Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sangkuriang - The Malaysian & Indonesian Oedipus Rex

Sangkuriang is a legend of the Sundanese people of the island of Java.

Since Malaysia and Indonesia share the Javanese people, as both modern countries were born out of the collapsed and colonised Johor Empire, Sangkuriang is as much a Malaysian folk tale as it is an Indonesian one.

The Sundanese and Javanese are descended from the Kadazans of Sabah and Melanaus of Sarawak respectively.

The legend tells about the creation of Lake Bandung, Mount Tangkuban Parahu, Mount Burangrang and Mount Tunggul in modern-day West Java, the Sunda heartland.

The story of Sangkuriang was first written in the 15th century by Prince Jaya Pakuan of Sunda.

His writings can now be found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Britain.

Sangkuriang was a brave and strong man who had been separated from his mother, the Sundanese princess Dayang Sumbi, since childhood.

He travelled around the world and when he returned home, he fell in love with a beautiful princess whom he did not realise was his own mother.

A day before the duo were engaged, Sangkuriang fell ill and collapsed in his fiancee’s lap.

As she cupped and massaged his head and face, she discovered a large scar beneath his hair, and realised that the handsome warrior was her own son.

Twenty years ago, she had hit him hard on the head, and caused him to leave home and travel around the world.

Sumbi told Sangkuriang who she really was.

Years ago, the King of Sunda splashed holy water from a river on a wild boar named Wayungyang, who wanted to become a human being.

Wayungyang transformed into a princess and the ruler married her. They had a daughter, Sumbi, who was blessed with superpowers and eternal youth.

As soon as Sumbi was born, Wayungyang reverted to boar form and was never heard of again.

When she reached her teens, Sumbi abandoned palace life and possible marriage because “all of the Sundanese men lusted for her”.

Accompanied by her magical pet dog Tumang, Sumbi went to live in a mountainous region of her kingdom.

One day, Sumbi lost her hair pin and told Tumang to look for it.

The dog wanted to become a human being and marry the princess, and thus it drank some holy water from a river. His wish soon came true.

Sumbi became pregnant with a son, and as soon as this happened, Tumang reverted to dog form.

Sumbi’s son Sangkuriang grew up to be a handsome warrior with superhuman strength.

One day, he hit his pet Tumang for chasing after a wild boar, which he believed was his grandmother. The dog died, and Sangkuriang slaughtered it for meat.

As they were about to have dinner, Sumbi realised that Sangkuriang had killed their pet dog, and in anger, struck him on the head.

After hearing the story, Sangkuriang remained unconvinced that Sumbi was really his mother, and insisted on marrying the beauty.

She thus set an impossible condition for him to marry her - build a gigantic lake by filling a massive valley with water, as well as a huge ship, all in one night.

However, the Herculean Sangkuriang almost made it, with the help of his friends, the fairies.

Sumbi was horrified. She lit up the eastern horizon with her magical shawl and created a false dawn.

Sangkuriang, who had finished his work shortly after “dawn”, realised that “dawn had come too early” and that he had “failed”.

In his anger, he overturned the ship and it became Mount Tangkuban Parahu [the overturned ship].

Two piles of wood used as raw material for the ship became Mount Burangrang [heap] and Mount Tunggul [stump].

The lake became Lake Bandung.

Sangkuriang jumped into the lake, but his mother pulled him out with her magical shawl. She cast a spell on him, to restore his memory of who he really was, and carried him in her arms to the heavens atop Mount Puteri [princess].

Sangkuriang was made into an Indonesian film in 1982 starring the late Suzanna Van Osch and Clift Sangra.