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

The Orphan (Anak Yatim Piatu)


In the Jambi Kingdom there was an orphan that worked in the palace of the king. His work involved overseeing the king’s herd of water buffalo. Every morning he guided the water buffalo to the pastures so they could eat, and at night he would bring them home to their stalls.

Every time the orphan would go to the pastures, he would always bring a piece of bamboo with which to play with the water buffalo’s tails. The tails on the water buffaloes always waved from the left to the right, and as the orphan would play with the tails, the tails would enter the bamboo, because it was of good enough size. Playing this way every day enabled the orphan to become very skilled with getting the water buffalo’s tail’s to enter the bamboo when they would swing them back and forth.

Water Buffalo in the Jambi Province

One day while inspecting his water buffaloes, the king was surprised and upset to see that there were sores on the tails of all the water buffaloes. The king then asked the orphan, “Why do all of these water buffaloes have sores on their tails?”

“Oh, the tails of the water buffaloes are sore because of this bamboo. Whenever they wag their tails, I play with them so that the tails, while being wagged, enter the bamboo at just the right time” replied the orphan, while he showed the king the bamboo he was holding.

The king was very angry when he realized how the sores had gotten there, so he ordered his body guard, Buyung Selamat, to give the orphan a knife (keris), a sword and a spear.

Keris Siginjai: the famous knife that was a symbol of Jambi Sultan’s power and authority.

The king said to the orphan, “It’s better that you learn how to play with a sword, knife, and spear so that you can ward off any attacking opponent. That would be far better than playing with a section of bamboo.”

Down in the depth of his heart, the king wanted to kill the orphan, but he didn’t want to kill him so out right that people would accuse him of murder. That was the reason why the king had his bodyguard give him the knife, sword and spear. He wanted to make it look like he was teaching the orphan how to use the weapons, while he carried out his will of killing him.

The king asked the orphan, “Which weapon would you like to learn about first, the knife, sword, or spear?”

“None, my king, I only need to hold the sheath of the knife, the sheath of the sword, and the sheath of the spear,” said the orphan.

After giving the sheaths that were requested of the orphan, the king set up the arrangement for how he was suppose to train the orphan. He taught the boy step one, step two, and step three. The orphan followed the steps of the king, but suddenly the king tried to stab the orphan with his knife, but the orphan waved the knife’s sheath at the king and the knife entered into its sheath.

The swift speed and agility of the orphan made the temper of the king to become inflamed, so he swung his sword at the orphan, trying to cut off his head. The orphan quickly side-stepped, and quickly moving the sheath into the proper position, the sword entered the sheath and the boy was unharmed.

The king then attempted the third attack using his spear. The king hurled the spear at the orphan with great force. With great skill the orphan grabbed the sheath for the spear, held it up in the air and the spear entered it, with no harm coming to him.

Fish Cages

The king then ordered all of his bodyguards to arrest the orphan. The orphan was then placed in a large fish cage and thrown into the river, which then sank, taking the orphan far below the surface of the water.

The king, assuming the orphan was obviously dead, took a small knife and ripped open the cage and took the orphan out of the water. He left the body on the bank of the river and returned to the palace. The orphan, however, was not dead. He only appeared to be dead.

Later the orphan regained consciousness and fully recovered. He then wanted to teach the king a lesson, so he looked some sirih leaves, tobacco, wooden sandals, a ring made from imitation gold, and adorned himself so as to look as though he was very wealthy. He then went to the palace to speak with the king.

The king was startled to see the orphan and said, “What are you doing here?” “I thought you were dead.”

“Yes, it’s true, I was dead, but I went straight to heaven and met with my mother and father. I also met with your mother and father as well. They said that they want to meet with you there” said the orphan.

The orphan assured the king that what he was saying was true by showing him the sirih leaves, the tobacco, and other items that appeared as though they could have come from heaven. After seeing all of that the king truly believed him.

The king said, “I really want to go there. “How can I get there?

“The same way I went there yesterday. Evidently the cage I was in must be like a vehicle that will take you straight to heaven. It’s all very easy and the path to heaven will be arranged by people who are living there. So whenever the king wants to go, the vehicle will be waiting for you along the bank of the river,” said the orphan.

“Okay then, gather all the citizens together and tell them I want to go to heaven for a short period of time,” said the king.

In response to the king’s desire, all the citizens began constructing a large cage braided with rattan and wire cable. It was made like this so that the cage would be extremely strong and the door of the cage was incapable of being opened from the inside, having been interwoven with wire cable.

Furniture Made From Rattan

The king was carried into the large cage, while seated on a royal throne carried by several palace guards. The orphan was the leader of this historic ceremony, directing everyone on the process of going to heaven. The orphan then said to the king, “Have a safe journey,” and with that the huge cage was hurled out into river while the crowds on the bank watched it slowly sink into the depths of the river.

After that the orphan began living in the palace, with the palace servants tending to all of his needs. The orphan even proposed to the kings daughter, Tuan Putri, who at that time was very worried about her father the king, because he had not yet returned from heaven.

Approximately one week later a person found the body of the king, still in the cage, as it was drifting downstream on the surface of the river. His body was brought back to the palace and many of the people came to mourn his death. The orphan said, “The king must have taken the wrong road to heaven and was mistakenly attacked by the armies of heaven. They must have thought he was an intruder.

Finally, the king’s body was buried and the orphan was raised to become king, and he even married the princess, Tuan Putri. The entire country then experience peace and safety.