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

The Legend of Orang Kayo Hitam

Orang Kayo Hitam is famous character in Jambi’s history. According to several different legends he is accredited with having been the first king, although there are many accounts of kings reigning over Jambi prior to him. Below is one legendary account of how he, single handedly, defeated the Mataram Kingdom.


There was a time when Jambi regularly sent taxes to the Mataram king on the island of Java. That king was an uncle of Orang Kayo Hitam. After a period of time Orang Kayo Hitam and the people of Jambi grew tired of enriching the Java Mataram kingdom, so they refused to send any more tax money to them. Upon hearing this, the Mataram king became very angry and drew up a plan to attack Jambi. The king assembled a special force that was uniquely trained by nine commanders. The king ordered a special blacksmith to forge a unique knife (keris) that would possess supernatural powers. The order also indicated that the blacksmith must finish the knife within five Fridays. A supernatural knife like this was needed to defeat Orang Kayo Hitam, because he was a very powerful man who had many supernatural powers and was very difficult to kill.

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

Orang Kayo Hitam learned of the plan the Mataram king was developing, so he mustered all his powers together and determined to go to the Mataram Kingdom, being accompanied by his younger brother, Orang Kayo Pingai. The weapons Orang Kayo Hitam took with him was a spear which had three points.

When the boat of Orang Kayo Hitam arrived at the port of the Mataram Kingdom, he and his brother were immediately attacked by the land forces of the Mataram Kingdom. This led Orang Kayo Hitam to utilize his supernatural powers and change himself into a young boy which had a body full of oozing scabs.

The Mataram king commanded his nine commanders to capture the young boy, but they weren’t able to because the stench being emitted from all the oozing scabs were so overwhelming that they couldn’t get close to him.

On the first Friday the Mataram king went to the special blacksmith, who was living in a cave, to check on the progress of the knife. After the king left, immediately Orang Kayo Hitam, in the form of the young boy with disgusting scabs, appeared before the special blacksmith.

“Hey, why are you here?” asked the blacksmith.  And then he continued, “Whose child are you? Are you lost?”

“I’m not lost, I only want to know what you are doing here,” said the young boy.

The special blacksmith then told him that he was currently making a knife with supernatural powers, and that the knife was being forged from nine metals which were gathered from nine different villages. He also told the young boy that this knife must be finished within nine Fridays.

After learning about what the blacksmith was making, Orang Kayo Hitam returned to his boat, which was hidden along the beach. When he got there he found his brother, Orang Kayo Pingai sound asleep. Orang Kayo Hitam decided that he also would rest there, and wait till the ninth Friday’s arrival.

Early on the ninth Friday, Orang Kayo Hitam, in the form of the young boy with sickening scabs all over his body, returned to the blacksmith.  With very carefully chosen words he persuaded the blacksmith to show him the knife that he had made.

The young boy asked the blacksmith, “How much did the Mataram King pay you for this knife?”

At first the blacksmith didn’t want to respond, but after the young boy’s continual persuasion, he told him.

Knowing the cost, the young boy offered the blacksmith a little bit more money for the knife than what the Mataram King had paid him, and the blacksmith accepted the offer and gave the special knife to him. The blacksmith had said that he would sell it to him, but that the young boy must also protect him from the Mataram King, who would become angry with him when he found out what he had done. The young boy agreed and they both left together to go to the boat along the shore of the ocean.

(Other versions of this legend indicate that Orang Kayo Hitam killed the blacksmith and took the knife by force.)

After having the supernatural knife, the young boy became very brave and he went up by land to attack the Mataram special army which was made up of nine specially chosen commanders. The commanders were very mad and wanted to kill the young boy because the stench from his body disturbed all of the citizens of the kingdom.

The nine commanders asked the young boy what supernatural powers he possessed, but the young boy told them that he didn’t have any special powers.

“I only can play with wood,” said the young boy.

“Where is this wood,” asked the nine commanders. “Is it only a toy”?

“The wood is in my boat, along the beach,” replied the young boy.

Several of the commanders went to the boat to get the wood, but they were disappointed because the boat was empty and only had a single chicken in it.

“You are a big liar” said the commanders to the young boy. “We are going to kill you and your chicken.”

“The chicken has a very special and unique crow,” said the little boy. “You all may listen to it.”

The young boy took the chicken out of the boat and the chicken’s crow sounded like, “Cikcikciaaap.”

The nine commanders were even more angry now, because the sound of that crow was the most disgusting sound they ever heard coming from a rooster. Immediately the young boy grabbed one of the commanders and drug him to the boat and killed him.

The young boy said to the remaining commanders, “Just a minute while I tie my chicken up.”

After the chicken was tied up, he picked up his hidden spear with three-pronged, and said to the commanders, “this is the wood I was talking about”!

With only one wave of his three-pronged spear all the commanders and soldiers with them were killed. The young boy then flew to the great military stronghold, where the Mataram King was located, and he went on a rampage. All the remaining soldiers were killed, leaving only the Mataram King remaining.

Orang Kayo Hitam, in the form of a little boy,  preparing to attack and kill the Mataram king.

“Young boy, do you desire to take over my kingdom?” said the Mataram King. “You must know that as long as I still have life in me, it’s not possible for me to surrender my kingdom to you.”

The young boy sincerely attempted to persuade the king to surrender the kingdom to him, but just the opposite took place. The Mataram King grabbed and slammed the young boy to the ground, but the young boy wasn’t harmed in the least, and in the end, he was forced to kill the Mataram King.

After the death of the king, the citizens of the Mataram Kingdom asked Orang Kayo Hitam (the young boy) to become their king, but he said he didn’t want to disrupt the sovereignty of the Mataram Kingdom, so he turned the kingdom over to the officers of the state for its safe management.

(Another version of this legend says that the Mataram King was so fearful of Orang Kayo Hitam that he called a truce before his defeat. He then gave Orang Kayo Hitam his daughter, Ratumas Pemalang, to marry. That marriage then sealed the truce between the Jambi and Mataram Kingdoms.)

After these events Orang Kayo Hitam had to return to Jambi because he heard there was a rebellion which had developed there, due to the instigation of a person named Tiang Bingkuk.

Upon Orang Kayo Hitam’s arrival in Jambi, Tiang Bingkuk was arrested and sentenced to be tied to the bottom of a raft which was to float away from Jambi down the Batanghari River.

(In another version of this legend it is said that the raft on which Tiang Bingkuk was tied, there were also two geese placed on it. The raft was said to stop at different locations along the Batanghari River, and the two geese were said to have spread their dung in various places along that river. From that dung grew the various cities of the Jambi Kingdom, like Muaro Tebo, Muaro Tembesi, and the City of Jambi. After this, the geese and body of Tiang Bingkuk was said to have disappeared.)