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Indonesian Stories

Indonesia Stories - The Magic Deer


The Cecak Song is an Indonesian nursery song. It is usually the first song taught to a toddler. The tone is easy, and it describes a familiar scene: a house lizard catching a mosquito.

The House Lizard (gecko) is a harmless little animal. It eats small insects such as mosquitos and flies. Indonesians let the animal live in their houses, because it helps keep harmful insects away. It stays on the wall, sometimes hiding behind furniture or pictures. It is about 3 to 4 inches long. It's color is light brown or grey. Indonesians call it 'cecak' because it always makes this sound: It can even crawl on the ceiling because its feet are like suction cups, which produce a vacuum and hold the lizard upside down on the ceiling.When a house lizard sees a mosquito, it creeps quietly up to it. And when it is close enough to its prey, it stands quite still. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, it rolls out its long tongue and swallows the mosquito. When teaching the song to a small child, Indonesian parents' usually hold the child up to see the house lizard catching a mosquito.


Cecak-cecak di dinding (Lizard, lizard on the wall)

diam-diam merayapquietly, (quietly crept up)

datang seekor nyamuk (down came a mosquito)

HAP! Lalu ditangkap. (HAP! It was eaten up.)



"The Magic Deer" is adapted from the Ramayana. In this story, Rawana, the demon king of Lanka, plots with his courtiers to kidnap Sita, the wife of Prince Rama. Prince Rama is in exile in the forest with Sita and Laksmana, his brother. Rawana instructs one of his demons to become a beautiful deer to lure Laksmana, Sita's protector, away from her house. While they are gone, Rawana appears in the forest and forcibly carries away Sita to Lanka. 


Once upon a time, there lived in a village a widow with her two daughters. Their names were White Onion and Red Onion. The widow loved Red Onion very much as Red Onion was her own child. Red Onion was allowed to play all day long and did not help in the household work at all. She was given the most beautiful clothes, and the prettiest toys. In contrast, White Onion was treated very badly because she was the widow's stepdaughter. She was made to do all the housework. She woke up early in the morning to cook food, and to sweep the house clean. It was also her responsibility to feed the ducks and the chickens, and wash the pots and pans. All she got in return for her hard work was loud criticism. Every other day, White Onion went down to the river to wash clothes. Although this was not a chore she enjoyed very much, she always liked going to the river because this was one place she could enjoy some peace. You see, Red Onion and her step-mother did not like to get their feet wet!One morning, White Onion went down to the river as usual to do her washing. She set the basket of dirty clothes down on a large flat stone in the river. The river was not very deep, but the current was quite fast. White Onion got so absorbed in her work that she did not notice the basket slipping into the water. It soon disappeared downstream, carried away by the strong current. When White Onion realized what had happened, she was very upset. She decided that it was better to try and find the basket than to go home empty-handed and face the wrath of her stepmother. So she set off down the river.On the way she met an old woman washing her hair in the clear water, and an old man cutting grass for his goats. Neither of them could give her any information about her basket. Finally, after walking for a very long time, she found her way blocked by a giantess. This giantess was called Mother Green Giant, and she was the guardian of the river.White Onion timidly asked Mother Green Giant about her lost basket. The giantess pointed to a basket nearby. White Onion was so happy to get her basket back that she offered to stay and work for Mother Green Giant for a few days to show her gratitude. For three whole days she cleaned the floor of Mother Green Giant's house till it shone, mended an old sarong for her, and scrubbed the pots and pans till they gleamed. The giantess was pleased with her work. As a reward, she took White Onion to a room filled with parcels of all shapes and sizes, wrapped in satin and silk and tied with ribbons the colors of a rainbow. Some of the parcels were wrapped in ordinary rice paper and even in dried banana leaves as well. Mother Green Giant told White Onion to choose any parcel she liked. White Onion very humbly chose a small box wrapped in banana leaves that was closest to her. Then she thanked the giantess and left.When she reached home, her step-sister and step-mother were amazed. In her absence they had to do all the household chores themselves, so the lazy women were very glad to see White Onion again. They thought she had drowned in the river! Of course they did not show White Onion how glad they were to see her. Instead they scolded her mercilessly. They ordered her to open her parcel at once. How surprised everyone was when White Onion finally got to open her present! The small box was filled with precious stones. Red Onion became very jealous when she saw her step-sister's marvelous jewelry. She resolved to imitate White Onion's actions and go to Mother Green Giant's house.The following day, Red Onion went to the river, where she threw the old basket into the water. Then she followed the course of the river, until she too found her way blocked by the giantess. Boldly she approached the giantess to seek permission to work for her. Now, Red Onion had never learned how to do housework. She could not sweep the floors clean, nor scrub the pots and pans. Being a lazy and selfish girl, she very soon gave up the pretense of working. Instead she complained that she wanted to go home. But first, she wanted a present.Mother Green Giant took her to the room full of parcels and told her to choose one. Of course, Red Onion chose the biggest parcel in the room, having first weighed packet after packet, and having looked over all the wrappings. The parcel she selected was so heavy that Red Onion could barely lift it. Without a word of thanks to the giantess, she set off homeward. On the way, she did not ask anyone to help because she was afraid her precious jewels might get stolen. When she finally reached home, exhausted but proud, she could barely wait to open those elaborate wrappings. Inside the box, Red Onion and her mother saw two glittering things. They were not the jewels Red Onion anticipated, but the eyes of a very poisonous snake! Before the two women could run away, the snake had bitten them both and disappeared into the river. Red Onion and her mother were killed by the poisonous snake bite. White Onion was free of her cruel step-mother. She sold some of her jewels to buy a small house. There she lived peacefully for the rest of her life.



 Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Tu-tu-mu, who lived with her mother in a little hut in the forest. Every morning, Tu-tu-mu's mother collected herbs and firewood from the forest, which she sold at a nearby market. They lived very simply on the money she earned.

Every morning before she left for the market, Tu-tu-mu's mother made a huge pot of porridge from sugar, coconut milk and rice-flour which she put on her doorstep. Yet neither she nor her daughter ever tasted this nice smelling porridge. Who could it possibly be meant for? Deep inside the forest lived a wicked giant. It was this ugly creature who got to eat the porridge every single day. Ever since he came into their lives, Tu-tu-mu and her mother were poor. Tu-tu-mu did all the housework while her mother was at the market. She would sweep the floor of the hut clean, and wash all the crockery. Only when the little hut was spic-and-span did she go out and play. Every day around noon, she would lock herself in the little hut and wait for Uncle giant. All the birds and animals of the forest would run away as fast as they could when they heard the thumping of the giants footsteps approaching. With a gigantic finger the giant would knock on the door of Tu-tu-mu's hut and demand his porridge. Then in one big gulp he would drain the big pot of sweet porridge, disappearing into the forest until the next day. Tu-tu-mu's mother never failed to make the porridge because she was afraid that the giant would eat her daughter instead if the porridge were missing.One day, Tu-tu-mu's mother was unable to sell all her firewood in the market. She did not have enough money to buy food for her daughter and herself because she still had to buy the sugar, milk, and rice-flour for the giant's porridge. She was too frightened to give the giant less than usual. So Tu-tu-mu and her mother had to go hungry. More than once, Tu-tu-mu was tempted to steal some of the porridge. How delicious it smelt! After her mother had left for the market, Tu-tu-mu could not resist the warm, fragrant porridge any longer. She took one spoonful of porridge, then another, and another. Soon she had eaten a quarter of the porridge. Only then did Tu-tu-mu remember the giant! He would surely notice that the pot was not full to the brim any more. Poor Tu-tu-mu was so frightened that she locked herself in the hut and hid under the bed.That afternoon, when the giant came to the hut, he was infuriated to discover that someone had been bold enough to eat his porridge. Tu-tu-mu could barely speak when he asked in a loud voice " WHERE IS MY PORRIDGE, Tu-tu-mu?" Her silence made the giant even more angry. With one mighty push he opened the door to the hut. Then he plucked Tu-tu-mu out from under the bed where she was hiding. Holding her between thumb and forefinger, he dropped her into his wide open mouth!Tu-tu-mu was terrified as she fell into the giant's stomach. How dark it was in there! Then she remembered the sharp, pointed hairpin that kept her hair in place. Quickly she pulled it out of her hair and began to stab the giant with it. Shouting with pain the giant ran into the forest, where he tripped over a big root and fell to the ground. When he fell, he hit his head on a big stone and died.Meanwhile, Tu-tu-mu's mother came back home only to discover that the door of the hut was open, and her girl was nowhere in sight. She understood at once that the giant had taken her little girl away. Being a very courageous woman, she set out at once to find the giant, armed with a sharp knife. Not very far from the house she saw the giant lying dead on the ground. From his stomach, she could hear her daughter's voice crying for help. Quickly Tu-tu-mu's mother used the knife she had brought with her to cut open the giant's stomach and rescue her little girl. How happy they were to see each other again! Thereafter, Tu-tu-mu's mother still made fragrant porridge, but it was no longer for the cruel giant. 



Have you ever wondered how the coconut palm with its long slender trunk and waving leaves came into being? Here is the story.Long, long ago, there was a beautiful young goddess by the name of Ratna. She was the only daughter of the mountain god Semeru, so he loved her very much and fulfilled all her wishes. Ratna lived inside her father's mountain where the rooms were always lit by burning lamps as it was always dark. The wind could not penetrate the thick mountain walls, nor could flowers grow. As a result Ratna, who had heard many stories about the world outside from her friends, longed to enjoy the sunshine and see for herself the blue sky, colorful flowers, and the green trees. But Semeru was afraid of losing his daughter, so he always refused her request to leave the mountain.One day, when Ratna turned seventeen, the god gave a splendid feast for her birthday. Many rich and powerful gods were invited, for Semeru hoped to find among them a good husband for Ratna. On this special day, Ratna once again expressed her longing to experience the world outside on her own. Her father's staunch refusal made Ratna very sad indeed. When the guests learned the cause of Ratna's unhappiness, they all pleaded for her. At last Semeru gave in.The next day Ratna woke up very early and dressed in her loveliest clothes. Once outside, she found it so beautiful that she did not wish to return to her dark mountain home. So she sat down by a small river and cried. Now, the crown prince of the country happened to be sitting nearby. He was a very handsome young man. When he heard her story, he promptly fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. He told her about life on Earth, the joys and sorrows of men, their little huts and paddy fields, the goats and buffaloes, and all the little things that make life easy or difficult for mortals. The more Ratna heard, the more she wanted to share his life.The prince accompanied Ratna back to her home where her father was waiting impatiently. Semeru became very angry when he saw that a mere mortal had dared to follow his daughter. Ratna told her father that she loved the young prince and wished to marry him. Semeru in his anger had already resolved to kill the crown prince. He did not however, want to directly insult the boy's father, who might have powerful friends among the gods. So he thought of a scheme which the prince would find very hard to accomplish. The prince had to move the mountain which blocked Semeru's view of the sea and set it down a little further away all in one night. The task was to be finished before the first cock crowed at sunrise. Moreover, if the prince failed to complete the task, he would be turned to stone for daring to ask for the hand of a goddess in marriage.The prince agreed to the condition. When he returned to his kingdom, he told his father all about the task which he had undertaken in order to marry his goddess. Now the king was a powerful magician. He told his son a magic spell which would turn him into a mighty giant. He also gave the prince a magic bowl which could cut through the stone of the mountain like a knife cuts through butter.At sunset, armed with these things the young prince started shoveling the sand and stones away from the mountain top. The magic bowl made his impossible task very easy, so that it appeared that he would accomplish what he had set out to do. This meant that Semeru would lose the daughter he loved so dearly despite all his scheming.When only one shovel remained to finish the task, Semeru imitated the sound of a cock crowing. This woke all the other cocks, who started to crow loudly. Immediately the prince started turning to stone, and the magic bowl fell from his hands. Ratna, who had recognized her father's voice, appealed to the gods against her father's treachery. The gods took pity on her and changed her into a tree near her prince. Her long slender body changed into the trunk, her arms became the branches and her flowing hair the leaves. Her head turned into the fruit of the tree. Thus the coconut palm had come into being!Thus god Semeru remained alone in his mountain after all. When he sighed out aloud, clouds of smoke came out of his crater. He did not get to look out at the sea either, because the gods changed the prince's magic bowl into a mighty mountain that blocked Semeru. To this day, the two mountains stand side by side, one called Mount Bromo, and the other called Mount Batok which means ---"coconut shell."