Indonesia Banget #9: Sangkuriang, a Folklore From Indonesia

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Have you ever heard The Legend of Sangkuriang?

If you aren’t Indonesian, big chance you haven’t heard it yet.

Last month, I promised to share some folklore from Indonesia. I am going to share one folklore for this month and will do another one in another month (not next month tho). Most Indonesian folklores were made based upon certain places.

Picture taken from google

The legend of Sangkuriang is the story behind Mount Tangkuban Perahu in West Java. Tangkuban Perahu means up-side down boat, you can see the picture on the right. The mountain looks like a boat being turned up-side down. Long time ago, people made up the story of Sangkuriang based on the shape of the mountain.

What I am going to share here is a story that has been passed on from one generation to the next generation by mouth, therefore the details of the story tend to be different if told by another person. The outline of the story is always the same but details often changed. I write this just based on my memory.

The Legend of Sangkuriang.

Once upon a time, lived a beautiful woman named Dayang Sumbi. One day, she was knitting in her front yard. Her thread kept on falling down, she kept taking it back until a point where she felt tired of it. “I will marry anyone who can take that thread back to me,” said Dayang Sumbi.

Out of nowhere, a dog came and brought the thread to her. She was bound to her words and married the dog. The dog’s name was Tumang, he was actually God in disguise. They lived happily and had one son named Sangkuriang. Dayang Sumbi did not tell him that the dog in their house was his father.

One day, Sangkuriang promised his mother that he will bring her some meat from his hunt. Dayang Sumbi felt so happy hearing that. Sangkuriang went to the forest with Tumang. But, he couldn’t catch anything. He did not want to disappoint his mother, he had to bring meat to her. He decided to bring Tumang’s meat. He killed the dog and brought back the meat.

Dayang Sumbi was happy with the meat. But then she realized something. “Where is Tumang?” asked her.

The meat we have just eaten was Tumang’s meat, Mother.” Replied Sangkuriang.

Dayang Sumbi was furious upon hearing it. She hit Sangkuriang’s head with an iron spoon. It made his head bleed. Feeling disappointed with his mother’s act, he left their house. After he left, Dayang Sumbi regretted the thing she had done to her son. She prayed and prayed to God as often as she could to let her see her son again before she died. The God felt sorry for her and grant her eternal youth so that her son could still remember her.

Years later, Sangkuriang arrived to a village which happened to be his old village. He met a beautiful woman and fell in love with her. The woman was actually Dayang Sumbi. Sangkuriang did not remember his mother’s face anymore and Dayang Sumbi did not know her son’s face because he had turned into from a boy into a man. Sangkuriang asked her to marry him and Dayang Sumbi said yes to his proposal.

When Dayang Sumbi was helping Sangkuriang to fix his head scarf, she noticed a mark on his head.  She asked him the history of his mark. He told her that her mother hit him with a spoon. Hearing that story shocked her and made her realize the truth about the man she was about to marry. She couldn’t tell Sangkuriang the truth because he would not believe it and yet it was impossible for her to marry her own son.

She finally told him she wanted the wedding to be cancelled. Sangkuriang ignored her and kept on preparing for their wedding. Dayang Sumbi came up with another idea.

“I will wed you if you can prove your love to me.” Said her.

“Tell me what you want?” Replied Sangkuriang.

“I want you to create a lake and build a huge ship to sail across it. I want it to be done within one night!” Requested Dayang sumbi.

“Fine. I will show you my love first thing in the morning,” said Sangkuriang.

During his journey, Sangkuriang had made friend with Spirits and Genies. He asked them to come and help him. With their help, everything can be easily done.

Dayang Sumbi saw that her request was almost finished. She coulnd’t let that happen. She prayed to God to make the sun set earlier than before. God granted her pray and made the sun came out before her usual time. The chicken started singing their morning song.

Sangkuriang was bewildered. He knew the sun should not come out yet. He knew he had been tricked. Out of anger, he kicked the ship to the forest and landed on the ground in upside-down position. Feeling that she had once again disappointed her son, Dayang Sumbi decided to kill herself by jumping into the lake.   Legend said that Sangkuriang also killed himself in that lake.

— The end —

I hope you enjoy this first folklore I share on my Indonesia Banget monthly post 🙂

See you again next month with another edition of Indonesian Culture.

Previous Posts on Indonesia Banget:

  1. 17 Agustusan (Independence Day’s Celebration )
  2. Mudik (Going back to the Village)
  3. Bedong (The art of wrapping the infant)
  4. Malam Bainai (a Minang tradition on the  night before the wedding)
  5. Kerokan (One of many Indonesian traditional folk-cures)
  6. Topeng Monyet (Traditional Monkey Circus)
  7. Death Ceremonies
  8. Traditional Houses

14 thoughts on “Indonesia Banget #9: Sangkuriang, a Folklore From Indonesia

  1. Interesting tale, quite violent like many myths or even fairy tales. In what way do other versions differ, do you know? Isn’t it funny that the thing that is menat to help her–looking young– causes the disaster in the end. How is the story interpreted. Does it mean you cannot cheat fate?

    1. There are some softer versions, like the dog wasn’t eaten only kicked out of the house and they didn’t tell children that Dayang Sumbi killed herself. I like this version because it’s more tragic.

      For this story, I am not sure how to interpret it, I think different people have different interpretation. I, myself, interpret it like Sara there. But some thing it was just a story.

      Story like Malin Kundang has a firm interpretation. I will share it on June or July.

  2. thats a wonderfull story. They had a very sad life. I wonder did the dog go back into God form? I think the lesson is that keeping secrets from the ones you love is a bad idea.

    1. What happened to the dog was never been told.

      I also think like you, we should always tell the truth. In the beginning, Sumbi should tell Sangkurinang that the dog was his father.

  3. ooh, I love southern Asian legend and stories. One day, you and our dear Ruth AKA Flixy must take me down to Indonesia 🙂 I can’t stand tropical weather and heat, but I’m sure I’d enjoy it, and I promise I’d wear safari outfits like a crazy British tourist 🙂

    1. If you cant stand the heat, come down at this time of year, it’s raining everyday…but that wouldn’t be fun either, I supposed 😉

      lol, a tourist in safari, that’s something we havent seen in a long time.

      1. Don’t u know the Grimms Fairytales???They are very popular! Most of the Disney animation movies based on them.Like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty.Do u know the movies?The Brothers Grimm were two men who wrote Fairytales and a German dictionary in the 19th century(1812).This book is a very important thing for our language.They died before they’ve finished it.But the idea was made!But be careful-there was a movie called The Brothers Grimm with Heath Ledger, as I remember, this movie is not a docu 🙂

        1. ah yes…I know the Grimm brothers, I forgot they are from German.
          a friend told me that all those fairytales actually have sad ending, not the happy ever after end like most Disney movies.

          I have seen the Heath Ledger one and I can tell that that was just a fiction.

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