fruit, the younger brother saw this and climbed down. 

While climbing down, the younger brother stepped on a weak branch. He fell from the tree hard and died instantly.

The older brother was shocked. He did not know what to do with his brother’s corpse. He set up a fire by his brother’s body and sat down to think. He feared that the brother would become a zombie and stand up and want to run away. After a while he brought some sticks. He hammered them into the corpse’s legs, waist and neck to fix it to the ground, then he ran home.

When the man was about to reach home, he saw his younger brother’s body was chasing him to eat him. The older brother shouted to his family to open the door for him and ran inside. The zombie stayed outside because it was taller than the door and zombies cannot bend. 

The next morning, the villagers helped with the burial ceremony according to Lisu tradition. After that, the younger brother’s body, which had become a zombie, was never seen again.

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