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

Four Eyes and Bitter Tongue

(Si Empat Mata dan Si Pahit Lidah)

In the area known as Kerinci there lived two young men who had supernatural powers and that were very much honored and respected by the people. The name of the two young men was Bitter Tongue and Four Eyes. They were very close friends who shared their lives, their meals, and even lived in the same one room home.

Four Eyes was remarkable, because he had four eyes. Two on the front and two on the back of his head.

Bitter Tongue once said to Four Eyes that he had tremendous supernatural powers. He said that if he called a stone a cow, for example, that stone would become a cow. And, if called a horse a goat, that horse would become a goat. He even said he could make anything become a stone, if he wanted to do that. In fact, he said that he could do that with any object he wished.

Four Eyes indicated that the abilities of Bitter Tongue had never yet be put to the test, and that he shouldn’t talk so arrogantly.

After several minutes the two friends began arguing fiercely. They then decided to produce the proof to show which of the two of them were really the greatest. They then looked for a place to conduct their argument in a location that was very isolated so they would be free to continue their argument, and be able to fight with their fists if they wanted to.

After arriving at an isolated location, Bitter Tongue asked Four Eyes where they were going to conduct their competition. Four Eyes pointed to a shady location below a coconut tree, which had lots of ripe coconuts growing in the top of it.

“Now, at this location the strength of our powers will be put to the test, and you will find out how great your powers really are,” said Four Eyes.

“Okay then, who’s going to go first?” asked Bitter Tongue.

“I’ll go first,” said Four Eyes. I’ll lay face down, then you cut a cluster of coconuts so they’ll fall and hit my body, said Four Eyes to Bitter Tongue.

Then Four Eyes laid face down under the coconut tree. Bitter Tongue climbed the coconut tree, taking a machete with him to cut the cluster so it would fall and land upon Four Eyes.

It was agreed that Four Eyes would count to three, and then Bitter Tongue would cut the cluster so it would fall on Four Eyes.

After Bitter Tongue was at the top of the tree, Four Eyes began to count, and when he reached number three, Bitter Tongue chopped the coconut cluster with his machete, and all the coconuts fell to the ground, but not a single one of them struck the body of Four Eyes because he saw the coconuts falling with the two eyes he had on the back of his head.

Then Four Eyes said, “Come down and take your turn, and I’ll climb the coconut tree to cut a cluster to fall on you!”

Bitter Tongue’s plan was to turn the stem of the coconuts into stone so they couldn’t be cut by the machete held by Four Eyes. But Bitter Tongue was to slow in turning the stem into stone, he only turned the coconuts into stone, and they became even heavier than they were before.

When Four Eyes cut the coconut cluster, as the coconuts, like huge stones, fell and landed on the head of Bitter Tongue, killing him instantaneously.

Four Eyes called out to Bitter Tongue, but there was no answer. He then climbed down from the tree to determine if Bitter Tongue was really dead. When he approached him he saw that he was indeed dead, and being very curious, he wanted to know if Bitter Tongue really had a poisonous tongue. So reaching down he touched the tongue of Bitter Tongue with his fingers, then put his fingers into his mouth to taste it.

Unfortunately for Four Eyes, the tongue of Bitter Tongue really was poisonous, and he fell to the ground, dying instantly of the poison from the tongue of Bitter Tongue. The result of all of this was that the two supernaturally empowered young men were both laying dead below the tree where they had their great competition.

Seeing that this had happen, the people in the community buried them in that same location. From when this competition took place, until now, the grass above the graves will not grow. It is still believed that the graves contain supernatural powers.

It is said that the origin of the poison that keeps the grass above the graves from growing is emitted from the graves of the two competitors, who are still today showing off their great supernatural powers.


This story is told in the Jambi regency of Kerinci, as well as in a number of other locations around Sumatra. The story is used to teach that boasting of one’s special or unique abilities will bring about tragedy. Whatever strengths one has, they should be used to help many people. They are not for the purpose of lifting ourselves up in pride, and in the end, destroy others or ourselves because of them.


This legend has many versions, and has been adapted to fit the cultures and peoples of a number of different ethnic groups. The legend of Tangkuban Perahu, which describes how the volcano north of the City of Bandung came into existence, is another such legend that has been altered in a similar manner.

The Jambi historian and cultural expert, H. Junaidi T. Noor, wrote in his book Mencari Jejak Sangkala, that “Dewa Sekerabah” was the same person 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” (Temple of the God Sekerabah). 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 portion of the Jambi Province (Tanjung Jabung) and named the 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.