Tuesday Tales #3: Kangkaput

(This is Tuesday Tales, where we highlight folklores and personal stories from indigenous peoples from all across Borneo. These are stories shared with us. We strive to edit it to the best of our capabilities for your enjoyment. We welcome your feedback at hello@thetuyang.com)

As told by: Balan Balang 
Origin: Western Penan Version (Long Bee, Silat, Baram)
English translation by: Jayl Langub
Edited by: Adrian Jo Milang, Juvita Tatan Wan
Sketch/Drawing by: Loretta Livan Milang 

A long time ago there lived Kangkaput. Kangkaput was a tame bird. It would perch on the outstretched rafter, on the outstretched beam and would even enter houses. It would call out, “Kangkaput! Kangkaput! Kangkaput!”, almost everyday.

As Kangkaput was a tame bird, human beings had a close relationship with Kangkaput. Due to Kangkaput’s habit of calling out, there was plenty of fruit every year. That was the meaning of Kangkaput.

No human being wanted to kill Kangkaput because it made the trees fruit for human beings, animals and other creatures. The Wild Boars, the Grey Leaf Monkeys, the Long Tail Monkeys, the Bornean Gibbons and all the animals in the land eat fruits. We human beings also eat fruits.

Kangkaput loved to hang around a tree creeper beside a river. There, as it perched on the coil of the tree creeper it would call out, “Kangkaput! Kangkaput! Kangkaput!”, almost everyday.

In the river below there lived the Bulěng fish. One day the baby Bulěng fish was frightened by the loud call of Kangkaput. In fact, the baby fish became deaf as a result of Kangkaput’s call! For that reason, the mother Bulěng fish swallowed one of Kangkaput’s legs and broke it.

Kangkaput felt ashamed. Kangkaput was so ashamed that it flew beyond the ocean.

Not long afterwards all the animals had no food to eat. Why? Because Kangkaput was not around to call and make the trees bear fruit. Every human being, every animal and fish in the land, was hungry. None of them knew how to call like Kangkaput to make the trees bear fruit.

A meeting was called for all the animals. They wanted to find out who would look for and bring Kangkaput back to Borneo.

“What is going to happen to us now that we are all hungry?” they asked one another.

All the animals in the land were called to the meeting, so that they could discuss and identify who could bring Kangkaput back. The put forth a challenge as follows: 

“Are you brave enough to venture into the unknown? Do you want to take up the challenge to go to an unknown place? If you do, you will bring life back to us. Your name will be placed among the great heroes such as our brave great grand-father Sawang Lawai”.

The reason why they put such a challenge was to encourage the animals to prove their bravery and to stand out among other animals. Many accepted the challenge, but failed to reach Kangkaput.

The Rhinoceros Hornbill took up the challenge but failed to reach Kangkaput. The Helmeted Hornbill, Bushy-crested Hornbill, Wrinkled Hornbill and all the birds that fly took up the challenge, but each of them failed to reach Kangkaput.

Everyone was getting hungrier and hungrier.

They then decided to ask Gang Tabau, the great butterfly to take up the challenge. Gang Tabau accepted the challenge.

Gang Tabau flew and flew and flew.

After flying for a long time and feeling tired, Gang Tabau decided to take a rest. There, Gang Tabau landed on the waves to rest. When its strength was restored, Gang Tabau continued its journey. After flying for many days and nights, Gang Tabau finally reached the place beyond the ocean.

There Gang Tabau met Kangkaput.

“What are you doing here?” Kangkaput asked Gang Tabau.

“I am here, Kangkaput, because all the animals, all the fishes in the land that you can name are hungry, there is no fruit for them to eat. Even the eggs cannot hatch into chicks because there is no food,” replied Gang Tabau.

“That was why we held a big meeting of all the animals that you can think of, including human beings. That was why they decided to ask me to fly here to look for you,” continued Gang Tabau, explaining things to Kangkaput.

“It was not only me that tried to come here. The Rhinoceros Hornbill tried, the Helmeted Hornbill tried, the Bushy-crested Hornbill tried, the Wrinkled Hornbill tried. In fact, all the birds that could fly tried to come here to look for you, but none of them were successful. I am the only one who managed to reach here,” said Gang Tabau.

“The reason why I came here is to persuade you to return home, to discuss with you the terms and conditions of your return,” repeated Gang Tabau to Kangkaput.

Then Kangkaput replied to Gang Tabau, “As far as I am concerned, Gang Tabau, tell all of them back home that I don’t want to go back, my physical self does not desire to go back. I have no wish to go back,” said Kangkaput to Gang Tabau. 

“However, I have some eggs that I didn’t bring with me. They are still in Borneo. I want you to ask Punai, the Dove, to sit on them to keep them warm,” said Kangkaput.

“Punai can find them in my nest. I request Punai sit on them to warm them. When the eggs hatch, the baby Kangkaput will grow and call out to the trees to make them fruit. In the beginning they will not induce all the trees to fruit, but slowly they will be able to call out louder and make all the trees fruit,” said Kangkaput to Gang Tabau. 

“All the animals in the land can eat any of the fruit. As for the Bulěng fish, they are not allowed to eat any fruit. If they do, they will die. This is the punishment for Bulěng fish,” said Kangkaput. 

After meeting with Kangkaput, Gang Tabau flew back home to tell the news to all the animals.

“As for Kangkaput herself, she said she would not come back. She left some of her eggs here. She requested Punai, the Dove, to sit on the eggs. When the eggs turn into young Kangkaput, they will be able to call out to make the trees fruit again. All of us can then eat the fruits, except for the Bulěng fish,” said Gang Tabau relating the wish of Kangkaput.

That is why today we often hear Kangkaput calling in our forest. That is why today the Bulěng fish do not eat fruits.

Kangkaput penan folkore
sketch by Loretta Livan


Edited to suit a younger audience, without changing the context of the original version. 

For non-commercial replication, kindly credit the website, storyteller and translator. For commercialisation opportunities or feedback – please reach out to hello@thetuyang.com.

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