As the legend goes, the Asaro tribesmen of Papua New Guinea were once defeated by an enemy tribe and forced to flee into the Asaro River. Their enemies pursued them, so to avoid capture or death, some jumped into the shallow water while others hid along the muddy riverbank. When the sun had nearly set and dusk was upon them, the tribesmen tried to escape, but the movement had caught the eyes of the watchful enemies. The Asaro assumed their luck had run out, but to their surprise, their attackers turned and ran. Unbeknownst to the Asaro, the mud they had hidden in had covered their bodies and dried gray, and to their enemies they appeared as spirits under the falling sun. The tribe, like most in the Papua New Guinea area they were located, was very afraid of spirits. So they fled.
Confused, the Asaro went into the village to see what had happened, not knowing the enemy tribesmen were still there. Upon seeing them again, the enemy were so terrified they ran back to their village, where they held a special ceremony to ward off the spirits.
The mudmen realized what power the mud contained. They would cover their bodies in it, however, they could not cover their faces – the people of Papua New Guinea incorrectly thought that the mud from the Asaro river was poisonous. So instead, they made masks from pebbles heated using water from a separate source. They worked to make these masks as terrifying as possible.
The Asaro are just one of many tribes in Papua New Guinea that live independently. While they now have exposure to the outside world, they continue to live in jungle, where their superstitions and customs live on.