GEOLOGICAL ELEMENTS IN INDONESIAN FAIRY TALES
Jan van der Horst
I have always wondered how old this famous story was. First I thought it must have been hundreds of thousand years ago, but I was mistaken. King Rama didnot travel by land, but sailed to the Island of Lanka (Alengka), So there was a sea between India and Lanka, which means that this fairy tale dates from after de Weichsel-Würms ice age. A dam was built between India and Lanka but was destroyed by an eruption, but it could be repaired. Hanoman helped with chasing the evil spirits in the form of crocodiles who caused the catastrophes, throwing rocks at them. Apart from that a huge wave destroyed a town in the North of Lanka. This story could in reality refer to a geological catastrophe in prehistoric times.
2. Tangkuban Perahu (the reversed boat)
Prince Sang Kurian flees from the court of Bandung on the plateau to the court of Mojopahit, and becomes the favourite stepson of the king. He wants to conquer Bandung, but first goes there as a beggar in order to look if everything there is all right. He meets a beautiful princess and wishes to marry her. She agrees but discovers that he is the son she once drove from the court, so that she cannot marry him However, as a queen may not break her promise, she gives him an impossible task and tells him: come to-morrow in a wedding boat to fetch me. But there were no boats and there is only one river the Citarum, which of course cannot flow upstream. He begs the spirits to make a dam in the river, higher than the Bandung court, so that he can sail to his beloved. When the water-level was high enough he begs the spirits to make a boat for him. The queen was told everything and became desperate. Agni the god of the fire hears her prayer and decides to help her. He caused an earthquake, which destroyed the dam, so that the boat was dragged along with the stream and was turned over on the place where untill now the mountain lies. That is why the mountain is called The Reversed Boat; if you look into the krater you still see the unextinguishable “wedding fire”.
3. The Sand Sea and the Gunung Batok
When the Mojopahit kingdom was formed in 1293 in East-Java, the Tengger mountain range did not yet have a name and had a quite different form. The plateau which we now call the Sand Sea and the Gunung Batok were formed in that period. A princess named Rata Anteng, the silent, doesnot want to marry the braggart Boli Bolang and asks her close friend Jaka Seger for help, who advises her: Tell Boli that in one night’s time he has to make a big lake, which has to be completed before the cocks crowing in the morning. Now Boli invokes the help of magic powers and digs the lake with a coconut shell. The princess becomes worried and realizes that Boli will finish his work in time. Therefore she goes to the barn and begins to pound rice with much noise, so that the cocks in the neighbourhood begin to cackle. Boli Bolang sees he cannot finish the work in time and furious, threw away his coconut shell. This shell landed somewhere and became a mountain called Gunung Balok, whereas the Sand Sea he had needed to make a lake in was not yet filled with water and remained as it was.
4. How the mountains came into being (Flores)
In the beginning there was nothing on the earth, except water. There existed only one garden, owned by a lonely woman. One day she walked around her garden and fell asleep under a ajang tree. She didnot feel that a fruit from the tree fell into her lap. This was to become her first child, she called him Lenang. When he was adult she married him because there was no other man. They got two children Nidwal and Obak. When they became older they wanted to create mountains and flat land. Who was to begin? They agreed that the one who first finished cooking could begin. Nidwal cooked beans and Obak peas; the beans were first ready. Obak asked: what do you want; everything flat or should there also be mountains? The winner said: one mountain is enough, the rest may be flat. Obak didnot agree and wanted more variation. Let us bet said Nidwal, who first finishes cooking this time may do what he chooses. Nidwal cooked rice and Obak maize. Nidwal wins again. He shouted: dry up, water, dry up! So all the land became dry; he made one big mountain which he called Inerie. Obak was angry, took a club and chased his brother from the
court. Now he could do as he pleased, he made many mountains big ones and small ones, but could not make one as big as Inerie .
5. Other islands came into being in the Kai archipelago
Once upon a time a fisherman was drifted by chance to the Elat bay and there out of nothing the small island of Sifat came into being. Later an inhabitant lost his son by snake bite; he buried him and threw the pieces of wood which lay on the grave into the sea, where it was transformed into a smal island by the name of Ut.
6. Nyai Roro Kidul – The Princess of the South Sea
A well-known story is that of Nyai Roro Kidul. It is a fact that every year swimmers are drowned along the coast of Southern Java. People say that this princess is responsible for those mortal accidents. It is believed that when one wears a green bathing suit it is very risky to swim or even take a bath, because the Princess is fond of green clothes. Every year swimmers or bathers are dragged away by a sudden strong current and most of them are never found. On the contrary in the Java Sea on the Northern side of the island there are not many victims.
The Australian shelf is moving northward and dives beneath the Sunda shelf on which West Indonesia lies. This Northern movement however, is not a constant one; sometimes short so-called back thrusts occur in the opposite direction, viz. from North to South. This contrary movement causes a strong suction from above to below along the South coast. This draught is so strong; that no swimmer can resist its force; they are taken away and most of their bodies are never found again.
With this geological explanation the riddle of the evil Princess of the South Sea is solved.