Folktales of NE: The mythical giant serpent ‘U Thlen’, the first act of keeping it and the question. Is it more than a superstition?

Folktales of NE: The mythical giant serpent ‘U Thlen’, the first act of keeping it and the question. Is it more than a superstition?

This legend continues to be a part of most Khasi households, even today. It is regarded as a superstition and yet truth and no one could be absolutely certain. A great majority of Khasis believe in the story while some have rubbished it as a mere tale of old.

It is said that Khasi folklore records the story of a particular mythical serpent known as ‘U Thlen’ or the giant snake. The origin of this lore can be traced to the province of Sohra. The Dainthlen falls and the area which was said to be the place where the snake was killed and subsequently revived further  provides a dimension of reality to the lore.

The lore begins with the ancient village Langhiang Kongkhen now recognised as the modern day Cherrapunji. It is said that the village was known for its markets and people from all around the province would make their way there on the market days.

The route to the market also serves as the feeding ground of U Thlen. However, the Thlen would only attack one individual from a group that is in odd numbers. Often people travelling in twos or other even numbers would be unharmed. Those unfortunate to walk in threes or any odd numbers…well… becomes food for the giant snake.

After years of living in fear, the people of the village enlisted the services of ‘U Suidnoh’, who befriended the snake and regularly fed it goats and pigs. One particular day, U Suidnoh being aware of the snake’s dependence, shoved a red hot piece of iron, while the latter’s guard was down. This let to the ultimate capture, alleged killing and feasting on the snake’s meat.

However, this was not meant to be the end. An elderly woman carried a piece of the snake’s meat to her house to give it to her daughter. Being forgetful, she forgot all about it until one day the meat which is now in the guise of a tiny snake spoke, “If you let me live, I will make you rich.” The woman being poor, was tempted and accepted the offer.

The snake continued and said, “I will bring you wealth and prosperity but I require blood in return.” Blood was no longer of animals or humans at random. The demand was now of the Khasi’s blood. It was the ‘kput’ or the ultimate revenge of the snake on the Khasis who almost tricked it to its death if it was not for the woman’s forgetfulness and greed.

Even today certain people and families are said to be snake-keepers or ‘Nongri Thlen’ and they would be treated with great outrage in many parts of the State. Some still express firm believe in the Thlen’s existence citing instances which even medical sciences fail to explain.

This fantastic lore of the Thlen have been circulating in Khasi society for hundreds of years. The lore could simply be a story to someone while a reality to another. So, the question for us is this, Is it only a lore and a modern day superstition or is it more?

More folktales to follow soon…

Auswyn Winter Japang


(Featured Images Sources: Internet/ Representational)



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