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The Magical Kelingking

Riau - Indonesia
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People are different characteristically. Some are good and some others are not. There was a poor family in an area in Riau, Indonesia. The parents had 3 sons with different characters. The oldest and the middle children were totally different to the youngest one. The youngest was so diligent that the father loved him so much. However, the love of the father to the youngest raised jealousy among the other. They were so jealous that they set plans to harm their brother. Did they finally do the evil plans? What would happen to the youngest son? The scene is in “The Magical Kelingking” as is told below.


kelingking saktiLong time ago, there was a poor husband and wife lived in a village in Riau. They did fishing and planting cassavas everyday to provide their needs. The couple was blessed with three sons; Salimbo the oldest, Ngah the second and Kelingking the youngest (kelingking literally means: the little finger).

Kelingking had been different from the very beginning he was born. He was named so since he was so small and short. He drank more than the ordinary babies did that he often hurted his mother during the breast feeding. It was said that his mother died when Kelingking was still 5 months old for not being able to bear the pain during the breast feeding. His brothers hated him since then on and condemned him as the cause of their mother`s death.

Being left behind by the mother, the three sons were taken care of by their father. He raised his sons alone. Salimbo, Ngah and Kelingking helped their father to fish and plant the cassavas as they grew older. They even searched for firewood to be sold sometimes. Kelingking was the most diligent among the others, and this made him his father`s preference. The two older brothers disliked it that their father loved him more than them. Jealousy made the two brothers prepared an evil plan to get rid of their father`s beloved son. 

One day, Salimbo and Ngah went to the forest to search for wood and they invited Kelingking to come with them. They took Kelingking with them without telling their father that they could put the evil plan into action. Being unaware of the threat, went Kelingking with his brothers. He followed his brothers with full trust.

The three brothers directly worked to search for the woods they needed as they arrived at the forest. His very small body enabled Kelingking to only carry the small branches. Hours they spent till the break came. They were resting under a shady tree when a deer came around and attracted their attention. “Kelingking. Chase that deer!” commanded Salimbo to Kelingking. “Don`t let it run away brother!” added Ngah. Kelingking was intrigued and he chased the deer to the forest. And at that time, when Kelingking was trying hard to catch the deer in the deep forest, his brothers left him on purpose. Then they hurriedly went to their father. “Father, forgive us please. We have failed to take care of our brother, Kelingking. He was attacked by a tiger, and we couldn`t save him,” cried Salimbo with his fake tears. “It`s true father. We`ve tried hard to save him but we failed. The tiger was so wild”, said Ngah to support his brother`s lie. “Do you say the truth my sons?” asked the father in difficulties to believe his ears. “Yes father!” responded Salimbo and Ngah immediately. Salimbo and Ngah`s words finally convinced their father. His world seems to fade away because of the death of his beloved son.

Meanwhile, Kelingking was still trying hard to catch the deer deep in the forest. He looked so happy thinking, “If I take this deer home, my father and brothers will be happy”. A sudden voice shocked Kelingking and dragged him back to the real world. “Hey young man! Please let me go. I am the King of the deers in this forest. I`ll teach you the skill to catch deer if you promise to let me go”, persuaded the deer that Kelingking caught. He found it hard to believe that a deer was able to speak as a human did, yet he finally agreed to let it go. “Okay deer, I will let you go but you have to teach me how to catch a deer as you`ve promised”.

The deer kept its words and taught Kelingking the skills to trap and catch deer. When all the tricks were passed on him, the deer said “Young man, you can catch as many deers as you wish with your skill. But you have to promise that you will use your skill to catch the bad and wild ones only”. Then the deer went back to its place.

Kelingking went back to his home and joyfully shouted to call his father and brothers. “Father! Brothers! I am home”. His father ran out to welcome his son as he heard his voice. He was very happy to know that his beloved son was still alive. “Thank god my son. You survived the tiger`s attack”, said the father hugging Kelingking.

The two brothers were amazed to see their brother`s presence at their home. They couldn`t believe that Kelingking didn`t die in the forest as they`ve planned. “How could he survive in the middle of jungle?” asked Salimbo to himself. Ngah was asking the same thing. “How could he catch two deers at the same time while he was chasing only one?” wondered Ngah looking at the two deers that Kelingking brought home. Kelingking handed the two deers to his brothers to be cooked that they would eat together.

Nothing could stop the elder brothers to get rid of their younger brother. They set another evil plan to harm Kelingking. They took him fishing the jerungs[1] in a sea. They went fishing with a small boat. Salimbo and Ngah pretended to spread the net as they reached the sea. A few minutes later they told Kelingking that the net was stuck on the coral reef and asked him to swim into the water to free it. They hoped that the jerungs would come and attack Kelingking. The brothers` prediction came true. As Kelingking jumped into the water, the jerungs directly attacked him. His two brothers left Kelingking when he was busy freeing himself from the fishes. Salimbo and Ngah went to tell their father about what happened to Kelingking. Surely, the old man was grieving for the news. Unexpectedly, Kelingking appeared in front of the house in the middle of the night, “Father, I am home!” The father hurriedly ran out to welcome his son and hugged Kelingking tightly. “Kelingking, my son. I thought you were dead. I am told that you were eaten by the jerungs”. “I could beat the jerungs Father. Look, I brought you a big jerung to eat”, explained Kelingking to his father showing the fish. Kelingking then gave the fish to his brothers to be cooked for their meal.

Time went by and Kelingking grew up to a fine adult man. He planned to fight for his fortune in a foreign land to help his family. “I have to fight for my fortune. I have to help my family. I have to go and find my luck. Dad will be fine with my brothers. I`m sure that father will permit me to go and work”, said Kelingking to himself thinking about his dreams.

“Father, please let me go to search for my fortune”, said Kelingking one night to his father. “I want to help our family to have a better life” persuaded Kelingking to his father. His father finally let him go even though he felt it hard to do so. “I understand my son. I will let you go and pray that you`ll realize your dreams”, said the father. “Thank you father. I will come back to pick you and my brothers later when I reach my fortune”, responded Kelingking happily.

In the next morning, he went to the foreign land with seven ketupats[2] for his journey. He walked for months, but not a single ketupat he ate. He just ate fruits and leaves from the forest during the journey.

Kelingking arrived in a thick forest one afternoon. He sat under a tree and fell asleep for being so tired. A voice spoke to him in his dream, “Young man, tie your ketupats on a root of a tuba plant and put it into the water if you want to be a son-in-law of a king. When you see bubbles come out of the water, the big fish in it has died then. Jump into it and take the fish”. Not even a word came out of Kelingking`s mouth for he suddenly awoke. Without wasting a second, he got up and searched for the tuba root as the voice in his dream commanded. He walked through the deep forest as he found the root in searching for the river.

“This is the river I once saw in my dream`, muttered Kelingking when he came to a river.  He directly tied his seven ketupats on to a root of a tree and put it into the water. Bubbles immediately came out of the water, and he jumped into it. He finally found a big fish in the water and later toasted it. He enjoyed the fish until the head was left. “What to do now?” he asked himself. “I`ve followed all of the instructions as were told in my dream but not even a princess is seen around. There is nobody here but me” Kelingking felt sorry for himself. Regretting all he has done, he kicked the head of the fish with full power that it flied away to the sky. He paid no more attention to it and continued his journey without knowing where to go.

One day, Kelingking arrived in a village. All of the villagers were attracted by a head of a fish which suddenly dropped from the sky at the field of the King`s palace. They couldn`t stop talking about it. Unexpectedly, it was the head of the fish that Kelingking kicked for his regret. The head of the fish stuck on the ground tightly that not even a man could take it off. It disturbed the view around the palace and the Princess was annoyed by this. She asked her father to remove the head from the field, “Father, that head of a fish in the front field really irritates me. This palace doesn`t look beautiful anymore. Can you please command someone to remove it?”

The King ordered all of his staffs to remove the head of the fish. Each of them tried but it didn`t move even an inch. Not even a single of the crews was successful to remove it. They did try to do it together in a group, and still it remained on the ground.

The King later set a competition to remove the head. “Dear all villagers, for anyone who was able to get rid of the head of the fish from my palace will be crowned as my son-in- law for a man and my daughter for a woman”, announced the King.

kelingking saktiThe competition took place at last. People gathered in front of the palace to witness the moment, and Kelingking was one of those who were present. He was so surprised looking at the head of the fish. ”It seems that I have seen that once”, he tried hard to refresh his memory. And finally he remembered that it was the one he kicked before for being so upset.

One by one the competitors tried their chance. Yet, not even one of them could move it. Kelingking was also interested at joining the competition. People laughed at him and mocked him when they saw a man with a very small body ever thought to join such a competition. Kelingking chose to ignore them. Fuelled with full of confidence, he encircled the head seven times and then lifted it with his little finger. Magically it moved! Kelingking easily lifted it and buried it in the back yard of the palace. He won the competition for sure thus had the right to marry the princess as the King has promised.

“Young man! Even though your body is small, you are the only one who could remove the head of the fish. I will marry you to my daughter as I`ve promised” the King said to Kelingking with full of admiration. The wedding of Kelingking with the Princess was held the next week. It was an amazing wedding party. Many wonderful songs and dances were performed during the party. The King`s family members were all happy for the marriage. Kelingking picked his father and brothers several days later. And they all lived happily ever after.


The folklore above delivers moral teachings. It teaches the readers to always keep a promise and not to lie to parents. To forgive and not to take revenge are the good deed shown through Kelingking. His brothers tried to harm him many times but he didn`t desire to do the same. To always keep the words is reflected through Kelingking and the King. Kelingking kept his promise indeed to pick up his father and brothers as soon as he was successful and became the King`s son of law. The King did the same thing as well. He kept his words to marry his daughter to anyone who was able to remove the head of the fish from the field. On the contrary, Salimbo and Ngah mirrored the negative attitude. They lied twice to their father telling that their youngest brother was dead.

The former two characteristics, to not taking revenge and to keep promise, are two models of moral attitudes in our daily life. The Malayans respect those with these qualities. People are encouraged to forgive. The elders said that these are the attitudes that reflect solidarity, humility, and social concern. A saying says, “siapa taat memeluk agama Islam, dendam kesumat ia haramkan” or “siapa setia memegang adat, dendam kesumat ia pantangkan”.  The former says that a true believer of Islam will refuse to take revenge and the latter points more or less the same thing that those who are loyal to the custom will oppose to avenge. Tenas Effendy speaks the same theme through the rhyming lines below:

wahai ananda peganglah amanah
jalani hidup di jalan Allah
lapangkan dada serta pemurah
hapuslah dendam jauhkan fitnah

Meanwhile, to lie is one of the attitudes should be avoid. The Malayans condemn such an attitude. They believe that it will deprave their dignity and pride. Breaking this rule is a humiliation for them. In his book “Ejekan terhadap Orang Melayu Riau dan Pantangan Orang Melayu Riau” (The Mockery and Prohibition for the Malayans in Riau), Tenas Effendy explains lying as a vile attitude will trap someone in a humiliated life in a quatrain:

apa tanda orang yang nista,
bercakap bohong berkata dusta

kalau suka bercakap bohong,
alamat badan akan terkurung

kalau suka berkata dusta,

alamat hidup beroleh nista


Translated from the Indonesian version by (MA)

[1] Jerung is one kind of wild fish

[2] Rice-cake snack cooked in a small container of woven young coconut leaves

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