Thursday, August 02, 2012

Blood-thirsty vegetables

(This a story from the next book [no. 4] in the Silverfish Malaysian Classics series called Malaysian Fables, Folk-tales & Legends)


Once upon a time, Jagong, the maize-plant, made boast and said, “If rice should cease to exist, I alone should suffice to sustain mankind.” But Dagun, the liane, and Gadong, the jungle yam, each made a like boast and, as the parties could not agree, the case was brought before King Solomon.

Said Solomon, “All three of you are perfectly right, albeit it were perhaps better that Jagong should sustain mankind because of his comrade-ship with Kachang, the bean.”

There at the wrath of Dagun, the liane, and Gadong, the yam, waxed hot against Jagong, and they went off together to hunt for a fruit-spike of the jungle fig-tree [libut] whereon to impale him, but found none. And, meanwhile, Jagong hearing news of their quest, set to work to find arrow-poison. And, when he had found it, he poisoned Gadong therewith (wherefore to this day the jungle yam has narcotic properties). Then Gadong, the yam, being wroth thereat, speared Jagong in turn (wherefore, to this day, the cobs of maize are perforated). And Jagong, reaching out in turn, seized the pointed shoot of a wilang stem and wounded Dagun therewith.

At this juncture, the parties to the quarrel went before the Prophet Elias, who said, “This matter is too great for me, take ye it before Solomon.”

And Solomon said, “Let them fight it out between them, that the rage of their hearts may be appeased.”

Wherefore, there was battle between them for twice seven days. Now Mata Lembu, the ox-eye tree, stood nigh to watch the battle and its skin was grazed by bullets (whereof its bark still shows the scars). But the perachak shrub on the other hand was filled with fear and, instead of drawing nearer in order to see the battle, it stood upon tiptoe (wherefore it still grows long and lanky). But Andram, the sedge, was the most afraid and ran to a place afar off, but as it still heard the noise of battle it plunged into the river (wherefore to this day it grows over the surface of water).

And when the twice seven days were ended, the battle being still undecided, the combatants were parted and a space was set between them by Solomon. And Gadong, the yam, made he to sit down and Dagun, the liane, to lie down. But Jagong, the maize-plane, and Kachang, the bean, he made to stand together.