Indonesian Folktales: The Soul in the Wild Mountain Rice

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.

Marriage

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

Petrification Myths: The Indonesian Folktale of Dewi Jurangga and the Son of Bromo

The island of Java in the Indonesian archipelago is rich in ancient culture and tradition and full of wonderful stories that tell the lives of its inhabitant and their relationships with each other, the landscape, nature and the gods. Presented below is a retelling of an Indonesian folktale called The Holy Mountain, from Indonesian tales and Folk Tales by Adele de Leeuw, which provides a folkloric explanation of how certain volcanoes and the Sea of Sand was created in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park

The Giant of the Holy Mountain

There was once a mighty giant who had ruled over the god Indra’s holy mountain of Semeru since the beginning of the world.  His realm reached all around it above ground and extended below it under the ground.  This giant had a daughter whom he loved more than anything else and he had named Dewi Jurangga.  He watched over her day and night keeping her safe and keeping her hidden from the eyes of the world in his a part of his kingdom underneath the mountain.  So well did he guard his daughter that she had never been outside the kingdom under the holy mountain. She did not know what daylight was and had never known fresh air, never known the green leaves and beautiful flowers and never heard birds sing.

Every single day the giant would walk around the bounds of his kingdom  to make sure everything was in order. One day as her father went out to inspect his kingdom, she had a sudden yearning to know what the world of light above ground looked like.  Making sure he had gone, she ran up the way which she knew would bring her to the world of light on the earth because she had seen her father take it.

Dewi Jurangga’s Adventure

Stepping out into the sunshine, at first she was blinded, but as her eyes slowly became accustomed to the light, she grew increasingly enchanted by all the beautiful things she saw that she had never seen before.  First, she looked at the sky which was so deep and wide and blue and was awed.  She saw fluffy white clouds floating across it and was intrigued.  She saw beautiful green leaves and gorgeous flowers of so many different colors and was thrilled and she walked out into the world for the first time full of wonder and excitement and was happy.
Everything she was seeing, hearing, smelling and touching was beyond her wildest dreams and as she walked she seemed to be floating through a beautiful wonderland of new experience.  She could hear the birds singing and the insects buzzing and smell the glorious scent of the flowers and she floated on enthralled by it all. She floated over the rice fields and over the meadows and saw goats and cattle grazing and then she saw a man standing before her and she stopped.  She looked at him and smiled and he looked at her and smiled.

She thought he looked like her father, but was much younger and much more handsome than he.  He stood before her amazed at seeing her and quietly and gently said, “May I ask who you are?”

She had never before heard the voice of anyone else other than the deep rumbling sound of her father’s and she was charmed to hear the soft, gentle speech of the young man and said,

“My name is Dewi Jurangga and I am new in the world above the ground.  I am the daughter of the giant who is the King of the Holy Mountain of Indra.  This is the first time I have ever been above ground and walked upon the earth instead of under it.  This is the first time I have smelled the clean fresh air and the fragrance of flowers and seen the beautiful blue sky. It is the first  time I have met and spoken to anyone other than my father.”

Then the two chatted together like old friends.  She told him that she was so in love with the world above the surface of the earth that she wanted to give up the immortality bestowed upon her by the gods.

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Mt Batok dormant in foreground, Mt. Bromo belching sulphur to the left, Mt. Semeru erupting in the distance By Michael Day [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Son of Bromo

Then asked him if he was one of the divine gods, or a giant and he told her with great joy in his eyes,

 “I am the raksasa, the warden of the great temple of the gods appointed to this task by Brahma.  I am the son of a giant almost as powerful as your father and his name is Bromo.  I have set out to look for a wife because the gods have told me I would find one near the Holy Mountain and now I have found her, if you would give your consent!” 

At first Dewi Jurangga, was pleased and flattered and then she remembered her father and as sadness darkened her eyes she said,

“I fear I can cannot be your wife.  My father loves me more than anything else and he guards and protects me.  To him I am the light of his eyes and he will never allow me to marry a raksasa, especially one who is the son of Bromo who he hates.”

“Why will he not let us marry and why does he hate my father so?” asked the puzzled raksasa in disappointment.

she said sadly.

“He hates your father because his mountain sends fire and fumes and streams of molten lava to flow down into the fertile fields on the borders of his land.  One night your father sent so much fire it changed them all into an arid and infertile plain where nothing will grow nothing. That is why my father hates your father and will never let me marry his son,” 

The son of Bromo shook his head and said defiantly, “That may be so, but I am going to go to you father and ask his permission to marry you, if you agree,”

Dewi Jurangga told him she wanted to be his wife more than anything else in the world. With her agreement that very evening before sunset, he went to the her father in his kingdom under the Holy Mountain and begged her hand in marriage.

The Sea of Sand

He father was furious and roared and thundered with rage.  His daughter told him that if he did not allow the marriage she would go to Mount Bromo and throw herself in the lake of fire, at which he roared louder than ever.  He roared and roared until he could roar no more and sat silently trembling with rage.  Then, shaking his head sadly he said to the son of Bromo,

“Let me tell you this.  Many, many, years ago I vowed to the gods that my daughter, who is the light of my life, would only marry a divine being and not a son of a giant.  Her husband must be the son of a god and to prove his divinity and power he must create a sea of sand around the mountain of Bromo, my enemy. It must be a thousand feet deep and a thousand feet wide, so that the fires and lava from Bromo’s mountain will be extinguished. There will be no fuel to feed the flames and the lava will sink into the suffocating sand and die and will not burn my fields.  The sea of sand must be created in one night between the time of sundown and the first crow of the cock. If you can create this sea of sand as I have described it in one night, you shall have my daughter for your wife. If the sea of sand is not fully complete by the first cock crow you shall both be turned to stone and remain stone for one thousand times one thousand years.”

On hearing this the raksasa stood deep in thought for a few moments then looked into the lovely eyes of Dewi Jurangga and said,

“I will try this challenge for it would be better to be turned to stone and have a heart of stone that feels nothing than to live one day without your daughter as my wife.  Tomorrow at sundown I will attempt the challenge.”

Turning to Dewi Jurangga he asked her if she agreed and she readily told him she did and then he said, “Find the largest possible coconut and cut it in half.  Take half the shell to the very place we first met and lay it on the ground. I will be there before sunset.”

So Dewi Jurangga did as he asked and just before sunset went to him at the spot where they had first met and gave him the half of coconut shell which is called a batok and whispered, “Do your best, my love!  Unveil your true power and we will be happy forever!”
Taking the shell from her he whispered, “My  kembang manis, my lovely flower, I will prove I am worthy of you!”

And as the sinking sun disappeared below the horizon he set to work.  Using the batok he filled it with sand and created mounds which he kept adding to creating hills.  He scooped up sand from the sides of Mount Bromo and ignoring his own father who threw burning rocks at him and yelled at him to stop.  He worked nonstop all through the night with amazing vigor and energy. By the time it was almost ready for the sun to rise he had created a sea of sand nine hundred and ninety yards deep and nine hundred and ninety yards wide, but he knew he it was not complete so he forced himself to work  quicker and harder.

The Trick

Dewi Jurangga’s father watched with eyes that could piece the densest and blackest darkness.  He was aghast to see that the son of Bromo would complete the sea of sand before sunrise and greatly feared he would have to fulfill his promise and give his daughter to him to be his bride.  He was furious and became even angrier as the son of Bromo looked like he would finish with time to spare and perhaps because of his fury he thought, or hoped, he heard the sound of a cock crow.

He was even angrier when he realized he hadn’t and it was his imagination, but  this gave him an idea. He said to himself,

“What if I imitated a crowing cock.  Yes, it would be cheating, but it would save my beloved daughter from marriage to the son of Bromo, a mere giant!  After all I am a powerful and mighty giant who is the King of the Holy Mountain. I am semi-divine and can do anything! ”

Turned to Stone

Therefore, he called out, imitating the crowing of a cock and immediately he was answered by one in a nearby village.

The son of Bromo was full of despair because he was unaware of the trick being played on him and thought the first cock had crowed before sunrise and knew his task was not quite finished.  Angily, he threw the batok and it landed on a mound and became a mountain that became known as the Mount Batok.

Then, behind him he heard a terrifying scream and turning and watched in horror as Dewi Jurangga, his beloved turned to stone before his eyes changing into a mountain that people called Kembang.

“Kembang Manis – lovely flower! All of my work has been for nought!”

he cried as he looked into her dark eyes and saw them glaze to stone.  She could not answer him as her mouth froze solid and with those last words he too turned to stone just as he had been warned becoming a mountain known as the Segarawedi.

However, the father of Dewi Jurangga was so frightened of the punishment of Brahma for the turning to stone of his warden and so sad that he had been the cause his own daughter becoming petrified, that he fled to the deepest regions of the earth below the Holy Mountain.  There he sits to this day contemplating how his own foolish selfishness caused two young lives to be so cruelly and terribly ruined. As he thinks on this, every now and then he lets out a sigh which rises to the top of the mountain and escapes into the beautiful blue sky like a white plume.

One Thousand Times One Thousand Years

There he must sit and sigh for one thousand times one thousand years  until Mount Bromo is sunk beneath the earth and the sea of sand no more.  Then and only then, will the spell of the petrification placed on Dewi Jurangga and the son of Bromo be lifted and they return to their original form.  Let us all pray that when that happens the gods smile upon them and they find eternal love and happiness together.

© 12/07/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright zteve t evans

Petrification Myths: Malin Kundang of Sumatra, Indonesia

Petrifaction myths and legends appear in human cultures all around the world.  Very often they carry a warning or are the result of a punishment. In many cases they can be either inspired by a geological feature such as a rock formation or the name given to the feature is inspired by folklore.  Presented next is a retelling of a folktale from Sumatra, Indonesia that carries an important warning about how grown up children should respect their mother.

Malin Kundang

The story begins in a poor fishing village on the coast of Sumatra where a poor widow struggled to bring up her young son whom she had named Malin Kundang.  They existed on a meager living scraped from fishing.  Nevertheless the mother loved her son very much and worked hard to give him the best that she could.   Thanks to her hard work, love and dedication Malin grew into a healthy and clever boy who was always willing to help his mother to earn some money.  However, no matter how hard they worked they could not escape poverty.

One day Malin had an idea and went to his mother and. said,

“Mother, if I stay here I will never have a life.  I don’t want to spend all my life in poverty and I want to be a rich and successful man. What would you say if I told you I wanted to leave the village and sail away to find my fortune?”

Although his mother was devastated at the thought of her only son leaving her alone she swallowed her bitter tears and told him,

“My son, If that us your heart’s desire I cannot stop you.  Although it breaks my heart that you are leaving I will pray that you find happiness and your heart’s desire, but promise me that when you have found every thing that you dream of you will not forget me and come home again to your mother who will be waiting patiently for your return.”

Malin then told his mother he did indeed want to leave which broke her heart.  In the morning he went down to the harbor and found a ship that would take him on a one of the crew.  His mother came and bid him farewell and after embracing him for a long time said,

“Farewell my son, take good care.  I will pray for you, but I fear you will forget me!”

Then he told his mother,

“You take good care of yourself mother!  I promise I will keep in touch and will not forget you and return as soon as I can.”

Again his mother embraced him tightly not wanting to let go until finally he turned away and walked up the gangplank onto the ship.  She watched as the ship carrying her only son slid silently over the horizon into the rising sun and then returned to her home alone.

His Mother’s Vigil

Three months passed and although Malin’s mother prayed every night and every morning for her son she received not a single word or token from him.  The months turned to years and his mother still prayed day and night for her son’s safety and that he would find his heart’s desire.  Every morning and every evening she would go down to the harbor to see what new ships had come hoping that one would bring her son back to her and would stand in silent prayer looking out over the horizon..

Several years passed in this way and one morning as she stood looking out to sea she was surprised to see an unusually big ship sail out of the blue and dock in the harbor at the point where she held her lonely vigil.

Malin Returns

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By The original uploader was Geoethno at German Wikipedia (Original text: Amsterdam, Buffa) (Van de Velde: Gezigten uit Neerlands Indie) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When the ship was tied securely to the dock she saw a handsome, young man in rich clothing disembark from the ship with a beautiful young woman on his arm.  Both were dressed in the finest clothes and exuded an aura of wealth.  Behind them followed many servants and bodyguards and everyone could see that this fine young couple were wealthy and important people.  Malin’s mother looked in surprise and although her eyes had grown weak and weary from crying for her son she recognized him despite this and saw through the finery the young man wore.  She knew this was her son and knew she could not be wrong.  Excitedly she ran up to to him and threw her arms around his neck crying,

“Malin, Malin, my beloved son you gave come back to me!”

Shock and disappointment overcame her as the young man coldly stared straight ahead and showed no response whatsoever.

“I have prayed day and night for you and missed you so much and now my prayers are answered and you have returned to me!”

Rejection

In truth, Malin felt embarrassment at the sight of this poor old woman dressed in rags.  He thought of his own wealth and fine clothes, he thought of all his servants and bodyguards and he thought of the beautiful young woman on his arm. Although he knew she was his mother he felt ashamed and embarrassed at her poverty and his own humble origins and did not want to let on about his past life to his companion.

Roughly, he thrust his mother away and glared coldly at her saying,

“You are not my mother!  My mother would never wear such poor and ragged clothes.  I don’t know you, go way!”

Shocked and distressed his mother stepped back, sobbing and said,

“Malin, I am your mother stop teasing me!  I have waited so long to see you again you must know me!”

But Malin stared coldly and dispassionately ahead with his face fixed and his eyes cold. Turning to one of his bodyguards he said,

Guard, take this ragged old beggar woman out of my sight!  Give her some money to be rid of her!”

And the guard grasped the old lady by her arm and dragged her roughly away, all the time she was crying out,

“Malin!  Oh Malin my long lost son! Why do you treat me so cruelly?”

Mail ignored his mother’s pleas and ordered the ship to make ready to sail.  He and his beautiful lady returned to the ship which set sail and sailed stately out of the harbor.

Poor Malin’s mother was left distraught and sobbing upon the harbor as the ship sailing upon a calm and quiet sea and disappeared over the horizon.  Anguish and hurt coursed through her body which turned to anger and she fell upon her knees and prayed,

“Dear God, if that young man was not my son bless him with a safe journey and a safe return home.  If he was Malin, my son, I curse him that as soon as he sets foot on land that he may turn to stone.”

So it was that beyond the horizon the ship ran into a storm that whipped the calm and quiet sea into a frenzy.  As thunder rolled and lightning flashed and the rain lashed down the ship was taken by the wild waves and was shipwrecked.  Malin struggled against the giant waves but eventually made it to a beach called Air Manis, near Padang, West Sumatra.

Turned to Stone

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The Malin Kundang Stone – By Crisco 1492 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The God, who sees and hears all looked down.  As Malin stepped upon the land he felt his entire body begin to stiffen and he fell forward on to his knees as of one begging for mercy and then fell forward again in supplication to the Divine.  In that position his entire body turned into stone and can be seen to this day on a beach at Pantai Air Manis, Padang, and is called the Malin Kundang Stone.  It is said to exist as testament to the punishment that will be meted out to those who choose to reject their own mother.

© 26/07/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright July 26th, 2017 zteve t evans