This is our translation of a legend from the Jambi Province.

Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa

Once upon a time there were two young ladies who were cousins. Their names were Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa and Puti Selerang Mata Ikan. These two girls were living in the home of Tuan Muda Permai, who was approximately the same age as those two young ladies.

The mother of Tuan Muda Permai became the foster parent for the two girls because their parents had passed away. All four of them lived in the same home. As it happened, the mother of Tuan Muda Permai loved Puti Selerang Mata Ikan more than Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa. On the other hand, Tuan Muda Permai loved Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa, and had thoughts of marrying her.

Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa often cried when she was alone. She was sad because of the favoritism the mother showed towards Puti Selerang Mata Ikan.

Traditional Indonesian Boat

One day when Tuan Muda Permai wanted to go on a trip, he left Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa in the care of his mother. After informing his mother that he was leaving he set out on his trip to the other side of the ocean.

Upon the departure of Tuan Muda Permai, his mother said to Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa and Puti Selerang Mata Ikan, “Let’s take a walk into the jungle to look for some wood for cooking.

The three of them then departed and when they arrived in the jungle, the mother said to Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa, “Puti Serubut, Puti Selerang and I will look for wood. You just sit here and guard the lunch we brought with us.

But, they didn’t look for wood; the two of them left her sitting there with the small amount of food and ran home without her. Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa was left all alone in the depths of the jungle. Puti Serubut knew that she was thrown out by her foster mother, only to be eaten by wild animals. She knew she couldn’t do anything about it, so she surrendered to her fate.

Arriving at the house, the mother killed a cat and buried it in the yard. Her plan was to develop a story which she would tell Tuan Muda Permai when he would return home. She was going to tell him that Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa had died, and that her grave was at the location in the yard where the cat was buried.

When the evening began to get dark, Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa began crying because of her loneliness and fear. Suddenly, a bird began to chirp, “Kicau kici, hey don’t cry Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa. Although people have discarded you and don’t want you anymore, don’t give up, there’s still hope for you.”

Puti Serubut stopped crying as she gave attention to that bird.

The bird continued, “Kicau kici, hey Puti Serubut, follow the small trail in the direction the sun rises.

Puti Serubut followed the directions of that bird and along the small trail she found a huge durian tree. She then walked over and stood beside it.

Durian being sold along the street in Jambi.

“Kicau kici, hey Puti Serubut, climb that durian tree,” said the bird.

Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa saw a ladder there so she climbed the tree until she reached the fourth branch. On that branch was a small tree house. She was surprised to see such a beautiful but small home built in such a location.

“Kicau kici, hey Puti Serubut, go ahead and enter the home,” said the bird. She then entered the home and was surprised to find all the home furnishings she could hope for, like a bed, food, and many other items that would make life comfortable.

After his three months of travel was concluded, Tuan Muda Permai returned home. His trading venture was prosperous and the boat was full of all different types of cloth and clothing. After the boat was tied up to the dock, he ran to find Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa.

The mother of Tuan Muda Permai greeted him at the door of their home, while crying and putting on an act of being very sad, she said, “Something very terrible has happened my son. When you left on your three month trip, Puti Serubut died. She is now buried in the yard.”

Tuan Muda Permai also began to cry and could not stop. He deeply regretted that he had ever left on his trip. The boat that was full of nice clothes and other things, he pushed off into the sea.

“I don’t want any of these clothes or things, because I no longer have my precious Puti Serubut,” said Tuan Muda Permai.

“Oh no, my son!” said the mother of Tuan Muda Permai. “It’s better if you just give all of those clothing and things to Puti Selerang, rather than throwing them out into the ocean.”

“Leave it be mother. Let the boat and all its cargo be swallowed up by the sea. I don’t care about any of it anymore,” said Tuan Muda Permai.

Since that time Tuan Muda Permai became very sick. He didn’t want to drink water, nor did he want to eat any rice.

The bird, which was a friend of Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa, knew everything that was going on. He even said to Puti Serubut, “Kicau kici, hey Puti Serubut, did you know that Tuan Muda Permai is very sick? Send some rice to him.”

Rice Packaged in a Banana Leaf

Puti Serubut then cooked some rice and wrapped it up and placed it in three woven containers she made from leaves. The bird was asked to take the containers to the home of Tuan Muda Permai.

The bird did what was asked, and flew very high, in the direction of the home of Tuan Muda Permai. When it arrived at the home the bird perched itself on the ledge of a window, and being seen by Tuan Muda Permai, he asked the bird, “Hey bird, why did you come here? What is the purpose for your visit?” asked Tuan Muda Permai.

The bird flew into the home and landed on the lap of Tuan Muda Permai, which at that time was laying down. Although he was very weak, Tuan Muda Permai reached out and took some of the rice the bird had brought with him. The rice was immediately eaten, and after that the bird flew away.

Tuan Muda Permai slowly began to recover from his sickness after he began eating the rice. He even requested his mother to go and look for some durian to eat. Strangely enough, there was only one durian tree at that time with fruit on it, and the durian on that tree was located only in the very highest branches. The long stick usually used for knocking the durian down wouldn’t reach, so the mother began to pray for just one durian fruit to drop to the ground. Suddenly a durian fell and the mother was extremely happy. She took it home and gave it to her son to eat. He was very surprised when he ate it, because he said that the flavor of the durian was exactly the same taste as the rice that was brought to him by the bird.

As the days went along, the mother wasn’t able to get any more durian. When Tuan Muda Permai was asking for more of that fruit, the bird he previously saw came again and landed on the ledge of the window. The bird had another fistful of rice with him, and he gave it to Tuan Muda Permai, who immediately ate it. Tuan Muda Permai asked the bird, “Who is it that is making this rice?”

The bird replied, “Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa never died.” After saying that the bird immediately flew away.

For a long time Tuan Muda Permai thought about what was happening. He then got up off his bed and got a hoe and dug up the grave that was in the yard, the grave his mother said was where Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa was buried. The mother forbad her son to dig up the grave, all the while crying, but Tuan Muda Permai continued digging. Finally, Tuan Muda Permai found the corpse of a cat in that grave.

“Mother, is this what you said was Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa? Where did this cat come from? Where is Puti Serubut”? asked Tuan Muda Permai.

“I’m sorry son. I took Puti Serubut far into the jungle and left her there because I wanted you to marry Puti Selerang Mata Ikan. I’m truly sorry and sincerely regret what I did. But I fear that she has already been eaten by a wild animal,” said the mother.

Tuan Muda Permai began stomping to the left and to the right, not knowing what to do, being in great agony for the loss of Puti Serubut and because of what his mother had done.

After a few minutes Tuan Muda Permai was able to think again, and he ordered his mother to take him to the place where his mother found the durian.

His mother took her son to the place where she found the durian, and after they arrived, Tuan Muda Permai sat down under that tree. He told his mother to return home and that he would sit there and wait for a durian to drop from the tree, and that he would wait there no matter how long it would take.

The bird, then being in the house up in the tree with Puti Serubut, said to her, “Kicau kici, hey Puti Serubut, call for him to climb up this tree.”

“I don’t want to. I was already thrown out and wasn’t wanted by his mother,” said Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa.

“Kicau kici, Hey Puti Serubut, he wasn’t the one that did you wrong. He very much loved you, and he still does. Let down the rope for him to climb up,” said the bird.

Puti Serubut then let down the rope to the bottom of the tree, and when Tuan Muda Permai saw it, without thinking long, he took hold of that rope and climbed up, wondering where the rope came from.

How surprised he was when he saw that there was a small cute home up in that tree, hidden behind all the durian tree leaves. As he entered the home he found Puti Serubut sitting quietly. He immediately hugged Puti Serubut while crying for the great happiness that filled his soul. Because of their great pleasure in seeing each other, there were no words spoken, they just embraced and held each other because they were finally together again.

Since that time Tuan Muda Permai and Puti Serubut Tali Nyawa lived happily ever after.