A Tcho-Tcho Origin Myth

By James Haughton

We feel like Greeks, we feel like Romans
Centaurs and monkeys just cluster round us
We drink elixirs that we refine
from the juices of the dying
We are no monsters, we're moral people
and yet we have the strength to do this
This is the splendour of our achievement
Call in the airstrike with a poison kiss

Found in a letter to the L'Ecole Francais d'Extreme Orient, Saigon. Dated April 17, 1921. Believed to be the last communication from the ethnographic student Reynald Blois prior to his disappearance in the Lao-Vietnamese highlands. It is thought he may have been captured and killed by Hmong rebels under Chao Batchay.

…As you will no doubt perceive, the myth recorded herein incorporates many elements from other local groups, especially the Kha Khamu. However, the Tcho Tcho myth grants a much more extensive "charter", in Prof Malinowski's phrase, of dominion over other beings than does that of the Khamu. Perhaps, like the Meo, the Tcho Tcho were at one time gathered in a kingdom before being displaced and scattered by invaders, hence their mytho-historical claim to rulership reflects their previous social structure as Prof Durkheim would have it. The frequent references to the face may reflect a tradition of mask-wearing shamans as found among the Phu Tai, but my informants are as yet reluctant to discuss this. Certain elements are suggestive of the Judeo-Christian creation, but I have not found any record or memory of missionary activity in the area.

In the beginning, the Star Father (Chauga Faukan) and the Earth Mother (Xup Nikhurad) came together. From their mating sprang a great vine, on which grew a gourd. It was so big it took up all the space between earth and sky. Star father took his burning spear to pierce the gourd and let the world out. Inside the gourd was the first Tcho Tcho. He was so eager to look upon his father's face that he was pressed against the skin of the gourd. When Star Father pierced the gourd with his burning spear, he struck Tcho Tcho and burned his face. Tcho Tcho climbed through the hole in the gourd, but could not see his father anymore, because there was no light and his eyes were burned. Star Father took pity on Tcho Tcho and said "I will give you all the faces of the world as your own". Star Father took up his spear again and pierced the gourd a second time. Out came all the people, animals, fish, birds and plants of the world. Then Star Father threw his burning spear into the sky and it became the sun. Tcho Tcho could see all the creatures and knew that he could wear their faces. Tcho Tcho took the face of his little brother, Man, who was most like him, and took Man's sister as his wife.

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