Tuesday Tales #16: The Squirrel & The Forest Gecko

Origin: Penan, Long Jek, Belaga
As told by: Tugang Sugun 
Translated by: Jayl Langub 
Edited By: Adrian Jo Milang

One day, the Forest Gecko and Squirrel went hunting. They made their way to the hunting ground, a place where they had already built a hunting camp.

The Squirrel went out hunting by himself and caught a wild boar. Takang, the Forest Gecko remained at their hunting hut. 

“What a lucky person you are my friend. You caught a wild boar,” complemented the Forest Gecko on the success of the Squirrel.

“What do you mean by lucky. I had difficulty catching this animal. I walked a long way to get it,” said the Squirrel.

“In that case, why don’t you give me its skin so that I can barbecue it,” asked the Forest Gecko.

“Why? If I give you its skin, what will protect its flesh”, replied the Squirrel. 

“In that case, why don’t you give me its nails?,” asked the Forest Gecko. 

“Why? If I give you its nails, what will it use to step and walk with?” said the Squirrel. 

The Forest Gecko asked the Squirrel for the skin and meat of the wild boar two or three times, but the Squirrel would not let him have any.

The Squirrel was really mean. He was eating the wild boar happily. He was happy to have caught a wild boar. In fact, he was enjoying himself immensely.

However, his friend the Forest Gecko was miserable and hungry.

The next day, the Forest Gecko went to climb the laran tree and shook its branches. All the insects, fruits and flowers of the laran tree fell down to the river below. All the fishes came up to eat all these insects, flowers and fruits that fell into the river.

The Forest Gecko climbed down and caught as many fish as he could. He caught one basket of fish!

Then the Forest Gecko went back to their hunting camp with the fish that he trapped and caught.

“What a lucky person you are my friend. You caught so many fish,” complemented the Squirrel.

“What do you mean by lucky. I had to go far downriver with my fishing line and net to get these fish,” said the Forest Gecko.

“Why don’t you give me a fish for me to cook, my friend? I am bored eating only wild boar meat,” said the Squirrel.

“Well, if I cut a fish for you my friend, how will it live and how will it swim,” replied the Forest Gecko.

“In that case, why don’t you just give me its scales?,” asked the Squirrel. 

“If I give you its scales, what will protect its body?,” replied the Forest Gecko. 

“In that case, why don’t you give me its stomach?,” asked the Squirrel. 

“If I give you its stomach, how is it going to eat?,” asked the Forest Gecko. 

The Forest Gecko replied in such a manner because of the way the Squirrel had treated him the previous day, by not giving him any share of the wild boar meat.

The Forest Gecko smoked his fish and the Squirrel smoked his wild boar meat. The next day, they went home bringing with them their catch. When they reached home, each of their wives opened their baskets finding one had all smoked wild boar meat, while the other had only smoked fish.  

“Why is it that there is only smoked meat in one basket and only smoked fish in the other. Didn’t the two of you divide between yourselves, both the meat and the fish?” asked their wives.

“No, we didn’t divide our catch. The Squirrel first caught a wild boar and didn’t share the meat with me. The next day, I caught some fish and I didn’t give him any share. He was the first to be mean with me, so I responded the same way,” replied the Forest Gecko.

The Squirrel’s wife took a wooden spoon and hit the head of her husband. The wooden spoon went “bang!” on the Squirrel, leaving a mark on his head. That is why today, squirrels have a white spot on the heads as a reminder of one squirrel being mean. 

The Forest Gecko’s wife took a wooden comb and hit her husband on the back. The wooden comb went “bang!” on the Forest Gecko, leaving the mark of a comb on his back. That is why forest geckos have a comb mark on their backs, as a reminder of one forest gecko being mean. 

Their wives were very angry because their husbands did not observe the important custom of sharing. Being mean such as the Squirrel and Forest Gecko is a behaviour frowned upon by the Penan community.

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