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

The Legend of Putri Tangguk

Putri Tangguk

This story is legend about Putri Tangguk, a woman who lived close to Lake (Danau) Kerinci in the Jambi Province, on the island of Sumatra.

Putri Tangguk lived together with her husband and seven children. To maintain the needs of their family, Putri Tangguk and her husband planted rice in a small rice field, which was only as wide as a fish trap. Although the rice field was very small, that field produced tremendous amounts of rice. After every time they harvested rice, it instantaneously emerged again and immediately began to ripen. They would again harvest it, and like always, it would immediately grow up and ripen again. This would happen continuously.  Their work would continue day and night, and with their harvest they had almost completely filled their 7 rice barns full of what they reaped. Although they were very busy with their work, they had forgotten about other tasks that needed attention. Putri Tangguk sometimes would forget to bathe. She also didn’t take the opportunity to maintain friendships with her neighbors and she would also neglect her seven children.

One evening when the children were already asleep, Putri Tangguk spoke to her husband, which at that time was lying down on the floor.

“Husband! I’m very tired of everyday harvesting rice. I desire to manage our children and maintain relationships with our neighbors. While in the rice fields all day, we are very isolated.”

“Okay then, what do you want to do? asked Putri Tangguk’s husband, with in a quiet and slow voice.

“This is what I wish to do: I want to fill the seven rice barns beside our home with rice to have all our rice needs met for several months into the future,” replied Putri Tangguk.

“Okay then, tomorrow take all our children to the rice fields to help carry the rice back to the barns,” he replied.

“Okay, great!” responded Putri Tangguk.

Several moments later they were all sound asleep, because they were all very tired from working day and night for so long. During the night a heavy rain began to fall and continued till morning. The results of the heavy rain was that the dirt path to the rice field became very slippery.

After breakfast, Putri Tangguk, together with her husband and seven children, departed for the rice field to harvest all the rice they could and bring it back to the 7 barns surrounding their home. Their plan was to completely fill the barns with rice. While they were walking toward the rice fields, Putri Tangguk slipped and fell. Her husband, that was following immediately behind her helped her up. After getting up, Putri Tangguk was very angry because of the muddy path.

“Stupid path!” snarled Putri Tangguk.

Being in a state of rage, and not thinking with common sense, Putri Tangguk thought, “I’ll take the rice I harvest and spread it on the path so it won’t be slippery anymore.”

After they had harvest a tremendous amount of rice, all of it was taken and spread on the path so it wouldn’t be slippery. They only were able to bring a small amount of rice back to their home and place it in their barns. As she promised, Putri Tangguk didn’t ever return to the rice field. She then began filling her daily work with weaving cloth. She made shirts for herself, her husband, and her children. Her busyness with weaving cloth caused her to forget about building and maintaining relationships with her neighbors and seven children.

One day Putri Tangguk was so preoccupied with weaving cloth, from morning till late at night, that she even forgot to cook rice for her husband and children. The seven children then fell asleep without having eaten. After Putri Tangguk finished weaving on that day, she also fell asleep beside her husband and children.

During the middle of the night the youngest child awoke because of his hunger pains. He was crying and asked for some food. Fortunately Putri Tangguk was able to persuade the child to fall asleep again. After another short duration of time other children woke up. In turn she again persuaded them all to go back to sleep. When the oldest child woke up and asked for food, Putri Tangguk didn’t try to persuade him to go back to sleep, she was angry with him.

“Hey, you’re already mature! You don’t need somebody to wait on you as if you were still a child. If you’re hungry, get some rice out of the pan and eat it. If there’s no rice in the pan, take some out of the storage can and cook it yourself. If there isn’t any there, go the rice barn and pound it into powder and cook it yourself!” called out Putri Tangguk to her oldest child.

Because he was very hungry, the oldest child followed his mother’s directions, but, when he went to the kitchen there wasn’t any rice there. There wasn’t any in the pan, nor was there any in the storage can.

“Mother! The rice is all gone. There isn’t any in the pan or in the storage can,” said the oldest child to his mother.

“What did you say? The rice is all gone? I remember that I had left rice in the pan the day before. Certainly there was still rice in the storage can, because two times I’ve cooked steamed rice and there should still be some there! A thief must have come into our home and stole our rice” said Putri Tangguk.

“Okay then, just try to endure without food till tomorrow morning! I would be a little embarrassed to winnow and pound rice while it is still the middle of the night. All our neighbors will hear the noise and I don’t want to wake them out of their sleep” said Putri Tangguk

After saying that Putri Tangguk fell back to sleep because she was very tired from having spent the entire day weaving. The oldest child also fell back asleep.

The next morning the seven children woke with their stomachs rumbling due to the hunger. The youngest was crying with a whimper because he wasn’t used to going without food that long and couldn’t endure. All of the children were then asking for food. Putri Tangguk immediately asked her husband to get some rice from the rice barn so she could pound it. The husband, wanting to meet the needs of his family, immediately went to a rice barn. The husband was totally shocked when he opened and looked inside the barn. It was empty!

“Hey, where did all of our rice go?” shouted the husband.

In a panic the husband inspected all of their 7 barns, and found  every one of them totally empty. There wasn’t even a single grain of rice left to be found in any of them.

“Putri Tangguk! Come here fast!” called out the husband to his wife.

“What’s the problem?” asked Putri Tangguk, with a very worried tone in her voice.

“Look! All of our rice barns are empty. Certainly there was a thief that came and took all of our rice,” said the husband.

Putri Tangguk just stood there with her mouth wide open in total shock. It was as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“Yes! Last night a thief also took the rice out of our pan, as well as the rice we had in our storage can,” added Putri Tangguk.

“But, it’s not a problem! We still have hope. Don’t we still have a rice field that produces a bumper crop of rice?” asked Putri Tangguk.

After saying that, Putri Tangguk immediately pulled the hand of her husband and ran toward the rice field. When they arrived at the rice field they were again filled with total shock and amazement, because Putri Tangguk’s hope had all faded away.

“Oh my husband, all our hope is destroyed! Look at our rice field? There isn’t a single grain of rice, nor is there a single stalk of rice in our field. It’s all overgrown with thick grass,” said Putri Tangguk.

The husband didn’t do or say anything. He just stood there dumbfounded, full of amazement at all that had just taken place. With great feelings of sadness, Putri Tangguk and her husband returned home. On the walk back to their home their feet felt increasingly heavy with every step. During their journey home, Putri Tangguk thought deeply about her character and actions during the last several months. Before they arrived at their home she remembered what she did when she took the rice and spread it like sand on the muddy path, so it wouldn’t be slippery anymore.

Putri Tangguk groaned in her heart; “Oh my God! This is all my fault, and we’ve been cursed because of what I’ve done.”

After they arrived at their home, Putri Tangguk wasn’t able to do or say anything. Her entire body went limp. Almost the entire day she sat and contemplated what she had done. When the evening came she had a dream of an elderly man with a long beard who was wearing white clothing.

“Hey Putri Tangguk! I know you have a rice field that is as wide as a fish trap, even so, that small rice field is able to produce so much rice that you could make a mountain out of it, even a mountain the size of Mount Kerinci. But I’m sorry, Putri Tangguk! You are a proud and arrogant person. You thought little of the rice you harvested, which you wastefully used as sand to spread on the muddy path between your home and your rice field. You need to understand Putri Tangguk, that among the grains of rice you scattered on the muddy path, there was a single black stalk. That black stalk was our king.   If it was only the other rice that you used, there wouldn’t be a problem. But, because our king was also spread out on the muddy path, we all became angry. We will no longer come and grow in your rice field. In the future, you and your family will suffer. To obtain your daily food, you will to scratch, claw, and scavenge like a chicken to find enough. Your hard labor will only produce enough food for you to be able to eat that same day. You and your family will not be able to eat if you don’t work first. Your life will truly become like that of a chicken; scratch, claw, and scavenge, and then you can eat,” said the elderly white haired man with the white clothing, in Putri Tangguk’s dream.

Once Putri Tangguk woke from her sleep, she was very sad and contemplated about all that the elderly white haired man has said. She knew that for the rest of her life, together with her family, she would life a life of misery and experience great hardships. She greatly regretted all that she had done, as well as regretted her pride and arrogance when she spread the rice on the muddy path. Even with all her feelings of regret, there wasn’t anything she could do to change her future of misery.


The story of Putri Tangguk originates from the Jambi Province of the island of Sumatra. The story is considered a myth, though it contains moral lessons that are used in daily life. One moral that is passed along to children through this story is that children should not waste rice.

Another moral communicated with this story is about the terrible character trait of pride and arrogance. These negative character traits can create permanent damage to a person and to everyone they are associated with.