Tuesday Tales #22 : The Mouse Deer

Origin : Penan Community, Long Suar Belaga
As told by: Madai Salu’
Translated by: Jayl Langub
Edited by: Adrian Jo Milang 
Sketch by: Loretta Livan Milang

(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)

A long time ago, there lived Mouse Deer, One day he went strolling in the forest. There he met a group of Monkeys noisily playing.

“Why are you so noisy? Why are you talking so loudly?” asked the Mouse Deer.

“We are just playing amongst ourselves, we are making a lot of noise among ourselves” replied the Monkeys

“What the point of fooling around? What’s the point of making so much noise?” asked the Mouse Deer again.

“Are we making loud noises in your house or your village?” the Monkeys retorted 

Then Mouse Deer looked at them,

“Where is your loincloth? Where are your trousers?” asked the Mouse Deer.

“I can see your testicles as you are naked,” said the Mouse Deer laughing at them mockingly. 

“Let’s go run after the Mouse Deer. He is laughing at us. He is making fun at us,” said the Monkeys. 

Away ran the Mouse Deer, running and running till he came to a clump of bamboo. There he built himself a house. He then collected a lot of damar to burn so that flames would darken his house to make it look old and worn out. 

The Monkeys ran after the Mouse Deer. After a long time, the Monkeys found the Mouse Deer in a clump of bamboo. 

“Ah, there you are, Mouse Deer?” said the Monkeys. 

“Ah, who did you say you saw?” asked the Mouse Deer. 

“You! The one who laughed at us because we are naked. The one who laughed at us for not having a loin cloth, for not having any trousers, and the one who laughed at us because our testicles are exposed,” said the Monkeys. 

“I am not the Mouse Deer you are talking about. I am the Mouse Deer of the bamboo clump. I have not met you before. Since when did I fool you? Since when did I bully you?” said the Mouse Deer. 

“Don’t deny this. You are the very Mouse Deer that we are looking for,” said the Monkeys. 

“No. There are a lot of Mouse Deer,” said the Mouse Deer. 

“What do you mean?” exclaimed the Monkeys. “You are the very Mouse Deer we are searching for. There are not many Mouse Deer,” continued the Monkeys. 

“You are wrong. There are many Mouse Deer. There are Mouse Deer that live among the chilli plants. There are Mouse Deer that live down river,” said the Mouse Deer. 

“Have you been here a long time?” asked the Monkeys. 

“Yes,” said the Mouse Deer. “Just look at my house. Doesn’t it look dark and old,” continued the Mouse Deer pointing at the dark ceiling caused by the damar wax that he burned. 

“How is it that you have such a lovely big bright eyes, my friend?” asked the Monkeys changing the subject. 

“Because of the culm sheath of the bamboo. It is the itchy culm sheath of the bamboo that made my eyes shiny and beautiful,” said the Mouse Deer. 

“If that is so, why don’t you make our eyes just like yours?” asked the Monkeys. 

“If that is what you want my friends, why don’t you folks line up there so that I can apply the itchy culm sheath of the bamboo on your eyes,” said the Mouse Deer. 

Then the Mouse Deer collected the itchy culm sheath of the bamboo and applied it to the eyes of the Monkeys. The itchy culm sheath of the bamboo made their eyes itchy. It made them almost blind. 

From the bamboo clump, the Mouse Deer ran to live among the chilli plants. 

The Monkeys ran after the Mouse Deer. They searched and searched until they found him among the chilli plants. 

“There he is,” said the Monkeys. 

“Who did you say you saw?” asked the Mouse Deer. 

“You, the Mouse Deer that nearly blinded us,” replied the Monkeys. “Today we meet, today you die, because we are going to kill you,” continued the Monkeys. 

“Look, I don’t understand what you are talking about. I think you are accusing me wrongly. I am the Mouse Deer of the chilli plants. It could be another Mouse Deer that you are after. We Mouse Deer are many. There are Mouse Deer of the bamboo clumps, Mouse Deer of the chilli plants, Mouse Deer of the rolling plain. I am not the one you are after,” said the Mouse Deer. 

“What are those fruits that you planted, my friend?” asked the Monkeys. 

“They are chilli fruits,” replied the Mouse Deer. 

“Are the fruits sweet?” asked the Monkeys. 

“Yes. They are sweet,” replied the Mouse Deer. 

“If they are sweet, why don’t you give us some,” said the Monkeys. 

“Fine. Why don’t you eat them at the same time? Your mouths will love them,” said the Mouse Deer.

The Mouse Deer gave each of the Monkeys the chilli. When the Monkeys ate them, it made their mouths hot and sore. The Mouse Deer took some more chilli, broke them and rub them on the testicles of all the Monkeys. This hurt the Monkeys even more. Then, the Mouse Deer ran away from among the chilli plants. 

“I lied to you. I am not another Mouse Deer. I am the one you are looking for,” said the Mouse Deer. 

The Monkeys were angry and vowed to kill the Mouse Deer. The Mouse Deer had left them. The Monkeys ran after the Mouse Deer. 

On his way, the Mouse Deer came across a big river. To get across the river, the Mouse Deer called the crocodiles in the river. 

“Submerge all of you crocodiles, lining up from one bank to the other. I want to make a census of you, to find out how many of you are alive. I also want to meet you who are my ancestors, my uncles, aunts and cousins. My grandfather of long ago had crocodile brothers and sisters. Submerge all of you, from one bank to the other,” the Mouse Deer called out to the crocodiles. 

All the crocodiles submerged, lining up from one bank to the other. The Mouse Deer stepped on each of the crocodiles as he walked from one bank to the other. 

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,” said the Mouse Deer, pretending to count the crocodiles as he walked from one crocodile to the other, blinding each one of them until he reached the opposite bank. 

“I lied to you. I did not mean to conduct a census on crocodiles. I was running away from the Monkeys. Don’t you know that I am the tricky Mouse Deer?” said the Mouse Deer. 

Not long afterwards, the group of Monkeys arrived at the big river. 

“Have you seen a Mouse Deer around here?” asked the Monkeys to the Crocodiles. 

“Yes. He tricked us to let him cross this big river. Then, he ran away,” replied the Crocodiles. 

“We were also tricked by the Mouse Deer. He made us eat hot chilli, and besides he smeared chilli on our testicles which caused us a lot of pain,” said the Monkeys. 

“When the Mouse Deer walked on our heads as he was crossing the river, he stepped on our eyes and blinded us. Let us all go chase after him and kill him,” said the Crocodiles.

The Mouse Deer walked and walked along the plain. There on the plain he made a home. 

“Tomorrow I shall go to fell a talun tree as I want to make a loin cloth out of its bark,” said the Mouse Deer. 

The Crocodile heard about this and said to one another: “let’s go wait by the talun tree and ambush the Mouse Deer.” 

The Mouse Deer went out and talked to the talun tree. 

“Do you want me to take your bark so that I can make myself a loin cloth? If you give me a favourable reply, then I’ll take your bark,” said the Mouse Deer. 

After the Mouse Deer made this remark, one of the Crocodiles replied, “yes.” 

“Ah, that is nonsense. Talun tree does not know how to talk. That reply comes from the Crocodiles who want to kill me,” said the Mouse Deer. 

The Mouse Deer returned to his house. He thought of what to do the next day. He decided to collect rattan. 

The Crocodiles knew of the Mouse Deer’s plan. 

“Ah, the Mouse Deer is planning to collect rattan. Let’s go hide behind the rattan to ambush him,” said the Crocodile. 

The Mouse Deer walked to the forest to collect rattan. When he had almost reached the rattan clump he called out to the rattan. 

“If you want me to collect you, rattan, can you give me a favourable reply?” said the Mouse Deer. 

“Yes”, replied one of the Crocodiles. 

“Ah, that’s one of you Crocodiles, hiding behind there setting up a clever trap to ambush me. Do you think I want to walk into your trap? That is your bait to lure me to walk into your trap,” said the Mouse Deer. 

The Mouse Deer returned to his house. Then he started to make his farm. He cut the undergrowth, felled the trees and then left the felled vegetation to dry. 

Meanwhile, the Crocodiles hid not far from the Mouse Deer’s house to spy on the Mouse Deer. 

“Tomorrow I shall burn my farm,” said the Mouse Deer to himself. 

“Ah, the Mouse Deer is planning to burn his farm. Let’s go ambush him in his farm,” said the Crocodiles to one another.

“Lizard, help me bring these curls of wood shavings that I made and light fire as you go along, around my farm. I want to burn my farm,” said the Mouse Deer to Lizard. 

Away went the Lizard, carrying the wood shaving curls on its tail around the farm. The Crocodiles who were in the middle of the farm could not see the Lizard carrying the wood shavings, as the Lizard was a small animal. As it went around it started to fire the farm with the wood shaving. As the Lizard set fire all around the farm, there was no way for the Crocodiles to escape. All the Crocodiles were burnt to death as a result of the fire. 

The Mouse Deer decided to leave the place. On his way he met the Snail. 

“What a way to stand up with your mouth on the ground and your lower body up, my friend,” commented the Mouse Deer to the Snail. 

“Well, this is the way I normally stand,” Snail responded. 

“How can you walk fast if you stand the way you do? I can’t see how you can walk fast, the way you stand with your mouth on the ground. If you say you can walk fast, I would like to race with you,” said the Mouse Deer mocking at the Snail. 

“Well, I’ll take up your challenge,” replied the Snail. 

So, they set up a date for their race. Before the day of the race, the Snail sent messages to all the Snails in the land to reply to the call of the Mouse Deer. 

“When the Mouse Deer calls my name, any Snail in front of him must reply. He made fun of us Snails. He thinks that we are slow when we walk,” said the Snail to all the other Snails. 

All the Snails agreed to reply to the Mouse Deer’s call. 

When the day of the race came, they met at the starting point. There they started the race. 

After running for a long time, the Mouse Deer called the Snail. 

“Where are you Snail?” Mouse Deer called. 

“Here, in front of you,” replied the Snail. 

“Eh, you are not that bad, friend. You are a bit faster then me,” said the Mouse Deer mockingly at the Snail. 

“Well, I try my best to run,” replied the Snail. 

Then, they had another race. 

After running for a long time, the Mouse Deer called the Snail again.

“Where are you Snail,” the Mouse Deer called. 

“Here, in front of you,” replied the Snail. 

“Eh, you are really not that bad my friend, you are just a bit faster than me,” said the Mouse Deer mockingly at the Snail. 

They raced again for the third time. This time the Mouse Deer pulled out all his strength to run against the Snail. When he was weakening, he called out to the Snail. 

“Where are you Snail,” the Mouse Deer called. 

“Here, in front of you,” replied the Snail. 

“You are cheating. Since when does a Snail run faster than me,” said the Mouse Deer in desperation. 

Defeated by the Snail, the Mouse Deer was out of breath. They was not able to go for another race because the Mouse Deer lost all his breath and died. 

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