Tuesday Tales #14: Lejo

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Lejo (Tiger)
Origin: Mendalam Kayan, Kalimantan Indonesia
As told by: Lii’ Long
Translated by: Adrian Jo Milang (English)
Edited by: Juvita Tatan Wan
Sketch by : Loretta Livan Milang 

Long ago, when the Kayan people still resided in Apo Kayan, which was along the Batang Kayan river, a longhouse community had been suffering the loss of their livestock. There was no trace of any sort about what happened to them. People were losing chickens, pigs and even dogs. 

One day, there was a man who was attending to his child who had a nasty tantrum. 

When he felt he could not calm the child down, he sent the child to the main pathway and left the crying child there thus saying in anger “I shall leave you here so that lejo (tiger) would devour you!”.

“Come tigers and take this crying child along with you!”

Soon after, he made his way home, he sat himself down and the sound of the child’s cry disappeared. He went to where he left his child and saw that the child was gone. He looked around, but he couldn’t find anything.

He asked the people nearby the pathway and they answered, “Yes, I’ve heard the sound of a child crying loudly, and the sound headed to that forest nearby”. 

His worries aroused and his heart started beating fast. He followed the direction that he was told and saw traces of blood on the path. He asked the help of the folks who he had spoken to. And they took him to where the sound was, because it had to be the child. 

So they made their way into the thick of the forest nearby the house. As they went on, the traces of blood became more apparent, until they reached a massive opening of a cave. There, they saw the child’s hand in between the boulders, whence the animal had brought the child into.

They rushed back and told the news to their hipui (aristocrat). Having listened to the devastating event, the hipui went to beat his drum, in the sound of daak uvi (call of attention) and then daak hulit (call of emergency)

Soon enough, the masses heard the beatings and attended the call with weapons and war gears. They then asked “What’s the hulit about?” 

The beater answered “ A child has been devoured by a tiger and the body was carried into the cave, not far from these folks’ house. I ask that we all find a way to slaughter these feral animals, who also had devoured our livestock all along.” One by one the masses gave their suggestions.

Some suggested setting traps, some wanted to stalk the animals. But among all, they heard – “There’s only one way for the tigers there. Why don’t we pile up twigs and sticks and dried logs, then we surround that cave opening with enough weapons, machetes, spears and shields alike, having done so we set fire to the pile and smoke those feral animals out from the cave”.

These words were agreed upon by the masses and so they went on with the suggestion. 

They surrounded the cave opening and set fire to the pile of twigs, sticks and dried logs. A raging fire arose and smoke began to enter the cave.  All eyes were poised and set at the cave opening.

With no moment to spare, the vicious and merciless animal leaped to its escape as high as it could ,but to no avail. It fell into the pits of the fire. 

But an unexpected turn of events occurred, when one after another, the same animal lept out, as they thought there was only one that lived in the cave. They counted all eighteen that were consumed in the fire.

After the fire subsided, they gathered their carcasses. The masses pulled the tigers’ teeth out and shared amongst their aristocrats of each house present. 

The use of these teeth are of significant use for the Dayaks, kept and cared for by each generation as heirloom and charms by the descendants of the hipui. Other than the hipui, others were not allowed or were able to keep it because of the power it inhabits within. 

After all the tigers perished, the Kalimantan forest was peaceful again, as believed all of the other tigers with their cubs had suffocated in the cave with numbers unaccounted for.  

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