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The Tortoise Prince and other Singpho Tales

Author and Illustrator: Gumlat Ong Maio


About the Author
Gumlat Ong Maio has written three novels, Once Upon a Time in College and its two sequels forming the College Trilogy, and a collection of cartoons called Cheap Pencil. His second novel was selected among the top three books of the month by Notion Press Editors’ Pick, Chennai, in 2017.

He has been honored by the Arunachal Pradesh state Government with the Governor’s Young Achievers Award 2018 for literature. He was also a recipient of the Indian Awaz “100 Inspiring Authors of India” award in the same year.

His cartoons are regularly uploaded on his Facebook page, “Once Upon a Time Somewhere”, which has over 25,000 followers. He works as a Medical Officer under the Arunachal Pradesh Government. He is a member of North-East Writers Forum and Arunachal Pradesh Literary Society. This is his maiden book of poetry.


About the Book
In his introduction to the book, Gumlat writes:

“The book is a compilation of fourteen folktales in balladic, rhyming verse of the little-known Singpho tribe inhabiting Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The Singphos are barely eight thousand people with no written history. They began converting to Theravada Buddhism hardly a century back but animism and worship of Nats (spirits) are still an indispensable part of their belief system. It is an unusually hybrid spiritual system with the non-violence of Buddhism on one side and animal sacrifice for appeasement of offended Nats on the other.

There are tales about the redemption of a flute-playing tortoise prince banished by his human father, about why cats bury their faeces, the origin of the universe, a stinky dragon wife, how fireflies came to exist, why goats are scared of rivers, how a tadpole outwitted a tiger, the mythology behind the tribe’s annual dance festival, among others. I do not claim myself as their original source. They have existed among the Singphos for eons, transferred orally from one generation to the next, and each generation has interpreted a familiar story in a different way depending on the narrator. Due to the lack of written records, the same familiar folktale narrated by five different people seems to have different story arcs with five different endings, even though the characters are the same. Sometimes, the same person, asked to repeat a tale five years down the line, had a different take on the story and it had a different ending from the one he recited five years previously.”


Introduction / 7
The Tortoise Prince / 9
The Elephant and the Tiger / 19
The Snake and the Goat / 25
Revenge of the Unborn Egg / 31
Smell of the Dragon Princess / 38
The Tiger and the Cat / 45
Fowl’s Fate / 50
Origin of Fireflies / 55
When Man Met Fire / 59
Origin of Shapawng Yawng Manau Poi Festival / 66
The Sun Twins / 76
The King They Chose / 80
Genesis / 83
Origin of Cha / 89



The Tortoise Prince and other Singpho Tales

  • Pages: 96
    Year of Publication: 2022
    ISBN: 978-81-956648-8-7 (9788195664887)



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