The Kantjil and the Tiger (Indonesian Folktales-1)


One day the kantjil ( a mouse-deer) was resting quietly when he heard a tiger approaching and feared for his life, wherefore, quickly taking a large leaf, he began to fan a pile of dung which happened to lie near. When the tiger came up, and overcome by curiosity asked what he was doing, the mouse-deer said, “This is food belonging to the king. I am guarding it.” The tiger, being very hungry, at once wished to be allowed to eat the royal food, but the kantjil refused for a long time, advising him not to touch it and saying that it would be wrong to betray his trust; but at last he agreed to let the tiger have his way if he would promise to wait before eating it until he, the kantjil, had gone; for thus the blame might be escaped. No sooner said than done; so when the kantjil had reached a safe distance, he called back to the tiger, “You may begin now,” whereupon the tiger hungrily seized what he thought was a delicious morsel, only to be cruelly deceived. Furious at the trick played upon him by the little kantjil, he hurried after the fugitive to get his revenge.

His intended victim, had meanwhile found a very venomous snake, which lay coiled up asleep. Sitting by this, he awaited the tiger’s arrival, and when the latter came up raging in pursuit, he told him that he had only himself to blame, since he had been warned not to eat the food. “But,” said the kantjil, “you must keep quiet, for I am guarding the girdle of the king. You must not come near it, because it is full of magic power.” The tiger’s curiosity and desire being, of course, only stimulated by all this, he insisted that he be allowed to try on the precious girdle, to which the kantjil yielded with apparent reluctance, again warning him to be very careful and, as before, saying that the tiger must first let him get safely away, in order that no guilt might attach to him. When the kantjil had run off, the tiger seized the supposed magic girdle, only to be bitten by the snake, which he did not succeed in killing until after a severe struggle.

Thirsting for vengeance, the tiger again took up the pursuit of his clever little adversary, who, meanwhile, had stopped to rest, so that when the tiger caught up with him, he found him sitting near a clump of tall bamboo. The kantjil greeted the tiger warmly and said, without giving the latter time to express his anger, that he had been appointed keeper of the king’s trumpet. The tiger, immediately desiring to try this wonderful instrument, was induced to put his tongue between two of the bamboos, being told that, as soon as the wind blew, they would give fine music. The trickster ran off, and presently a strong gust arose, swayed the bamboos, and thus pinched the tiger’s tongue entirely off

Again the tiger gave chase, and this time found the kantjil standing beside a great wasp’s-nest. As before, the trickster warned the tiger not to disturb him, for he was guarding the king’s drum which gave out a very wonderful tone when struck; but the tiger, of course, was most anxious to have the opportunity of sounding it. With feigned reluctance, the kantjil at last agreed, stipulating, as before, that he be allowed to get out of the way. As soon as he had put a safe distance between himself and the tiger, he gave the signal, and the tiger struck the nest, only to be stung to death the next instant by a swarm of angry wasps

One comment on “The Kantjil and the Tiger (Indonesian Folktales-1)

  1. It’s so cool that you use the old spelling of the word “kantjil”. It gives this classic, nostalgic mood to the tale. We don’t use “kantjil” anymore. It’s “kancil” now. 😀

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