John Nisbet.

Burma under British rule--and before; (Volume 2) online

. (page 39 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

eldest of these was the Karen, the second the Burman,
and the youngest the Kald or non- Mongolian foreigner.
The Karen was the biggest and strongest, but very lazy.
He bullied his younger brethren and made them do all
the work. The younger brothers stood this treatment
for some time, but at last they had to go away, each
departing in a different direction.

Another legend explains that long ago God gave to the
Karen certain writing on a piece of leather, to the Burmese
a writing on a palm leaf, and to the Kald other writing
on a piece of cloth. Afterwards God said to the Kald,
"My son, you have tried best to do what I wished, so I
have given you the writing upon cloth, which you must
study and learn carefully." And the Kald did as he was
commanded. Now, the countr}^ in which the Karen lived
was fair and pleasant, and the Karen had an easy life :
so he soon multiplied and became numerous. But the
Karen race paid no attention to the writing which God
had given them upon a piece of leather. It had merely
been put on a tree stump, while the Karen went on
weeding the rice crop on his hill clearing. It got soaked
with wet when the rain came on; but he brought it home
with him when he returned in the evening, and hung it
up over the fire within his house. Here it fell down
while rice was being pounded for cooking ; and when
the fowls came and scratched there, the leathern scroll



fell down between the bamboos of the floor into the
pigs' pen under the house. As the Karen attached no
value to the scroll, he forgot all about it and never
looked to see what had become of it. He thought that
it would only be a useless bother to study hard and learn
the writing, as he could always get rice, and chillies, and
rice beer if he worked ; while he would have to work all
the same for these even if he learned to write. So an
old sow penned up under the hut ate the leathern scroll,
and the Karen never again saw the writing that God-
had given him.

This tradition of the lost writing and the legend that
letters would again be restored to them by the Kald
have been potent factors in the conversion of the Sgaw
and Pwo Karen to Christianity.

The Bghai, Bwe, or Red Karen, who call themselves
Kayd or " men," are the wildest and most lawless of the
Karen tribes. Broken up into many clans and septs
they are true mountaineers, intensely jealous of each
other, and continuously at war.

The men are small and wizen, but athletic, and have
broad, reddish-brown faces. Their dress consists of a
short pair of breeches, usually of a reddish colour, with
black and white stripes interwoven perpendicularly or
like a tartan ; and a handkerchief is tied round the head.
During the cold season, when the mountain air is damp
and raw, a turban is worn, while a coarse cotton sheet
serves as a mantle. Every male belonging to any sept
or clan of this tribe has the rising sun ^^yuU