Thursday, December 18, 2008


A Folktale from Jamu Region in Acheh Province [where the earthquake occurred]

I n a village there lived a family with only one son. His name was Sikintan. Every day the father went into the forest to gather wood, which he sold in the market. Though he worked hard, they were always poor.

One night Sikintan’s father had a dream. In his dream an old man came to him and said, “Sikintan’s father, go to the upper reaches of the river. Look there for a large bamboo cluster. In that bamboo cluster you will find a Back to topdiamond stick. That diamond stick will bring much good fortune.

The following day Sikintan was asked by his father to come along on a trip to the upper reaches of the river. But his father didn’t tell Sikintan what his exact purpose was. His father only told him they were going for a long walk.

Father and son walked along the edge of the river. When they had traveled far upstream to the very upper reaches of the river, they discovered a large bamboo cluster. Sikintan was astonished to see his father start digging furiously in the bamboo cluster. But still his father did not tell him what he was actually looking for.

After a while, something sparkling was seen among the bamboo roots. Sikintan’s father soon pried it up from the thick bamboo clump. It was the diamond stick which had been revealed by the old man in the dream. Not until he actually had the diamond stick in his hands did the father tell Sikintan about that dream.

When they arrived home, Sikintan’s mother was amazed to see her husband carrying a diamond stick! They decided they should sell it and use the money to forward Sikintan’s career, since he was now old enough to go out into the world. But since everyone on their island knew them as poor people, they feared they would be accused of stealing if they tried to sell something so valuable. They decided to send Sikintan to another island to make the sale.

The following day Sikintan hired himself onto a large boat traveling to another island . “You will soon be rich, my son,” said his father. “Don’t forget your poor parents who have always lived in poverty. Remember us when your life improves.” Sikintan promised to always remember his parents.

So Sikintan crossed the seas to a distant island. As soon as the ship had moored, Sikintan went ashore and looked for work. He settled down to learn his way about, before attempting to sell the diamond stick. He soon realized that only the most wealthy merchant in the village would have enough money to purchase such a thing. So he approached that merchant and managed to sell the marvelous diamond stick for a large sum.

With the money from the diamond stick, Sikintan set himself up as a merchant. He used his money well, worked hard, and became very rich. He married a merchant’s daughter, built a fine house, and bought for himself a large ship, which he named “Sikintan.” But all this time, he had not thought at all about his parents, still living in his home village in such poverty.

Then one night Sikintan had a dream. In his dream he saw his mother and father. “Kintan,” called his mother, “You are now rich and contented. But you seem to have forgotten your parents. We have been waiting for you for so many years. Did you not promise your father when he saw you off at the ship, that you would never forget your own parents?”

Sikintan realized his shameful neglect of his parents. The next day he and his wife set sail for his native village. As soon as he docked, he sent word for his parents to come to the ship. News spread throughout the village that Sikintan had returned a rich merchant.

Sikintan’s father was overjoyed and rushed to the shore to greet his son. But when Sikintan saw this old man in ragged clothes on the shore, he was ashamed to admit before his wife, that this was his own father.

“Old man, how do you dare claim to be my father. My father is not a poor old creature like you.” Sikintan’s father tried to be patient. “Kintan look at me carefully. I am your father. It was I who gave you the diamond stick which made your fortune. It is because of me that you now can live in such wealth, while your old parents have lived in poverty all of these years.”

But Sikintan turned his back on the ragged old man. His father went home in grief.

“Though Sikintan sent for me, he refused to recognize me when I arrived,” he told his wife. “You must go to call him. Surely he will recognize his own mother.”

So Sikintan’s mother hurried to the ship and asked someone to call Sikintan to the deck. But when he came out onto the deck and saw this old, decrepit woman, he once more refused to show recognition. “Old woman, don’t you ever claim me as your son. My mother didn’t look like you. My mother was always neatly dressed and clean.”

“But Kintan,” replied his mother. I am old now, and we are very poor. How can you show shame at meeting your own parents?”

So his mother too had to go home grief-stricken. There she and her husband wept and wept that their own son would refuse to recognize them.

As for Sikintan, he turned his ship and started back for the village of his wife. But soon the wind began to blow. The ship’s captain was alarmed. “Sikintan has been cruel to his own parents. This typhoon may be a retribution for his actions. Now we will all suffer because of Sikintan.

Sikintan realized that the captain was right. Fearing for his life, he ordered the captain to change course and return to his parent’s island. Once more the huge ship docked at his parent’s village. Once more they hurried to the shore to greet their son. But when he saw that old, ragged couple on the shore, Sikintan still could not bear to admit that they were his own parents. So happy at first, his parents now were crushed once again. “If you still do not want to recognize us, we will just go home. Forget you ever had us as your parents.” And they left.

As Sikintan’s ship sailed away a final time, his mother called to the heavens. “Since our son, Sikintan, does not admit we are his parents. Let him have no blessing from us or from the heavens.” (does this work. “have his just deserts” doesn’t sound right)

Now the typhoon arose again. This time there was no turning back. The ship was swallowed in the waves, and Sikintan, his wife, and all his crew were drowned.

They say that seven days after the ship sank, an island appeared on that spot. A white monkey clung to the island. For one month the white monkey was seen clinging there. And then it was gone. People say that the island was Sikintan’s ship and that the white monkey was Sikintan himself. To this day that island is known as Sikintan’s Island. And all who pass it remember the story of Sikintan who treated his own parents so cruelly.
Contributed by
Margaret Read MacDonald

[Contributed by Murti Bunanta of Jakarta. It is from her book Indonesian Folktales (Libraries Unlimited, 2003).


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