As retold by Daryatun
A long time ago in the village of Tarub, there lived a widow called Mbok Randha Tarub. Since the death of her husband, she took a boy as a son. Years passed by, the boy was now a man. People called him Jaka Tarub.
Jaka Tarub was a good guy. He liked to help other people. Every day he assisted his mother to cultivate their farm, from which they earned a living. Despite only a foster child, Jaka Tarub was much dear to Mbok Randha. She loved him like her own son.
Time was fleeting very fast. Jaka Tarub turned up a handsome and well-mannered man. Many girls dreamt to be his wife but the young man had never had a thought about starting a family. He wanted to make his mother happy first. Jaka worked very hard that the farm yielded abundant crops. Mbok Randha, who was very generous, shared them with her neighbors.
One day, Jaka and his mother were sitting around on the porch. “Jaka, my son. I see you have grown up very well. You have come to an age at which you should begin thinking of marrying someone. Go find a girl, Son, I want a grandchild," said the old widow with a smile.
“But I don’t want to get married yet, Mbok,” answered Jaka.
"Who will take care of you after I die? You'll need a woman, young man,” said Mbok Randha again.
“Don’t say that, Mbok. You’ll live long enough,” Jaka responded shortly.
Several days later, Jaka Tarub was taking a rest when he realized that he had not seen his mother that day. “It’s midday, but mother hasn‘t woke up. Strange…,” murmured Jaka Tarub. He went to his mother’s room. “Mother, are you sick?” asked Jaka while touching his mother’s forehead softly.
“I think so,” Mbok Randha answered weakly.
“You’ve got fever, Mother,” Jaka was surprised. He rushed out to find some leaves to compress his mother. Sadly, Mbok Randha could not hang on. She breathed her last not long after.
The death of his mother left Jaka Tarub alone. He was often seen daydreaming. His farm was neglected. “It would be useless I’m working. Who will I share the rice with when it crops?” said Jaka to himself.
One night, Jaka dreamt of himself eating a deer meat. When awake in the morning, he found himself craving for the same meat he ate in his dream. That morning, Jaka went to the wood carrying a blowpipe. He strolled through big trees but there was no deer. He wondered where the animals went that he saw none of them. He was in a jungle where not many people had gone so it was really weird.
Jaka sat below a tree near a pond to take a rest. The cool breeze quickly sent him to sleep.
Then, faintly Jaka heard some women laughing from the pond. He opened his eyes, wondering who were there. He looked upon the pond. There were seven gorgeous women playing around in the water, having a good time. The young man Jaka was astounded by their extraordinary beauties. “They must be fairies,” Jaka thought. At the edge of the pond, Jaka saw their shawls and clothes. Without having a long thought, he took one of the shawls and hid it.
“Sisters, it’s afternoon already. We have to get back to heaven,” said a fairy. They all got out of the water and put their clothes back on. Unfortunately, one of them—apparently the youngest fairy—did not find her shawl, without which she would not be able to fly.
“Sisters, I couldn’t find my shawl!” she cried.
They sought the shawl together until dusk and found nothing. “Nawang Wulan, we could not wait for you any longer. It is probably your fate to stay here on Earth,” said a fairy. “We should leave you here,” she added.
Nawang Wulan was weeping alone. Jaka Tarub, who had been there all along, came out pretending to know nothing. He said he wanted to help her. He took Nawang Wulan to his house and soon married her. Jaka Tarub’s life was back cheerful. They lived happily as a couple, moreover after the birth of their daughter, Nawangsih.
One day in the kitchen, Nawang Wulan said to Jaka Tarub, “My husband, I’m cooking rice. Would you watch it for me while I’m taking a bath at the river? But don’t open the pan. Just don’t.” Jaka was alone in the kitchen. He grew curious about what was inside the pan. Despite what his wife had said, he opened it. There was only a single grain of rice in it. “This is why the rice in the barn never decreased. Nawang only needs a single grain to cook a full pan of rice,” he muttered.
Nawang Wulan got home and found that there was still a grain in the pan. She was disappointed by her husband for not doing what she told. It resulted in her losing her power, too, so she had to pound and wash the rice as other people did. Since then, the amount of rice in the barn decreased. With the floor was slowly uncovered, Nawang finally found her lost shawl under the heap of rice. She revealed that it was her husband that stole and hid her shawl all this time. Immediately, she put on the shawl and went to see her husband.
“My husband, I had to go back to heaven. Take care of Nawangsih and make her a small hut near our house. Take her there every night then I will come to breastfeed her. But you should stay away,” said Nawang Wulan. She soared into the sky afterwards.
Jaka Tarub knew he could do nothing but following Nawang’s command. Every night, he could only look at his wife and daughter from afar. When Nawangsih fell asleep, Nawang Wulan would go back to heaven. It went on like this until Nawangsih grew up.
Jaka Tarub and Nawangsih could feel that Nawang Wulan was watching them all the time. They believed in every trouble they faced, she would help them out in mysterious ways.
Mbok : Mother
Translation by Reza Daffi