Indonesian Folktales: The Legend of the Golden Snail

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The Legend of Keong Mas

The legend of Keong Mas, or the Golden Snail, is a popular folktale from East Java, Indonesia.  There are several versions and this retelling draws on more than one source. It tells how many years ago there was a rich and prosperous kingdom called Daha ruled by  King Kertamarta who had two beautiful daughters named Candra Kirana and Dewi Galuh. The princesses were very good friends as well as being sisters and were very happy and content with their lives.  One day a handsome prince from the Kingdom of Kahuripan named Raden Inu Kertapati visited King Kertamarta.  On meeting Candra Kirana for the first time he fell in love with her and she with him and he asked the king for permission to marry  his daughter. King Kertamarta was happy to give his permission and the two were engaged to be married.

The Wicked Witch

Although the two sisters had been happy and good friends up until then Dewi Galuh was now deeply jealous of her sister wishing Prince Raden Inu Kertapati had chosen her instead.  She thought that perhaps is she could somehow get her sister out of the way the prince might instead turn his affections towards her and marry her. Therefore, she sought the help of a wicked witch who suggested she cast a spell and turn her sister, Candra Kirana, into something repulsive to to kill the passion of Prince Raden Inu Kertapati  promising to pay the witch handsomely. The wicked witch agreed but told her she would have to get near enough to cast the spell so she suggested she take her sister for a walk along the river bank where she would disguise herself and lie in wait for them and she transformed herself into a large golden snail.

The Golden Snail

As Dewi Galuh and her sister walked along the river bank they came across the golden snail and Candra Kirana said, “Ugh! What a repulsive creature!” The witch instantly transformed back to herself and cast her spell transforming Princess Candra Kirana into a large golden snail and threw it into the river

One day a very old woman was casting nets into the river hoping to catch some fish.  She did this several times but when she pulled the net out each time she was very disappointed because the net was completely empty of fish.  She decided to have one last go and once again the net was empty of fish but did contain a large golden snail. The grandmother had never seen a golden snail  before and thought it would make a good pet so she took it home and placed in a large jar.

The next morning she went out down to the river with her nets hoping to have better luck than the previous day and catch a few fish.  Again she was disappointed and this time there was not even a snail. She trudged home disconsolate but when she got back she had a big surprise.  When she entered the door she noticed the pleasant aroma of cooking and on the table were beautifully prepared dishes of the most delicious food.

Of course she wondered who had sent her such wonderful food but she counted her blessings and ate it all.  Everyday the old woman would go down to the river and cast her nets into the water and every day she would catch nothing.  Each day on her return there would be a sumptuous feast prepared and waiting on the table for her. Of course, the old woman ate and enjoyed all the food and gave thanks for such blessings but she was curious.  One morning she took her nets and made as if to go down to the river but instead double-backed and peaked through the window to see what might be happening.

At first she saw nothing but then she noticed her golden snail had slithered up the inside of the jar and then down the outside,  To he utter amazement it then began to grow and transform into a beautiful princess who stepped out of the shell. The girl began preparing and cooking ingredients that appeared on the table creating the most wonderfully tasty dishes.  The old woman was surprised and shocked and stepped into house and asked the beautiful princess why she was cooking for an old woman like her.

The Spell is Broken

The Princess of the Golden Snail replied, “I am Princess  Candra Kirana the daughter of King Kertamarta.  who was chosen by Prince Raden Inu Kertapati to be his wife.  My sister Princess Dewi Galuh was jealous and persuaded my wicked witch to transform me into this golden snail.  The old woman was disbelieving of the tale but when remembered how she had seen her transform into a princess from the golden snail before her eyes she was astounded but believed. Now although the old woman was not in anyway magical she possessed a certain wisdom and this wisdom told her that if she broke the golden snail’s shell then the princess would not be able to transform back into a snail and return to it so she crushed the shell under her foot.  Sure enough the princess had nowhere to return to and the spell was broken.

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Prince Raden Inu Kertapati

Meanwhile, Prince Raden Inu Kertapati learnt of the disappearance of his true love and was heartbroken.  He loved her with all of his heart and she had become the light of his life, his candle in the dark and he resolved to find her.  He left the king’s court and searched the countryside and traveled to many towns and villages in search of his lost love but could find no trace.

His disappearance from court came to the ears of the wicked witch.  She quickly realised he was searching for Princess Candra Kirana and transformed herself into a crow to seek him out and thwart him.  One day as he was resting under a tree a crow came and perched in a branch above him and began talking to him.  Of course he was surprised by encountering a talking crow but realizing it must be magical listened to what it said.  The crow deceived him telling him that Princess Candra Kirana, the light of his life, his candle in the dark, was kept prisoner by a wicked old woman in a place over the mountains and told him that he would lead him to that place.

The Sorcerer    

Therefore, he followed the crow’s which flew before him.  After many days traveling he came across an old man who was sat by the road begging for food.  The prince had little to give but gave it all anyway even though he knew he would have to go hungry.  The old man thanked him and after he had eaten told him that he was a sorcerer and because he had stopped and given him the last of his food he would help him to find his heart’s desire and asked him what that might be.

Prince Raden Inu Kertapati told him about his search for his lost love and how the crow was leading him to where she was being held prisoner.  The old man looked searchingly at the crow then hit it with his stick and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. The prince was aghast and shouted, Why did you do that?  Now I will never find my lost love who is my heart’s desire!”

The old man smiled and said, “Fear not!  I will tell you where your heart’s desire lies and I will tell you that cast upon her is now broken by an old woman and I know where she is waiting for you.”

The old man told him which village she could be found in and gave him directions and told her she lived with a kind old woman and which house they lived in.  So the prince made his way to the village and when he arrived he was tired and thirsty so he approached one of the huts to ask for drink of water. He knocked on the door and a kind old woman answered and invited him in to have a drink and a rest.  As he entered he was thrilled to see Princess Candra Kirana cooking some food. As soon as she saw him she ran to him and they embraced.

Marriage

Prince Raden Inu Kertapati took Princess  Candra Kirana and the kind old woman back to the Royal Court and   Princess Candra Kirana told her father, King Kertamarta about the spell her sister had persuaded the wicked witch to place on her.  The king was very angry with Princess Dewi Galuh and fearing what punishment he might inflict upon her she fled into the forest and was never seen again.  Prince Raden Inu Kertapati and Princess Candra Kirana were married and lived a long and happy life together and the kind old woman stayed with them.

© 27/03/2019 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright March 27, 2019 zteve t evans

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