Friday, April 13, 2007

A Hmong story



Do you belong to a book group?

I do, thanks to the pushing and prodding of my friend Diane. We are reading "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down", by Anne Fadiman. It is the story of a Hmong child, her American doctors and the clash of 2 cultures. The girl, Lia Lee, has severe epilepsy. Both her parents and her doctors want what is best. As I remember it does not end well. I read it about 5 years ago and liked it. I haven't read it since then. Hmmm, maybe I should refresh.

In the meantime, I offer you a Hmong tapestry that is hanging in my bedroom. The Hmong do incredibly beautiful embroidery. I bought this tapestry at the Minnesota State Fair. It tells a folktale.

The story is a changling one. Nuplhai and his wife Jer go to visit some relatives. He walks her part way then turns back. She walks on along alone. She meets some tigers who offer her a ride (never fall for that stunt). Nuplhai notices her absense and asks the relatives. They don't know anything. He back tracks and finds tiger footprints. He goes home, makes a sword (lots of gruesome details) and returns to track his wife. He finally finds her, kills the tigers and brings her back home only to have her tell him to dig a hole for her "tiger skin" She gets in the hole for 2 weeks. She "comes back a new woman".
They both go back to his parents. The story ends with the parents blowing a panpipe for Nuplhai and Jer's souls.

I think we are lost in translation, but I love folktales from other cultures. Obviously I like the tapestry. It has been hanging in my room for many years.

2 comments:

sarala said...

This is a beautiful hanging. I've not seen this Hmong art before. I read this book a few years ago and found it fascinating.

Jennifer said...

I found your photos and description of the story after googling Nuplhai. I have an almost identical tapestry and I'm trying to find out more about the story. Thanks!