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Sangkuriang: the Legend of Mount Tangkuban Perahu

West Java - Indonesia
Sangkuriang: the Legend of Mount Tangkuban Perahu
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As retold by Samsuni

Sangkuriang is a legend well-known among the people of Sunda, West Java, Indonesia. It tells a story of the young Sangkuriang’s efforts to win the heart of Dayang Sumbi, a charming woman who, surprisingly, is his own mother. They love each other, but then after revealing that her lover is her son, Sumbi tries to fail their relationship. How does she do that? Does she make it? Find the answers in the following story.


In time long past, there was a kingdom ruled by Prabu Sungging Perbangkara. The king liked to hunt. One day, after hunting, Prabu Sungging urinated on taro leaves. When he left, a female boar called Wayungyang came and drank his widdle. The boar did not know it contained sperm so she got pregnant soon afterwards. Several months on, she gave birth to an adorable human baby girl. Wishing that the baby would be raised by her father, Wayungyang licked her baby to clean her and put her on a protruding stone in the bush.

The boar’s hope came true. That day, Prabu Sungging happened to pass by the place and heard the baby’s cry. The king carefully walked towards the bush and found a tiny baby girl. He took the poor baby back to town and named her Dayang Sumbi. He nurtured and raised the baby very affectionately.

Time went past. Dayang Sumbi grew up a charming girl. As if her beauty was not enough, she was adept in weaving and cooking. Many noblemen came with marriage offers, yet the princess chose to turn away from all of them. She was afraid that her accepting one of the proposals would cause wars among the men. Finally, with the king’s permission, Dayang Sumbi secluded himself in a hut on the fringe of a jungle, carrying his weaving tools. There, the princess spent her time weaving cloths.

One night, Dayang Sumbi was weaving on the porch when a thread roll accidentally slipped out of her hut and to the dark. It was late at night. She was too scared to take it. It was when she unconsciously uttered a vow, “Whoever takes back my thread, if it is a woman I will take her as sister, if it is a man I will marry him.”

Beyond her expectation, suddenly a black dog showed up with the thread. What was done could not be undone. She had to keep her word.

“Well, dog. Albeit you’re an animal, I’m willing to be your wife,” said Dayang Sumbi.

Miraculously, the dog turned into a handsome man. Dayang Sumbi was dumbfounded, speechless, to see that.

“Who… who are you?” asked Dayang Sumbi.

“I am an incarnation of god,” said the man.

The two of them fell in love with each other and were since then involved in a romantic relationship. However, they wanted to keep their love a secret, including to Prabu Sungging Perbangkara. They lived together in happiness. Dayang Sumbi called him Si Tumang. Most of the time, he would be in his dog form.

A year later, they had a son. They named him Sangkuriang. The boy grew up a smart, tireless boy. Everyday, he would go to the woods to hunt deer and catch fishes in the river accompanied by Si Tumang, the dog. He did not know yet that the dog was his father.

One day, Sangkuriang went hunting. He wanted to give mother a deer’s heart. It had been almost dark when he started to lose hope. He did not see any deer that day. Sangkuriang decided to give up and walk home. But then a deer ran past him. Quickly, he commanded Si Tumang to run after it.

“Tumang! After that deer!” he shouted.

The dog stayed put. He was unusually disobedient, making Sangkuriang even angrier.

“Bad dog! What happens to you? Don’t you hear me?” thundered Sangkuriang while pointing his arrow at Si Tumang.

Then, an accident happened. Sangkuriang lost grip of the arrow. It rushed towards the dog and hit him right in the head. Si Tumang died at once. Sangkuriang then took his heart for his mother.

In the hut, Dayang Sumbi cooked the heart and ate it. It was delicious indeed. But then she realized that Si Tumang was not around.

“Where’s Si Tumang? Wasn’t he with you today?” asked Dayang Sumbi anxiously.

“Sorry, mother. I killed him. The heart you ate is his,” answered the boy easily, showing no regret whatsoever.

It infuriated Dayang Sumbi. Sangkuriang had slain his father.

“What did you say? You killed him? You wretched, ungrateful son!” said Dayang Sumbi as she hit Sangkuriang in the forehead with her spoon. Sangkuriang was wounded and bleeding.

Sobbing in pain, Sangkuriang tried to defend himself. He did not feel guilty for he did everything for his mother. Dayang Sumbi did not share the same thought. Nevertheless, she insisted on keeping the truth about Si Tumang secret. That night, Sangkuriang was so sad. He left his house to stroll to any place his feet might take him.

Since then, Dayang Sumbi liked to spend time sitting on the porch doing nothing. She regretted what she did to Sangkuriang. Every night, she prayed to God the Almighty for the return of her son some time. God heard her. Dayang Sumbi was bestowed with an eternal beauty. Her face would not get wrinkles so that her son would recognize her when they met again.

Meanwhile in the jungle, Sangkurian staggered along while holding his wounded head. He fainted, falling on the ground. When he came to, there was an old man sitting beside him.

“Who are you? Where am I?” Sangkuriang was at a loss.

“Be calm, young man. I’m a hermit. My name is Ki Ageng. I found you unconscious and wounded in the woods. You’re in my cave,” said the old man.

The old man inquired into the identity of Sangkuriang. The young man, however, could not remember anything of his past. He even forgot his name. Ki Ageng then called him Jaka. He treated the young man and after that, passed on some of his powers and knowledge to him that he now could call and command spirits anytime he needed.

Having stayed with the old man for a long time, Jaka wanted to know his past. With Ki Ageng’s permission, he went off. Several days later, he found a hut on the fringe of a jungle. Feeling so thirsty, he came over the hut and asked for water. The inhabitant of the hut turned out to be a gorgeous woman. Jaka could not wink when he first saw her. He was speechless. The woman smiled and blushed in front of the handsome young man. Apparently she too found him attractive. She brought the guest a drink and had a chat with him. They soon fell in love with each other. By that time, Jaka did not know that the woman was Dayang Sumbi, his mother, who did not recognize her son herself.

Next morning when about to go hunting, Jaka asked his lover to tie and neat his headband. It was when Dayang Sumbi was taken aback to see a scar on his head. It was exactly where he hit his son years past.

“How did you get this scar, Jaka?” asked Dayang Sumbi.

Jaka could not remember that. He just told to Dayang Sumbi that a hermit found him unconscious and wounded in the jungle. It made her sure that her lover was his own son, Sangkuriang.

Dayang Sumbi grew anxious. She would never marry her own son—she could not. She tried to convince him that he was his son and thus break their relationship. Sangkuriang could not accept that. He was head over heels, blinded by passion.

Seeing his son’s insistence, Dayang Sumbi was now scared. She thought of every possible way to distant herself from him. An idea finally came across her mind. She would demand Sangkuriang to do something if they were to continue together.

“Do you really want to be with me? If so, I want you to do something,” said Dayang Sumbi.

“What are they? Just say it,” responded Sangkuriang.

“Make me a lake and a boat. They must be done before dawn tomorrow,” said Dayang Sumbi.

“I’ll do that. If that’s what you want,” said Sangkuriang confidently.

Driven with his love, Sangkuriang applied his power and called his unseen friends to do the task. They began to dig the ground and pile big stones to dam up Citarum River. They also collected trunks to make a boat. In the middle of the night, Dayang Sumbi silently peeped at Sangkuriang and his friends working, only to be surprised by how fast they were doing it.

Dayang Sumbi could no longer stay calm. She rushed to the village and woke the people up. She asked help from them to get a wide and long red cloth and spread out on the east of where Sangkuriang was working. The red cloth made it look like it was morning already. People also took out their roosters and let them crow. The spirits helping Sangkuriang thought the sun was rising already. They hurried to vanish to avoid getting burnt, leaving the work undone.

But Sangkuriang knew that it was not morning yet and that Dayang Sumbi was behind all this. He was infuriated. Using his power, he ruined the dam. In a very short time, water overflowed the place. He then kicked the boat away. It was flung up high, and fell upside down. Over the time, it turned into a mountain. People now called the mountain Tangkuban Perahu, the Reversed Boat.

In the disastrous happening, Dayang Sumbi ran off towards Mount Putri, where she turned into a jaksi flower. As for Sangkuriang, he lost track of his lover. He kept searching her up to a place called Ujung Berung. There, he vanished to the Unseen World. 


That is the legendary story of Sangkuriang. Dayang Sumbi shows us that anyone should keep his/her word. She fulfills her vow to marry anyone who can get her the thread roll, who turns out to be a dog.

Apart from that, the story reveals a social convention as upheld in Sunda that a romantic relationship of mother and son is considered forbidden. Dayang Sumbi knows this and soon after discovering that the man she loves is her son, she tries to break their relationship by asking Sangkuriang to do what she thinks as an impossible thing.


Translation by Reza Daffi

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