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

The Legend of Tan Talanai

Tan Talanai was a legendary king that was said to have ruled the Jambi Kingdom in the middle part of the 1400s. It is said that this king had a son who he hoped would continue his dynasty long into the future. A problem developed, however, only a few days after his son was born. King Tan Talanai had his son thrown out into the sea. The following story shows how the son’s life was spared and the kingdom continued on. (Another version of this legend is named after Tan Talanai’s son, Bujang Jambi.)

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Once Upon a Time the Jambi Kingdom was led by a wise and astute king named “Dewa Sekerabah,” or generally known as “Si Pahit Lidah” (bitter tongue).*  It was a pity that this king didn’t have any descendants, because when he died, Jambi turned into a state of confusion, no longer having a single unifying leader. The various areas of the kingdom formed opposing groups which often fought.

The news of this chaotic condition in reached every area of the globe. The news even reached a man by the name of “Tan Talanai,” who at that time was a ruler in Turkey. Hearing this, he desired to overthrow Jambi and become it’s king, which he eventually did.

As Tan Talanai’s wise rule united Jambi, peace returned, as well as prosperity. All the people enjoyed the way in which Tan Talanai ruled, because they believed he ruled fairly. Besides possessing authority and honor, he also had tremendous wealth which flowed over to the citizens of the kingdom. In spite of this success, there was one thing that troubled the thoughts of Tan Talanai; he didn’t have a son.

As the king continued to pray for a son, eventually the queen became pregnant, which greatly relieved the heart of Tan Talanai. But only three days after the son was born, Tan Talanai received a report from an astrologer that the presence of this baby will bring a catastrophe to the kingdom.

With sincere curiosity Tan Talanai asked the astrologer, “What type of catastrophe do you mean?”

The astrologer responded, “When the child is grown, he will kill his very own father.

“He will kill me?” asked Tan Talanai. “Oh, this couldn’t possibly happen”!

At the beginning the king doubted the words of the astrologer, but because he had a history of always being accurate, the king commanded his prime minister to throw his son into the ocean.

Tan Talanai sending his son, Bujang Jambi, out to sea.

The prime minister couldn’t bring himself to do such a thing, but because the king forced him, he followed through with the command. At that same time the heart of the queen became very sad, knowing that her little boy was going to be thrown into the ocean. She tried desperately to change the kings mind.

“I hope you don’t follow through and throw our son into the sea,” said the heart-broken queen. “Don’t you remember that we waited years for our precious son? Now after he arrived you want to throw him out.”

“What’s the purpose of having a son if he’s going to eventually kill me?” asked Tan Talanai.

The queen didn’t have the power to prevent Tan Talanai from following through with his desires, and finally the prime minister, together with the palace guards, placed the baby into a basket and set him adrift on the sea. The basket, however, floated, and it was brought by the current and waves all the way to the country of Siam (Thailand).

At that time the queen of Thailand was Tuan Putri. She was currently fishing in the sea using a boat, together with some of the palace guards. While fishing, she suddenly saw a basket floating on the top of the water.

“Hey, there’s a basket floating in the water,” cried Tuan Putri.

Tuan Purti commanded the palace guards to take the basket from the water and bring it into the boat.

“Hurry up, open the basket,” Tuan Putri said curiously.

Queen of Thailand: Tuan Putri

“Ok, Tuan Putri!” responded one of the palace guards, as they lifted and opened the basket.

Tuan Putri was amazed beyond belief because she saw that the basket contained a cute baby boy that was sound asleep.

“Hey, whose child is this? What parent could ever bring themselves to do such a thing?” asked Tuan Purti with deep curiosity.

After inspecting the basket, they found writings in the lining that indicated that the baby was the son of Tan Talanai, the King of Jambi. Even though she knew this, she brought the baby to her own palace and grew to love the child as if he were her very own.

From that time on the son of Tan Talanai was adopted by the queen of Thailand. The boy grew strong, wise and clever. He also became very skilled with the ancient martial art silat, because from the time he was a young child he was trained by a master in the art of silat.

One day after returning from playing with his friends, the son of Tan Talanai was sitting at the front of the palace, under the porch. He was deep in thought because his friends frequently mocked him because he didn’t have a father. Considering this he got up, went to his adopted mother, Tuan Putri, and asked: “Mother, may I ask you a question?”

“What do you want to ask, my son?” responded Tuan Purti to his question.

“Mother, I’m embarrassed because almost every day my friends mock me because I don’t have a father. May I know who he is?”

Hearing that question, Tuan Putri took a long deep breath. Then she told him that his father was the King of Jambi, whose name is Tan Talanai.

“If that’s the truth, then how did I eventually get to this palace here in Thailand,” the child asked confusingly.

“It’s a very difficult question, and hard to be believed, my son,” said Tuan Putri.

“What do you mean mother?” the child asked.

“My son, I’m not actually your real mother. I only found you when I was fishing from a boat at sea. You were floating in a basket. After I took you out of the water, I’ve taken care of you ever since. Your two parents at this time are still in Jambi,” explained Tuan Putri.

Hearing this explanation the child became angry. He even decided there on the spot that he would kill his father because of what he had done to him.

The child’s thoughts were, “What a rotten father, he’s worthy of being destroyed for what he did!” Even so, the child restrained his anger for the time being. But he did arrange a plan to attack the Jambi Kingdom in the coming year. Tuan Putri, learning of this plan, worked tirelessly to appease her adopted son and to try to get him to change his intentions. She didn’t want to see her son attack his own father. However, the child was clearly bent on his intentions to attack his father and his father’s kingdom. Finally, Tuan Putri quietly sent word to the Jambi Kingdom to inform Tan Talanai concerning his son’s plan.

Upon receiving news concerning the intentions of his son, Tan Talanai became furious. He ordered all his governing officials and military to prepare defenses around the capital.

After one year all the defenses around the capital of Jambi were complete. It was fortunate for them, because the son of Tan Talanai, together with his army were moving toward Jambi. When they arrived in Jambi the war broke out. Each army was led by, both, the father and the son.

As the battle continued it was evident that the Jambi army was inferior, and was defeated by the army from Thailand. The devastation was so complete, that there wasn’t a Jambi soldier left standing, except Tan Talanai himself. The father and son then entered into combat against each other. Since both of them had great spiritual powers, the battle continued long into the afternoon. In the end Tan Talanai admitted defeat, though it was an equal match. Tan Talanai admitted defeat, mostly because he knew that he had wronged his son.

“Ok, my son. If you really want to kill me take a pointed stone and stab me with it. That is the only way you will be able to overcome my great spiritual powers and kill me,” said Tan Talanai. “But, before you do it, please listen to your father for a moment. I truly am very sad that I believed the prophecy of the astrologer, which said you would bring me and my kingdom great trouble and calamity.”

Hearing the explanation from his father, the young man’s heart became broken, and he ran and hugged his father.

“I’m sorry father! I’m sorry that I ever dared to do such a thing as kill you,” expressed the very heart-broken son, while tears were streaming down his face.

“It’s me my son. It’s me that must ask for forgiveness for having you thrown out to the sea,” said the grieving father.

The young man forgave his father and invited his father and his real mother to live with him at the palace in Thailand, together with his adopted mother, Tuan Putri. In the end they lived happily ever after.

Several years after this the son of Tan Talanai rose to the throne over Thailand, from which also all future Thailand kings came from. From that time on many people believe that the King of Thailand originated from Jambi and the King of Jambi originated from Turkey.

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Another variation of the above legend is that Tan Talanai is killed by his son and the body was taken to Siam/Thailand to be buried, and the son of Tan Talanai became the king over Jambi. The version above was undoubtedly written specifically for children.

This picture reflects an alternate ending to the above legend.
This picture shows Bujang Jambi attacking Tan Talanai, his father with a keris (knife).

Other legends show Tan Talanai originating from India, Malaysia, or Java, and not from Turkey, as the above legends states.

* The above version of “The Legend of Tan Talanai,” opens with a person called “Dewa Sekerabah.” The Jambi historian and cultural expert, H. Junaidi T. Noor, wrote in his book Mencari Jejak Sangkala, that “Dewa Sekerabah” was the same person known as “Si Pahit Lidah.”  Noor derived that information from the book Undang-undang Piagam Negeri Jambi (1937).   Today the name “Sekerabah” is used to refer to the community of people living in the area (kelurahan) of Solok Sipin, or, “Candi Situs Solok Sipin.” In his book, Noor goes on to explain that after “Si Pahit Lidah” died, a Hindu king from the Mataram kingdom came to Jambi and became the king over Jambi. He built statues of worship in the eastern portions of the Jambi Province (Tanjung Jabung) and named one location Pulau Berhala (Statue Island). An Arabic Islamic missionary, who carries the title of Datuk Paduka Berhala, is accredited with having had the statues all destroyed.

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