Dileak Pet English Version RMG

regularized spelling 11-20-04 in Kepahiang

Bitter Tongue[1]

There were two cousins, one of whom was named Four Eyes. The reason people called him Four Eyes was that he had two eyes in the nape of his neck. But if anyone tried to see the eyes from afar, they were not visible because they were covered with hair. If he wanted to use the eyes, he could just lift his hair. Four Eyes lived in the area of Pagar Ruyung[2]. It is far from here, in fact. Four Eyes was king of the area of Pagar Ruyung. Aaa, that is the background about Four Eyes.

One day, Bitter Tongue decided to make Lebong into a lake. Indeed, he wanted to transform the whole Lebong country into a lake, so he started hauling earth by carrying it on his shoulders. He hauled away quite a lot of earth in this way. But he spilled some earth, and that became the Barisan Mountain Range. Aaa, there is a pair of mountains there named Mount Sepikul[3] in the national language. This Mount Sepikul, when we speak in Rejang there are two mountains, Mount Kabes and Mount Tepuk. At the peak of Mount Tepuk, one can see the footprints of Bitter Tongue, where he used to go to catch fish. There he intended to make a fish-pond at Tunggang, at the river…umm…the Tunggang River. He was hauling the earth to Mount Sepikul/Mount Tepuk.

One day a man came and spoke to him: “Oi! Bitter Tongue! I have a message for you. Stop carrying that earth for a moment.”

“What do you want?” said Bitter Tongue. “I have very important work to do, more important than talking to you. What’s so important?”

“I was sent to relate some news to you. Your child in the village has died.”

“Aaa, my child has not died. Why would my child die?” said Bitter Tongue.

“It’s really dead,” said the man. Your child is dead.”

“O, no, why would my child die? It was not sick. Are you saying that my child has died, or not?”

So the two continued to talk to one another. That is to say, Bitter Tongue behaved toward the man in an extremely hostile manner. But again he said, “Is my child truly dead?”

Then the man said, “Yes, it’s dead!”

Aaa, hearing that, he returned to his house. Aaa, he returned to his house and found his child really dead. That’s why that Mount Sepikul was never completed. He intended to haul earth and build a fish-pond at the Tunggang River, the river we spoke of earlier, at Ulau Du’es. Aaa, the hill is called Mount Sepikul. He didn’t finish damming up the river to make a lake. If he had dammed it up, then Lebong would have filled up, Curup would have filled up, there would be no people left, just a huge lake. Instead, he went home. He went home and saw his child was dead. He did not finish making a huge lake in Lebong country. The proof of this is at Mount Sepikul. At the top there is a flat place. It is the place where he sat fishing, fishing with a bamboo pole. A bamboo pole. He fished from Mount Tepuk. From his place he fished in Lake Tes. It is a long ways from here, I don’t know how far, but at that time holy men, learned men, investigated. There they found the place where he fished from atop Mount Tepuk. He used to fish right down into Lake Tes. For his fishing rod, he had a bamboo pole — the type of bamboo that we call here pe’ing. Aaa, so that’s the place we call Mount Tepuk.

Now then, one day Four Eyes found out the reason why his cousin had the name `Bitter Tongue,’ why people called him that. That’s what people called him, Bitter Tongue. Anything Bitter Tongue foretold was certain to happen, except to make dead things alive again, that he couldn’t do. He could curse people to become stone, and they become stone[4]. That’s one reason why he had the name Bitter Tongue.

So finally they met in the village of Topos[5]. The name of the area is the village of Topos. The two cousins met there, and they began to test their knowledge of magic, test the strength of their powers. Four Eyes wanted to test the reason why Bitter Tongue had that name.

So Four Eyes said, “Wei! Bitter Tongue! People call you Bitter Tongue. I am Four Eyes. I am powerful, too. I am king in the area of Pagar Ruyung. You are king in the area of Rejang-Lebong. So now we will try our supernatural powers. Now, who of us will go first? We will climb a palm tree. When we get to the top, we will leap down. When I leap, you will be down below,” said Four Eyes. “When you leap, I will be down below.” That’s what Four Eyes said.

Bitter Tongue said, “You be first, Four Eyes. You stay beneath the tree, and I will try to jump on you from the top of the palm tree.”

So Four Eyes lay down face down. When Four Eyes was laying face down, Bitter Tongue leapt from the top of the tree. Aaa, Bitter Tongue leapt from the tree. As Bitter Tongue was jumping, while he was in mid-air, Four Eyes coiled his body and sprang away, so that he was not struck by the plummeting Bitter Tongue.

So Four Eyes said, “I was unharmed by your great leap. You do not have much power. Now I too will jump down on you.”

Of course, it came out that way because of a trick. He failed to hit Four Eyes, who had eyes in the nape of his neck. Thus Four Eyes cannot be struck from behind or from above, you see? So he escaped death.

Aaa, after that Bitter Tongue got his turn. Bitter Tongue lay face down, and Four Eyes leaped from the top of the tree. Bitter Tongue couldn’t see him falling, falling, and so he landed in the middle of his back. He struck him right over the heart and liver. His heart was crushed, his soul was severed. Bitter Tongue was dead.

When Bitter Tongue was dead, Four Eyes laughed out loud. He had won, which proved he was very powerful. However, after that, because he was so proud he had won, he wished to try to sample the taste of Bitter Tongue’s tongue. People said that the tongue was, well, bitter. Was it really bitter or not? So he went back and tried to bite off a little bit of the end of his tongue. When Four Eyes bit off the tip of the tongue, Four Eyes, too, died because of the bitterness and magical power of the tongue of Bitter Tongue. So finally they were both dead.

Now their graves—if I’m not mistaken—are at the village of Topos. Others say the graves lie in the district of Pagar Ruyung. That I do not know for sure.

And that is the story.




[1] Bitter Tongue is associated in legend with the Javanese-Hindu kingdom of Majapahit that ruled Java and many parts of Sumatra from the 13th to the 15th centuries. According to these legends, four Majapahit princes came to Lebong and became rulers. The new rulers replaced the old ajai system, apparently by means of peaceful election by the people. Bitter Tongue was not one of these historical princes, but is a personification of the power of Majapahit itself. See reference in this story and again in the Musi conversation on p. XX, where Bitter Tongue is said to have been able to turn people to stone.

[2] Pagar Ruyung refers to a medieval Minangkabau kingdom. According to legend, after a series of disputes with the ruling queen, the Rejang people left this kingdom, moving southward and occupying their present homeland in the Barisan highlands. The first village settled is said to be Topos in the Lebong dialect area. Topos (called Tapus in the national language) is referred to later in this story.

[3] The verb pikul, from which Sepikul is derived, means to shoulder two large containers fastened to a pole.

[4] See p. where the legendary Bitter Tongue is said to have turned

several people to stone.

[5] See n. 1.

heart was crushed, his soul was severed. Bitter Tongue was dead.

When Bitter Tongue was dead, Four Eyes laughed out loud. He had won, which proved he was very powerful. However, after that, because he was so proud he had won, he wished to try to sample the taste of Bitter Tongue’s tongue. People said that the tongue was, well, bitter. Was it really bitter or not? So he went back and tried to bite off a little bit of the end of his tongue. When Four Eyes bit off the tip of the tongue, Four Eyes, too, died because of the bitterness and magical power of the tongue of Bitter Tongue. So finally they were both dead.

Now their graves—if I’m not mistaken—are at the village of Topos. Others say the graves lie in the district of Pagar Ruyung. That I do not know for sure.

And that is the story.

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