Presented here is a retelling of folktale from Indonesia called The Soul in the Mountain Rice, from Indonesian Legends and Folktales, told by Adele de Leeuw.
The Goddess, Tisna Wati
In the abode in the sky where the gods lived there was once a most charming and beautiful young goddess named Tisna Wati. Although she lived in this divine place she was not really very happy there. She would often look down to the Earth and watch all the people busily going about their everyday tasks. It fascinated her to see what all the mortals were doing; how they lived, how they worked and all of the many different things they did together. It was the “togetherness” she really liked because she was often alone and she would sigh and say, “I wish I could be like a mortal on Earth and do things with others instead of being all alone!”
Her father would often leave her alone while he went and battled with demons of the air and giants and she would be sad and lonely yearning to go with him. When he returned she would show her displeasure by sulking and pouting but it made no difference.
One day his father returned after battling a particularly nasty giant and found her in an exceptional surly and unpleasant frame of mind. He grew angry with her and said, “I have had enough of your sulking and bad humor and wish I could send you down to earth to live among the mortals. However, I cannot do this because you have drunk of the water of life and are therefore immortal. It is a shame, but I have thought of something else for you. You will marry one of the gods and your husband will teach you how to improve your demeanor.”
“Marriage!”she cried, “I know just who I want for a husband, there!” she cried happily.
“What?,” cried her father, “Who can that be? Not one of those vile demons of the air. I forbid it! Not one of those awful giants! I will not allow it!”
The Young Man
“No father, look he is there!” she said, pointing down to earth where a handsome young man was hard at work ploughing a rice field on the hillside.
“But that is the son of a man,” growled her father furiously. “He is but a mortal and you are the daughter of a god, I will not agree to this, you can never marry him!”
“I will marry him, or no one else!” shouted Tisna Wati, “He will be my husband and I will be his wife, no one else will do, if I am to leave here!”
“Daughter, I tell you I will never let you marry a mortal man. I will turn you into a wild rice stalk first. Understand and accept that I will choose your husband for you. He will be a son of one of the other gods and that is the end of the matter. Be quiet and accept it!” growled her father angrily.
When Tisna Wati saw his rage she grew afraid that her father would inseed turn her into a rice stalk as happened to the beautiful wife of Vishnu, Dewi Sri who had disobeyed her husband, leaving her deathless spirit to inhabit the fields of rice.
Tisna Wati was adamant that she would never allow herself to be turned into a rice stalk and she definitely would not marry one of the sons of the gods. Her heart was set on marrying the handsome young man she had seen ploughing on the hillside and now for her no one else would do.
Without another word her father stormed off to find his wayward daughter a husband. Suddenly, word came to him that the demons of the air and the giants were threatening the Heaven of the gods once again. Therefore he had to put off finding a husband for his daughter to fight them, but he shouted back at her, “I will return with your husband, be ready!”
Tisna Wati Goes to Earth
“So it shall be father,” she said meekly, “so it shall be!” as if accepting her fate. As soon as he had gone she leapt on the wings of the wind and rode it safely down to earth where it kindly set her close to the hillside where the handsome young man was ploughing.
Tisna Wati was very excited and said to herself, “Now I see him close up and he looks better than I ever imagined!” and sat herself down to watch him and wait for him to notice her.
She watched as he ploughed, but he being intent on his work he did not notice her until he came to the end of the furrow and had to turn to begin another row. Then he saw her and thought she was the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen and went over to talk to her.
“May I ask what you are looking for?” he said.
“Ha! I am looking for my husband.” she answered laughing.
The young man was surprised at her answer but her laughter made him laugh. They laughed and they laughed because they were so happy. As they laughed together they fell deeply in love and they laughed and they laughed and they laughed. Their laughter rang out from the Earth up to Heaven where her father was fighting demons and giants and he broke off from the battle to listen. Realizing it was his daughter’s voice he looked across to Earth and saw her sitting with the young man and the both of them laughing happily together. Their joyful laughter rang out across the heavens drowning out the noise of battle and he erupted into rage and flew from the battle down to earth to where his daughter and the young man sat laughing together.
“Come with me immediately!” he commanded, “You are going home.”
Despite her father’s rage Tisna Wati had other ideas. She was in love with the young man and wanted to stay with him and her love was stronger than her fear of her father’s wrath.
“No, father, I will not go back with you. I am in love and would rather become a mortal and stay with my beloved,” she firmly replied.
The Soul in the Wild Mountain Rice
“So be it you shall stay, but not as a daughter of a god, or as a mortal. You shall become a rice stalk and your soul shall become one with the wild rice!” cried her father. The young man looked on in shock and horror as Tisna Wati changed into a slender stalk of wild rice that bent gracefully towards him.
Her father saw this and he was filled with sorrow for what he had done. “I could have let them be together, but now it is to late. I cannot change her back and she must now remain a rice stalk for ever and her soul will enter the wild rice. I will change him into a rice stalk too,” and after he did this he saw how the two stalks bent towards each other as lovers do. He watched for a while and then shaking his head, flew back to the Heaven of the gods.
Ever since then the soul of Tisna Wati has been in the wild mountain rice, but where the soul of the young man went no one knows. Some say that when the breeze passes through the wild mountain rice stalks their laughter can still be heard by those who are in love.
What do you think?
© 01/08/2018 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright August 1st, 2018 zteve t evans