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December 11th, 2008 04:45

New Book Celebrates Indonesian Folklore

New Book Celebrates Indonesian Folklore

Jakarta - Rhaina Diffa Maswibowo, a sixth grader, said that she didn`t know the tale of famed Melayu knight Hang Tuah.

“I know popular folktales such as Kabayan and Sangkuriang,” said Rhaina, who goes to the Miftahul Jannah Islamic elementary school in Tangerang, west of Jakarta . “But I don`t have any idea about stories from the far-flung islands.”

The 10-year-old pupil said that she actually liked to read Indonesian tales. However, she admitted that she rarely found any in the city`s book stores.

“I can find Harry Potter everywhere, but no books of Indonesian tales,” she said.

Mahyudin Al Mudra, chairman of the Agency for Malay Cultural Development and Studies, said despite an overwhelming number of ethnic folktales, many children are not familiar with Indonesian legends due to a lack of books featuring these stories.

“Most of our children don`t know that their country has hundreds of tribes and languages and is rich in folktales,” he said at the launch of a book entitled “366 Cerita Rakyat Nusantara,” or “366 Indonesian Folktales,” in Jakarta.

He said children could learn about the country`s famed diversity from its folk tales and understand that diversity could enhance tolerance and solidarity.

Mahyudin`s agency has encouraged publishers to print more Indonesian stories.

Mahyudin, who also heads a publishing company named Adicita Karya Nusa, headed a team of 23 writers and 10 illustrators to compile 366 stories from 33 provinces across the archipelago.

The 1,008-page book, which took two years to complete, features popular and less known folk tales such Rara Jonggrang — a tale from Prambanan temple in Yogyakarta — and the Colored Lake of West Java.

The idea is to give Indonesian children a story for every day of the year, Mahyudin said.

“The stories range from Aceh to Papua,” he said referring to the country`s two extremities.

The book contains 12 chapters based on each month of the year. In the January chapter, there are 31 tales from almost all provinces.

The publisher printed 2,000 first editions, each costing Rp 650,000 ($60), a hefty amount for most Indonesians.

“Now moms have a book to read their children at bedtime,” he said.

An English version of the book is being prepared and is expected to be out soon.

Source: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com (December 11, 2008)

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