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

Indonesian Folktales: Princess Kembang Melati and the Golden Butterfly

beautiful_indonesian_woman_drawing

By epSos .de [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The following story is a retelling of The Golden Butterfly from Indonesian Legends and Folk Tales by Adele de Leeuw.

Princess Kembang Melati

There was once a beautiful young princess named Kembang Melati. She lived in a palace situated along the banks of a great river. On the other side of the river in a palace that was all of the colors of the rainbow lived Rajah Bajir who was the Monarch of the Rains. At his will, Rajah Bajir could cause the land to flood and his tears were the streams that fed the great river.

When he looked out from his palace of rainbow colors over the river he would often see on the far bank Princess Kembang Melati weaving her wedding robe. As she worked away on the other side of the river he could sometimes catch the sound of her sweet voice singing a song of love and he was enchanted. He hoped that the princess would look up from her work for a second and see him on the other side and perhaps smile at him. She never did.

Still, the Monarch of the Rains continued admiring her from the other side of the river. The more he gazed across at her, the bigger and sadder his eyes grew and he wept. As he wept the tears swelled the streams that ran into to the great river causing its waters to rise. His sighs ran through the trees and branches around his rainbow-colored palace and carried across the river.

On the other side, Princess Kembang Melati heard his sighing and thought it was just the wind. She saw the river grow higher and higher and thought it was rain from the mountain. She did not know it was Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the rains who was weeping and sighing for the love of her.

A Golden Butterfly

For many sad and lonely days, Rajah Bajir yearned and pined for the love of Kembang Melati. At last, he transformed himself into a golden butterfly and fluttered across the river. He flitted back and forth across her window until Princess Kembang Melati finally noticed him. When at last she looked up and saw him she went to the window to get a closer look at the beautiful golden butterfly that had come to visit her. She watched in delight as it fluttered before her and held out her hand. Gently and softly it settled in her a palm and to her delight kissed her fingertips. Then it quickly fluttered out of the window and was gone.

golden butterfly 2

by William Chapman Hewitson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

The princess put the butterfly from her mind and a couple of days later as she was weaving her wedding dress the golden butterfly fluttered in through the window. It fluttered around the room and then settled gently on her right cheek and whispered softly into her ear, “Princess Kembang Melati be quick and weave your wedding dress, for you bridegroom will soon appear.” However, she only heard the word “bridegroom” and she asked, “Where is my bridegroom?” But the butterfly had flown off through the window.

Nasiman the Cruel

Princess Kembang Melati had an old nurse named Sarinah who had looked after her since she was born. Sarinah had a son named Nasiman who was selfish and wicked. He had been listening outside the window and heard the princess ask the butterfly where her bridegroom was. Quickly he ran his mother and said, “Mother, as I passed by the window of Princess Kembang Melati I heard her ask a question. She said, ‘Where is my bridegroom?’ Mother, I want you to go and tell her I am her bridegroom. Please go now.”

“But my son, you are not of noble birth and can never marry Princess Kembang Melati,”

replied his mother.   Although Nasiman was her son and she loved him she was frightened of him because she knew how cruel and wicked he could be. Therefore, she went to the princess and told her that her bridegroom had now arrived and had come to claim her for his bride. At that moment the golden butterfly flew in through the window and settled behind the ear of the princess and whispered, “Your true bridegroom has not yet arrived and this one is false. His name is Nasiman and he is the son of Sarinah, your nurse. Do not marry him! Wait instead for your true bridegroom to comes!” and with that the butterfly fluttered out of the window.

Princess Kembang Melati looked at her nurse and said, “No Sarinah, I will wait until my true bridegroom comes to claim me.”  This terrified Sarinah who greatly feared what her son would do if he did not get his way, “Forgive me, Princess Kembang Melati please, please marry him now or I know we will both be killed!”

Princess Kembang Melati looked at her frightened nurse in shock. She did not want her nurse to die and she did not want to die herself. Then she said, “You must go to the bridegroom who is here now and tell him that I must have seven days to contemplate marriage to him. He must wait on the river bank and I will send my answer to him there before the seven days are up. Go now and tell him!”

Sarinah went and told Nasiman what Princess Kembang Melati has told her. He was silent for a few minutes thinking, then decided it was a good idea. So that he could be ready and wait for the answer he had seven days of food and drink prepared for him and taken to a spot on the river bank where he would await the decision of the princess.

The White Crow

It so happened that on the very same day as Nasiman settled down to wait on the river bank the Monarch of the Rains wrote Princess Kembang Melati a letter and filled a small chest full of gold and jewelry. Then he called his white crow to him who was his fastest and best messenger. The Monarch of the Rains bound the chest to the crow’s back and placed the letter in her claws and ordered her to take both directly to Princess Kembang Melati without delay. The white crow promised she would fly directly to the princess with the letter and the chest and off she went at full speed flying high and flying fast.

As she flew she looked down and saw Nasiman sat on the bank eating a fish. The white crow loved fish to eat fish and she circled around him crying, “My, but that fish looks so good. Please, may I have some?”  Nasiman glared up in the sky at her flying around him and said angrily, “Who are you dare to ask me that? Where are you from and where are you going with that letter in your claws? What have got in that chest on your back?”

“It so happens I am the messenger of none other than the great Monarch of the Rains. He has ordered me to take this letter and chest to none other than Princess Kembang Melati and I must place them in her hands myself,” said the white crow importantly.  On hearing this Nasiman quickly formulated a devious plan. “Well, in that case, I expect you are hungry. Come an sit here with me. Take off your chest and put down the letter and eat some of this delicious fish.” he told the white crow.

Fish was her favorite meal and the white crow placed the letter and the chest on the river bank and began busily pecking up the fish. While the bird was so occupied Nasiman quickly opened the box and took the gold and jewelry out. He replaced them with great big spiders and vicious looking scorpions and quickly closed the lid. Then with the bird still busily eating the fish he took the letter to his mother saying, “Quick mother, although I cannot read I am sure this letter contains beautiful words and loving thoughts to Princess Kembang Melati. Change them so that they are horrible words and hateful thoughts. While you are doing that I will hide this gold and jewelry.”

Nasiman the Liar

Through fear, his mother did as he had told her. When she had finished he took the letter and chest back to where the white crow was still busily pecking up the fish. She was enjoying the fish so much she had not noticed his absence at all. The white crow finished off the fish and then went for a drink at a nearby spring.

“Why ever did you not take the letter and the chest directly to Princess Kembang Melati as you had been instructed to by the Monarch of the Rains?” murmured the spring softly. However, the white crow did not hear and neither did she hear the breeze that whispered, “White crow, white crow, now something terrible is going to happen all because of your greed!” But the white crow did not hear the warning and something terrible did happen.

The white crow took off across the river and swooped down through Princess Kembang Melati’s window. She dropped the letter in her hand and then perched on the window sill to let her take off the chest from her back. When Princess Kembang Melati saw the white crow bearing the chest and the letter she believed they had been sent by her bridegroom and that he must near. Naturally, she was very excited and decided to read the letter first, but she was in for a shock. The letter said, “Princess Kembang Melati you are so ugly and your skin is foul and wrinkled and your hair is all dirty and matted. What is in the chest is horrid and nasty and so are you!” Opening the little chest she saw the spiders and scorpions and threw out of the window into the river in a rage.

After a moment of disbelief the princess became very, very angry. She tore up the letter then fell to pacing up and down and weeping while wondering what she had done to deserve such cruel treatment. The white crow looked on in amazement. She could not believe her master had written such an awful letter and put the spiders and scorpions in the chest as she knew he loved the princess greatly.

Nasiman was pleased and laughed to himself. It was just what he had hoped for and was now sure she would agree to marry him. However, Princess Kembang Melati after her shock and disappointment now had no desire to marry anyone and was deeply hurt by the letter. She spent all her time weeping and pacing up and down her chamber, wringing her hands. Her ladies tried to comfort her but she was beyond help and ordered them to take away her weaving stool and wedding drèss declaring that she would never work on it again.

Illustrations_of_new_species_of_exotic_butterflies_Nymphalis_I,_Charaxes_zoolina

by William Chapman Hewitson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

As the sad day drew to a close and evening began falling the golden butterfly flitted in through the window and settled next to the princess’s ear and whispered, “Beautiful Princess Kembang Melati, why do you not wear the jewelry and gems that your bridegroom has given to you?”  But the princess flapped her hand angrily at the butterfly, but Rajah Bajir thought she was playing and whispered, “Dear Princess Kembang Melati, would you like to meet your bridegroom in the morning? He will take you to see his rainbow-colored palace where the sun rays are transformed into a thousand beautiful colors. There you will see cloth so finely woven it is like moonbeams. Princess Kembang Melati finish weaving your wedding dress for your bridegroom comes tomorrow!” This infuriated the princess even more and she ordered her servants to chase out the butterfly and not let it return.

When the Monarch of the Rains heard her orders he became so angry that he caused the land to flood in the night. Everything that was not drowned in water along with the current. The palace of Princess Kembang Melati also floated along with the princess, Sarinah her nurse, Nasiman and all her servants trapped inside.

Along the swollen river the palace began to drift and was taken near to the bank on the other side where Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the Rains stood glumly watching the flood. Although he saw the palace of the princess come floating along he turned his head away as if he had not noticed it. The princess was looking out of her window in horror as the flood carried her and the palace along with its flow. When she saw Rajah Bajir she cried out to him appealing for help but he just looked the other way, making out he could not hear her.

Then Sarinah, feeling guilty because she was sure this was all something to do with the letter, cried out, “Oh Rajah Bajir, great Monarch of the rains, it is all my fault. I am the one to blame. I changed your beautiful words into ugly words. It was Nasiman, my son, who took the gems and jewelry from the chest and replaced them with spiders and scorpions. It was Nasiman who gave your white crow the fish so that he could make the change while the white crow was busy eating!”

Hearing this, Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the rains understood it all. He ran from his rainbow-colored palace down to the river and pulled the princess and all those in the palace safely onto dry. Then he led them to his own palace, but he would not allow Sarinah and Nasiman to enter. Instead, he turned them away and roared, “May the waters cover you, may the waters drown you!” And the waters rose swiftly and engulfed the nurse and her son. Then he called the white crow before him and turned her plumage black and took away her power of speech. Thereafter, all she could say was “Kaw … kaw … kaw!” which meant gold. She spent the rest of her life searching for the gold and jewels which Nasiman had taken from the chest and hidden.

With punishment meted out to the wrongdoers, Rajah Bajir commanded the floods to stop and recede. Soon all the world was above water and dry and then he turned to Princess Kembang Melati and explained to her who he was. He told her her he had watched her for many days and had fallen in love with her and he had transformed himself into a golden butterfly to bring her his messages.

Hearing this, the realisation came upon Princess Kembang Melati and she pitied him and understood that he was her true bridegroom by the tender and loving way he spoke to her. She finished weaving her wedding dress and the two were married and lived happily in the rainbow-colored palace until the end of their days. It is a most curious thing but nevertheless true to say that no human has ever found the rainbow covered palace, or visited Princess Kembang Melati and the Rajah Bajir, the Monarch of the Rains.

© 29/11/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright November 29th, 2017 zteve t evans