Tuesday Tales #26 : The Tale of Mesiong

Wild Pig
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Origin : Melanau Community
Source : Dewan Pustaka dan Bahasa Negeri Sarawak
Translated by: Adrian Jo Milang (English)
Edited by: Juvita Tatan Wan
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)

(20 minutes read)

A long time ago in Oya, there was a brave man named Mesiong. He became the husband to the daughter of Tugau, the well-known leader of the Melanau community of the time. After the wedding, he started a farm with all kinds of plants. Cassava, plums, yams kuinis and all sorts for his family. All his plants flourished.

One day, Mesiong found his cassava and yams were eaten by wild pigs! He felt that all his hard work had gone to waste.He then started to devise  ways to kill the pesky animals.

After talking to his wife, Mesiong decided he would use his father-in-law’s spear for that mission. Therefore he asked his wife to get her father’s permission. 

“If he does so dare to wield and use my spear, I will allow it. But if it is broken or lost, I will kill Mesiong” said Tugau fiercely and without hesitation.

Mesiong’s wife went back to him and told him of Tugau’s conditions, 

“Father said he is willing to lend you his spear but do not break it or lose it, or he will kill you.”

“Wah! What an overbearing condition. Nevertheless, I am willing to take the risk. Let us borrow it” Mesiong replied.

That very night he stood guard at his farm. He waited all night long beneath the beaming moon. Soon enough, dozens of wild pigs came. Upon arriving the animals started to ravage and dig whatever that was left of the cassava and yams.

“So these are the culprits that have been doing this, damned animals!” exclaimed Mesiong in his thoughts. He took careful steps from behind one of the wild pigs that was separated far from the lot. When he was near, he plunged his spear into it. His strike went into the left side of the animal’s rib, it started to run and was followed by the rest of the herd. 

“You will be dead this time” he thought. He tracked the wild pig that still had the spear on it. Nevertheless, it was too dark to see, so he waited for the first light. 

The very next morning, when light came, Mesiong continued his effort. He saw droplets of blood as well as the wild pigs tracks going upriver. Soon enough, he found the pole of the spear without the spearhead.

“It must have been stuck in the wild pig’s body, I must find it” Mesiong said to himself as he recalled his father-in-law’s warning and conditions.

After a long journey, it was almost the evening. He arrived at a spacious field. There he saw many children playing happily amongst themselves. 

“Never have I seen so many people in the middle of forest like this” he pondered. 

He was not aware that the kids were the wild piglets which shapeshifted into humans.

Upon seeing Mesiong, they wanted to attack him.

“Let us get him and finish him off! How dare he come here!” 

But one of them disagreed and said to his friends who were about to attack, “We must not attack without reason. Let us tell the king about this.”

They rushed back to a house nearby and told their king.

“Good, do not hurt him, ask him to come and meet me first” their king replied.

One of the children went back to Mesiong and asked him to go along with him back to their king’s house. Upon entering the house, Mesiong was invited to sit near the king but he was hesitant. He felt a little shy because he was dirty, all covered in mud from the journey.

“Don’t just stand there, come and sit here, it is quite alright” said the king.

Hearing the king’s request, Mesiong sat down near the king. 

“Who are you and what brought you here?” the king asked him

“I am Mesiong, I was looking for wood for my farm. I kept on and failed to realise I was here.” telling a little lie. He started to feel that there was something odd about the people there and was unsure what was going on.

“I am actually glad that you came. Perhaps you could help me. My daughter has been ill. All the shamans and medicine men that I called upon have yet to cure her illness, frankly I am out of options.”

“Now that you are here, you might as well have a look, maybe you could help.” plead the king to Mesiong. 

“I used to dabble a little bit on the matter in the past, but it has been quite some time since. I am unsure if I could do anything to help” replied Mesiong.

“Worry not, please try, luck may be on our side, I pity my dear daughter” the king pleaded Mesiong once more.

After having a quick deliberation, Mesiong abided and went to the king’s daughter room, where she laid in illness. After having a look at the king’s daughter, he saw the spearhead was indeed plunged into her left rib. He was sure that this was the spearhead he was looking for. 

“Surely, this must be the creature I plunged my spear through the other day, but how did she turn into a human? It also seems that they could not see the wound and the spearhead.” Mesiong was bewildered by the incident. So he went out of the room.

“How then will you be able to help?” asked the king.

“Yes, but I can’t promise anything. Build a wall surrounding her, it has to be so tight even mosquitoes can’t pass through it. I will heal her tonight. During this time, no one is allowed to walk beneath the house. Fires must be put off. None can watch me as I medicate her. If she wails or screams, you must not bother, these are the requirements. Otherwise, if you do not heed this, her sickness will spread to everyone of you!” Mesiong told a little lie once more. 

That night, Mesiong went into the king’s daughter’s room to heal her wound. He began pulling the spearhead out of her rib with much care. She screamed in pain as he did so.

“Hold it together, just a little while longer” he told her.

After having the spearhead pulled out, he threw it down under the house. Later he hid the spearhead so he could bring it back to his village. He then cleaned and wrapped the wound and made his way out of the room. 

“How was it Mesiong?” the king asked.

“It is done, now please look for turmeric and lemongrass, I need to apply it on her wound.” Soon enough the king’s people brought back his request as there were many of them at disposal.

“Peel the skins of the herbs then pound them until they’re fine, then mix them all up” he requested once more. It did not take long for them to have it done.

Mesiong went back and rubbed the ingredients on the king’s daughter’s wound and wrapped it once more. “We may look at her again after three days.” Mesiong advised.

After three days, the wound healed. She could once more talk and bathe. 

Having seen her daughter healed, the king felt indebted for Mesiong’s help. He wanted to return the favour so he said,

“Mesiong, all this while I had always the intention to marry my daughter to whoever that could save her, if she agrees. So, would you like to take her hand in marriage?” the king asked Mesiong.

“How could I be betrothed to a king’s daughter? Even so, I am already married.” replied Mesiong in all honesty.

“Your wife there would still be your wife. Here, it is different. Return to your wife at your will if you miss her, but I just wanted my intentions to be fulfilled” said the king.

Mesiong agreed to the king’s request after hearing his words, after all the king’s daughter is a beautiful maiden. Nevertheless, he still had his suspicions about the people there.

From that moment on, Mesiong stayed and married the king’s daughter. Day passed by and she regained her full health and Mesiong felt glad about it.

One day, Mesiong and his new wife went to a well along with some of the children. He was surprised to see them shapeshifting in front of his eyes. When they jumped into the well and climbed back up, they turned into wild pigs, then when they jumped into another well and climbed up, they turned into humans again! That included his new wife. He had finally figured out how they turned into wild pigs and otherwise.

Days later, Mesiong started to feel uneasy living there so he asked permission to go back to his village. He claimed that he misses his family and relatives. His new wife and father-in-law did not stop him from doing so. 

Before he took his leave, his wife told him “If anyone caught and is selling babi pulut, buy it. But you must not share it. Then, cut the stomach open, you will find something valuable within it.”

“Do not ask me what it will be, you will soon find out.” she continued. “On your way back, do not pee on logs or any dry place, find a wet and damp spot instead. Remember my words.”

After getting the spearhead from its hiding place, Mesiong began his journey home. On his way, he felt a need to relieve himself. He remembered his wife’s words so he looked around to see any wet spots, rivers and wells and sorts. He couldn’t hold himself, so he relieved himself at a fallen tree branch. 

When he continued his journey, he turned his head around to see the forest had thickened itself! As he looked forward again, left and right, he was surrounded by the dense forest. He stayed where he stood for a long time until the forest went back to what it was.

Finally, he arrived at his village. His wife and his family were excited and happy to see him alive. All this while they thought he had died as there was no news or signs of him. Tugau was content and held back whatever intentions he had originally wanted to do to his son-in-law.

Not long after his return, someone caught a babi pulut and was selling it. As foretold by his other wife, he bought the whole pig for himself. He slaughtered the animal and cut open the stomach to see lumps of gold in it! Mesiong dug up the earth and buried the pig beneath it, then went to wash and hid the lumps of gold. 

From that day forth, Mesiong and his wife had a prosperous life and they became wealthier with each day. Tugau felt odd about his son in law’s sudden stroke of luck so he asked him.

Mesiong replied “These are all gifts from God. Hard work and labour pays off.” 

Mesiong kept the secret to himself as he was cautious that Tugau might want to ask for compensation for the spear he borrowed before. Tugau was still suspicious but in the end, he failed to get the answers out of Mesiong and so the real story was forgotten.

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