As retold by Samsuni
Putri Serindang Bulan is the seventh daughter of King Mawang. She possesses an unbearable beauty and, sorry to say, a mysterious illness. Everytime a king comes to her with a marriage offer, she will suddenly has scabies all over her body. It is an embarrassment to the royal family, especially her brothers. For that reason, they plan to get rid of her. Can they really do that? Find out in the story.
King Mawang sat in Lebong, Bengkulu. He fathered seven children. They were six boys, Ki Gete, Ki Tago, Ki Ain, Ki Jenain, Ki Geeting, Ki Karang Nio and the last being the only girl, Putri Serindang Bulan. Old and grey, King Mawang appointed his sixth sons, Ki Karang Nio, to replace him. The new king was entitled Sultan Abdullah. Not long afterwards, the old monarch died.
It was after the departure of King Mawang that there began to be a serious problem in the palace. Putri Serindang Bulan had come of age and she was too beautiful to live alone for longer time. Their brothers urged her to get married as soon as possible, yet everytime a man came to propose her, she would suddenly had scabies throughout her body. After a marriage fell short, the illness would mysteriously disappear. It had happened nine times so far that the princess was thought to be a disgrace in the royal family. Her six brothers then planned something to get rid of her.
“If we don’t do something, our family will be embarrassed in the eyes of the kings. What should we do?” Ki Gete opened a discussion.
The other five princes were speechless. For a while, it was none but silence until Ki Karang Nio spoke.
“I think we should isolate her to a remote place,” suggested him.
“What do you think, brothers? Is that what we should do?” asked Ki Gete.
None of them answered. They seemed to raise their eyebrows.
“We can eliminate Putri Serindang Bulan, can’t we?” hinted Ki Tago.
Unexpectedly, all of them saw eye to eye on the idea, except Ki Karang Nio. Albeit his position as king, he had to accept the fact that he was alone in the meeting room. It was also decided that the one to carry out the task was the king himself. To prove the accomplishment, he had to return with a tube of Putri Serindang Bulan’s blood.
Next day, Ki Karang Nio went to talk to the princess right away. She was so sad to hear that her brothers wanted her die. She did not have the power to change it. Only to God she could submit her life.
“O God! Save this humble woman!” prayed Putri Serindang Bulan in tears.
“Forgive me, sister, for being so unhelpful,” said Ki Karang Nio while wiping his sister’s wet cheeks.
On the due day, Ki Karang Nio prepared to take his sister to a thick forest where she would meet her death. Before leaving, the princess asked her brother for one thing.
“Can I take my betel box and fowl?”
“What for, sister?”
“After I die, I want you to bury the box and the fowl with me. Besides you, they are the only things in the world that I have.”
On their way, without any guards accompanying, they did not speak to each other. Sadness covered them. Ki Karang Nio looked tense. He was thinking how he could save his sister’s life. Then, his face turned cheerful. At the bank of Air Ketahun River, he asked his sister to stop.
“We’ve come far enough,” said Ki Karang Nio.
“Well, then, you should do what you’re supposed to do,” said the princess.
“No, sister, I don’t have the heart to kill you. I can’t!” Ki Karang Nio remarked.
“Do it, brother! I’d die for your safety as king. If I’m alive, our brothers will have you exterminated!” urged the princess.
Ki Karang Nio calmed his sister down and revealed his plan to her.
“I won’t kill you, sister. I will make you a raft for you to sail. Go along the river, there will be somebody to help you,” said Ki Karang Nio.
“But don’t you have to bring my blood to show them that I’m dead?”
“You’re right. Now, I have to cut your skin to take some of your blood. I will mix it with animal’s blood.”
“Go ahead, brother. And maybe you can cut this fowl and take its blood if you need.”
Ki Karang Nio cut the princess’ hand thinly then contained the blood and blended it with the fowl’s blood with a bamboo tube. After that, he took her to the raft he had made.
“Go, my sister. Take care of yourself. God bless you.”
“Thank you, brother. I wish we could see each other again in the future,” said Putri Seindang Bulan, sobbing.
Seeing off his beloved sister, Ki Karang Nio could not resist crying. As Putri Serindang Bulan got away and disappeared, Ki Karang Nio rushed back to the palace. He showed to his brothers the tube full of blood.
Meanwhile, back in the river, Putri Serindang Bulan moved slowly. After some days, she was cast in Pagai Isle, off the estuary of Air Ketahun River. King Indrapura, the ruler of the isle, happened to pass by the coast while hunting and found her.
“Who are you? What are you doing in this place?” asked the king.
Putri Serindang Bulan told him everything. The king was moved. He took the lady to his palace in Setio Barat Kingdom. Shortly afterwards, the king fell in love with the beautiful princess. Having his feeling requited, he proposed her and this time, miraculously, no scabies came up on the princess’ skin. It was maybe because, unlike before, the princess truly loved the king. The news about the marriage reached Lebong.
“What? She is still alive?” remarked Ki Gete after hearing a soldier report.
Curious, they decided to attend the wedding. By that time, the four princes were so angry with Ki Karang Nio for having deceived them.
Surprisingly, knowing their arrival, Putri Serindang Bulan and King Indrapura welcomed them warmly. There was no grudge or hostility at all. Not only that, they also gave the Lebong royal entourage various golden jewelry before they headed back home, the same amount for each of them. The, King Ki Karang Nio, and his five brothers could not believe that. But now that they had gold in their hands, they forgot their anger to both Karang Nio and Putri Serindang Bulan. They got on their ship happily, not knowing that something bad prowled as they did not apologize to the princess.
On their way back, the Lebong ship was hit by storms and tossed by the waves. It was wrecked and stranded on an isle called Ipuh. All the gold gifts from King Indrapura sank, except Ki Karang Nio’s. His brothers hated the young king even more. They thought that God was not fair to save only his gold and not theirs. Envying Ki Karang Nio, they wanted to kill him and take his jewelry. The young king realized that, but somehow stayed calm. He then told his brothers, “Brothers, why are you all mad at me? Is it because the gold? Well, my wealth is yours and yours is mine. Now that yours is gone, you can take mine.”
His words touched the hearts of the princes. They winded down and saw the light. They realized that the way they had treated his brother was wrong.
“Brother, you are so kind and wise. You really do deserve to be King of Lebong,” said Ki Gete.
“That is right, brother. I’m proud of you. Forgive me for what I’ve done to you. Maybe I should stay here and not go home,” said Ki Jenain. The other princes seemed to have the same thought. “You go back to Lebong and be good, Karang Nio. Huo ite sa’ok, kame cigai belek. Now we split up here and we won’t go home,” he added. The coast was later known as Sarak Bay. The word sarak is a modification of the word sa’ok, which means to split up.
Shortly after arriving in Lebong, Ki Karang Nio married a princess and had two sons, Ki Pati and Ki Pandan. He ruled the kingdom justly and prudently. When he was old, he asked his sister, Putri Serindang Bulan, to come back to Lebong and help him choose which one of his son should be his heir.
The princess picked Ki Pandan. As for Ki Pati, he set up a biku in an area now known as Somelako.
Thus ends the story of Putri Serindang Bulan. In Lebong, people say that Putri Serindang Bulan is a symbol of wisdom, justice, and beauty owing to her pleasant look and just and prudent traits. She does not have grudge for her brothers who want her dead. For that, the local sometimes refers to her by the name Sebei Lebong (the Mother of Lebong).
The above story teaches us to always love and protect brothers and sisters. Ki Karang Nio does that to Putri Serindang Bulan by risking his own name and safety as king. In Tunjuk Ajar Melayu—Malay Verses of Guidance (Tenas Effendy: 2006), this message is conveyed as well.
Kalau hidup berkasih sayang (Loving one another)
Negeri damai hidup pun tenang (peaceful will be home; serene will be life)
Kalau kuncup sudah mengembang (If a flower bud blossoms)
Banyaklah kumbang datang menyeri (fireflies will come and gleam)
Kalau hidup berkasih sayang (If the people live in love)
Hidup tenang makmurlah negeri (Their life will be peaceful, kingdom will be prosper)
Translation by Reza Daffi
Story based on Naim Emel Prahana. “Putri Serindang Bulan”, in Cerita Rakyat dari Bengkulu 2. Jakarta: Grasindo.
Tenas Effendy. 2006. Tunjuk Ajar Melayu. Yogyakarta: Balai Kajian dan Pengembangan Budaya Melayu in cooperation with Penerbit AdiCita Karya Nusa.