The Spirit Wife’s Gift (Indonesian Folk tales – 3)

Once upon a time there was a man who was accustomed to keep watch in his garden to prevent its being plundered by wild pigs. One night a pig appeared at which the man threw his spear; but the creature was only wounded and ran away with the missile sticking in its back.

Next day the man followed the trail of the stricken animal and after a long chase found that the tracks led to a deep cleft in the rocks, which conducted him down into the earth, so that at last he came out in the middle of a town. The tracks led directly to one of the houses, which the man entered, and looking around, he saw his spear leaning by the door.

From a neighbouring room he heard sounds of crying, and shortly a man appeared, who asked him who he was and what he wanted. When he replied that he had come to find his spear, which had been carried off in the body of a pig the night before, the owner of the house said, “No, you speared my child, and her you must cure. When she is well again, you shall marry her.”

While talking, the man who was in search of his spear happened to look up and saw hanging from the rafters a bunch of pigs’ skins, which were the disguises that the people of this underworld assumed when they visited the upper earth to plunder the gardens of men.

He finally agreed to try his skill in curing the woman whom he had thus unwittingly wounded, and in a short time she had wholly recovered. Some time after he had married her, she said to him, “Come now, you act just as if you had forgotten all about your wife and children,” to which he answered, “No, I think of them often; but how shall I find them?”

A plan was proposed which he accepted, and in accordance with which they were both to put on the pig disguises and visit the upper world. No sooner said than done, and for three months he lived in the underworld, visiting the gardens of his own town in the upper world in the guise of a pig.

Then one day, when he and others had come to the upper earth, they said to him, “Now, shut your eyes, and don’t open them until we give the word. After this, when you make a garden plot and the pigs come to break in and make trouble, do not shoot at them, but go and call out, saying that they must not come to this field but go to some others; and, then they will surely go away.”

He did as they commanded and closed his eyes, but when he opened them, he was back once more in human form in his own garden and his spirit wife of the underworld he never saw again.

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