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

Tapah Melenggang

(The Tapah Fish Named Melenggang)

This legend has a character with a name similar to the name of a person in a previous legend we translated. However, the two characters are quite different. The previous legend was titled: Princess Kesumba (Putri Kesumba). That legend can be read by clicking this link. The character in the legend below is named Princess Kesumba Ampai (Putri Kesumba Ampai).

This legend was said to have originated from the Jambi Province, in the BungoTebo regencies (kabupaten), specifically in the village of Pulautemiang.

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The citizens, the King, and all the military commanders were feeling safe and secure in the Teluk Kualosebo Kingdom. Then something took place which was totally unexpected. With great speed, and without any type of warning, a military force from the Bidar Alam Kingdom attacked the Teluk Kualosebo Kingdom. There wasn’t any particular reason for the attack, other than to embarrass and humiliate the King of Teluk Kualosebo.

The King of Teluk Kualosebo at that time had a very beautiful niece who was to marry his youngest son. That young lady’s beauty was well known, so much so that the King of the attacking army gave orders to captured that beautiful young lady and brought her back to him.

Because the King of Bidar Alam had tremendous magical powers, which everyone far and near had heard of, the King of Teluk Kualosebo, with the military commanders and all the citizens, had almost completely given up all hope that things could turn around. The King then prayed to God so that his wife would become a palo fish. He also prayed for his three sons to become tapah fish. His prayers were heard and answered simultaneously. Immediately his wife and three sons changed their forms into the fish mentioned.

Three days after that event took place, late in the evening, the three tapah fish (the King’s sons) all dreamed the very same dream. In the dream their father, the King, came to them wearing his finest royal clothing, and said to them, “exact revenge on the people who’ve humiliated us and pay them back proportionately for attacking us without cause. But, only exact revenge on those who are guilty. Don’t hurt anybody who didn’t have any ill-feelings towards us. We don’t want to harbor grudges towards people when only a few are at fault.”

The three sons nodded their heads that they understood what was commanded them. The King then continued, “Get your cousin back! Get your cousin Putri Kesumba Ampai! Bring her back to our Kingdom so she can marry you, Kudung!” Kudung was the youngest of the three sons. The King then continued, “You all need to try to get her with the safest way possible. If you can’t get her back quietly, then it’s up to you, do whatever you have to do. The main thing is to get Putri Kesumba Ampai back so she can marry Kudung in our beautiful capital city.

“Father, hopefully everything will go well and we’ll succeed,” replied Melenggang, the oldest of the three sons.

The middle son, named Tembaga, also asserted, “I will search for Putri Kesumba Ampai and take her from the King of Bidar Alam. I will do all that is necessary so that the marriage of Kudung can take place!”

The King then said to his sons, “Great! Assemble your plans and implement them now. Don’t put this off and get distracted with something else. Remember, when you all get Putri Kesumba Ampai back, you will turn back into human form. At the same time your mother will also turn back into human form. You will then come back to our Kingdom and rebuild all that was destroyed by the Bidar Alam forces.

The three tapah fish decided to immediately depart for the Bidar Alam Kingdom, which is located close to the Pagaruyung Kindom in Ranah Minang (Minangkabau). Being fish they took the Batanghari River in their travels, and the river produced several obstacles as they journeyed along. When they were passing by the edge of an island that was stretched out in the middle of the river, Kudung said, “I’m tired. Tembaga, what’s the name of this island?

Tembaga responded, “I don’t know, Kudung. What’s its name Melenggang?”

“Listen carefully,” said Melenggang, “You know the answer to your question,” and he immediately spoke a proverbial poem with a sweet melodious voice:

The island of Pandan is far to the middle

On the other side is the way back to Angso Duo (two geese)

Destroy the organization and powers of the region

The Kingdom of Bidar Alam we will also attack.

“Oh! It’s name of the island is Pulau Pandan!” responded Kudung with a smile. “Goodbye Pulau Pandan, pray for us so that we will be successful in bringing Putri Kesumba Ampai back with us.

Because the King of the Bidar Alam Kingdom had magical powers, he had already received a prophecy that there were three tapah fish that would attempt to attack and overcome his powers and capture Putri Kesumba Ampai. His thoughts then were, before the three fish would arrive and attempt to take back his future concubine, he would order the citizens of his Kingdom to:

1. Place Putri Kesumba Ampai up in a very high location so that it wouldn’t be easy to reach her.

2. Install a very sturdy and tight net along the river, and install many different fish traps in other locations.

One very trusted fisherman was commanded to install a fishnet that was made of steel. The name of that fisherman was Datuk Siak Banjar.

“Okay then!” said Datuk Siak Banjar. “I’ll obey you completely. I’ll make a net from steel that even the largest of tapah fish won’t be able to get through.”

During their travels Melenggang said to his two brothers, “We must be very careful because it isn’t only people that can attack us, large animals can also prey on us.”

“That’s true Melenggang,” said Kudung. Around every curve there could be danger lurking. If we aren’t careful we could die before we have the chance to rescue Putri Kesumba Ampai.”

Everything that was considered by the two older brothers only made Kudung afraid. When they arrived close to a wide area in the river that was very deep, Kudung said, “We need to rest a minute because I’m very tired. There, in front of us is a cove where we can rest.”

Tembaga then asked his older brother, “Melenggang, is that cove a safe area to rest?”

“I think it’s safe,” said Melenggang. “We shouldn’t be disturbed by any large animals in that area.”

Because Kudung was still young he wanted to inspect that area carefully, so he dove down to the floor of the river and he saw a very large and long snake. That particular snake had dominated that cove for a long time. The snake was at that time sound asleep, but the presence of Kudung woke him. The snake then said, “Wow! A tapah! And a very brave one. And he even dares to disturb me while I’m asleep? Do you think your shiny fish skin has the ability to escape my mouth?”

The three fish (brothers) were not ordinary fish. The skin on their stomachs were lined with silver. Their fins were layered with pure beautiful gold.

Kudung replied to the snake, “Me and my brothers are merely travelers and desired to rest a few minutes. We’re not looking for enemies. We’re sorry, Mr. Snake, if we disturbed you. Excuse us please!”

The snake with a fierce voice then said, “Wait a minute! There isn’t a single thing that can pass by my area of control without me eating them, and you included! I am going to kill you! I am going to eat you! I will use all my power to defend my domain! There isn’t forgiveness for you, tapah fish!

“My name is Kudung, and I’ll fight and kill you!” said Kudung.

The two straightaway attacked each other with lightening speed. Kudung moved quickly to the left. He escaped the first strike from the snake, but the second one he wasn’t able to avoid. The body of Kudung was totally engulfed in the coils of the huge snake. Kudung struggled to break free from the grip of the snake’s powerful coils, because he knew it was the only way he would be able to survive. But the snakes power was overwhelming and held Kudung tightly in its grip. From all of the struggling that was going on far below the surface of the water, the two older brothers felt powerful surges of water rising up. They knew something must have been taking place with Kudung, so they swam down to the floor of the river to see what was taking place.

The two brothers saw that Kudung was in a desperate situation. Tembaga asked Melenggang, “Should we attack the snake together at the same time?”

“No! If we attack, maybe Kudung will die. Let’s just pray,” said Melenggang.

In unison the two older brothers began to pray, “Oh God! If we are really descendants from the King of the Teluk Kualosebo Kingdom, the King that’s very wise, and also obedient to you, we ask that you free our brother so we can receive him back with no harm.”

After finishing their prayer, suddenly an overwhelming strength possessed Kudung. He twisted and thrusted and broke free from the snakes grip. Once free he turned and attacked the snake and in just a moment of time, the snake was dead!

“Hey, let’s leave this place,” said Melenggang.

The trials that followed this particular trial continually strengthened the powers of Kudung. He was actually curious about how far his powers would take him. Due to this curiosity he began taking enormous risks. One time Kudung fought with a crocodile and was almost killed. That battle lasted for several hours, and as previously, it was only through the prayers of his two older brothers that he was able to overcome. He also became bold enough to attempt other life-risking challenges, like being caught in a steel fish trap that was put in place by Datuk Siak Banjar, the highly skilled fisherman from the Kingdom of Bidar Alam.

Datuk Siak Banjar had made a fish trap with very strong steel. It was secured with heavy steel cables. Datuk Siak Banjar was extremely happy when he heard that the trap he had set up had caught a very large tapah fish. The tapah was so large that he wasn’t able to pull the fish out of the water by himself. While frantically running around he called out to people to help him with the net. It wasn’t much longer when a crowd of people gathered around to help. Many others came just to observe and see what was caught.

Kudung at this time was trapped and was unable to get free, since there were dozens of people drawing the net to the shore, and his strength was insufficient to resist, he gave up his struggle and surrendered to fate.

The atmosphere was extremely tense and frightening, and as always, the two older brothers of Kudung began to pray. Thankfully their prayers were heard and answered by the one and only great God.

Due to their prayers the strength and energy of Kudung returned in even greater force. With all his strength he twisted, turned, and lept, and the result was that Datuk Siak Banjar, who was pulling on the steel cables, was thrown into the middle of the river.

“Kudung!” said Tembaga in a hoarse voice. “It looks like you are no longer trapped! Should we be expending all our strength on people and creatures along our journey, or should we focus on rescuing your fiancée?”

“Please forgive me, Tembaga. Let’s focus our attention on rescuing Putri Kesumba Ampai,” said Kudung.

Melenggang then added, “Now, let’s fulfill the command given to us by our father.” With that the three fish turned and began their journey swimming upstream.

For several weeks the brothers swam against the strong current of the river until they finally arrived at a great waterfall which was located at the upstream area of the Batangpangian River. The waterfall was extremely high, even higher than the tallest of the coconut trees. The sound of the waterfall was deafening. It was going to be extremely difficult to get around this waterfall and continue their travel upstream. They began to contemplate how they would overcome this challenge, and then Tembaga looked up and said, “This is the great waterfall of the Bidar Alam Kingdom!”

Melenggang replied, “This can’t be that waterfall, because that waterfall you are speaking of has many stages of drops. We will have a very difficult time passing this part of the river because we don’t have wings like birds. We’ve only received special blessings from our father to become fish. We have to overcome this somehow! We have to find Putri Kesumba Ampai and rescue her!”

“What are you thinking we should do then,” asked Kudung. Should we join together and pray for God’s presence to come?”

“Absolutely! Join with me in prayer,” said Melenggang. Simultaneously the three of them began to pray with such loud voices that it drowned out the tremendous sound that was being made by the waterfall.

The three were calling out in prayer, “Father and mother, where are you? Pray for the presence of God to come so that we can fulfill what was commanded us. Mother, father! Help us! Pray together with us so that we’ll be blessed by the Lord, the Most High and the Most Holy!”

Their voice was heard by a palo fish (who was their mother, previously transformed into a fish by their father). That fish swam over to them and said with a very loud voice, “It’s me! It’s me, your mother. I’m here!”

The three brothers were greatly relieved when they heard and saw their mother. They began to cry and sob uncontrollably. Just a few moments later Kudung said, “We never thought we would ever meet you here. Mother, how can we pass this waterfall?”

“Have you ever tried?” asked their mother.

“Not yet! We feel we don’t have the ability to jump that high. We can swim, but we’ll die if we try,” said Melenggang.

“Mother,” said Kudung, as he listened to Melenggang, “I’ll try it!” With that Kudung swam as fast and as hard as he could up the great waterfall. When he got half-way up, his strength failed him and he fell back down to the bottom into the river. When he fell he landed on rocks and his body was all mangled and he began to drift lifelessly downstream. Being weak, injured, and in such pain, he passed out. It was very fortunate for him that his mother and brothers saw him. They immediately swam to him and took him to a calm location in the river, and for several hours nursed him back to health.

The palo fish then said, “We will have to transform back into human form if we are going to be able to rescue Putri Kesemba Ampai. To do that, we need to pass these rapids and get above this great waterfall. Melenggang, look for the tallest tree you can find. The tree must have four large leaves. This is the first thing that has to be done if all of us will be able to make it to the capital city of the Bidar Amal Kingdom.”

Without questioning her, Melenggang jumped out of the water onto the bank of the river. He was gasping for air and trying to breath, but couldn’t. He knew he couldn’t endure long out of the river. While on the bank of the river he looked to his left, and then to his right. And there it was, a huge tree with four leaves. Melenggang then grabbed it with his mouth, pulled it out of the ground and jumped back into the river with it still in his mouth. That tree was then taken and waved by his mother so that the other brother’s could see that they had accomplished this step in getting passed the waterfall.

“Okay! You can all climb this tree and get to the top of the waterfall. You need to go right now!” said their mother.

“What about you, Mother?” asked Kudung.

“I’ll stay right here at this spot and wait for you to return,” she replied.

“No!” said Melenggang. “You must join with us. Whatever we do we want to do it together.”

“It’s not possible, Melenggang! I’m very small, and only the size of a person’s little finger. I’m not able to jump up to the top of this huge waterfall,” said his mother.

“Mother, get in my mouth,” said Melenggang, “and I’ll take you with us.”

“I’m afraid to do that, because I might slide down into your stomach and die there,” she replied.

“It won’t happen mother! I’ll leave my mouth wide open. If there’s an accident and you get swallowed, I’ll vomit you back up,” said Melenggang.

His mother agreed to that and she swam into his mouth and they all departed.

The three finally arrived at the Bidar Alam Kingdom. It was too bad for them though, because they encountered a huge obstacle upon their arrival.

In the calm water, not far from the edge of the King’s palace, was a giant steel trap that had been put in place. It was all securely fastened with steel cables. It was so strong that anything that went into it would never get out.

Because of Kudung’s previous success in overcoming other challenges, he thought he could enter and destroy the trap, and then they could proceed on and rescue Putri Kesumba Ampai. But the trap was much stronger than he had expected. Kudung entered the trap, but the heavy door closed behind him and was securely locked automatically.

The fisherman saw that the trap had caught something, so they immediately went and reported it to the King. Not long after that a large group of citizens got together and lifted the trap, with its contents, and carried it away.

“Because its already time for the evening prayers we’ll wait until tomorrow to take that large tapah fish out of the trap,” said the King.

Tembaga began to cry, and couldn’t endure seeing his younger brother being held in that trap. His mother also had tears streaming down her face. Melenggang, deeply distressed and crying began to pray, “If it’s true that our father was a King, we hope that the All-Powerful and Most-Holy God will hear and answer our prayers. God, flood the Bidar Alam Kingdom so that the water goes all the way to the rafters of the building where Putri Kesumba Ampai is being held captive. Please favorably reply to our prayers for the mistreatment our Kingdom has suffered, amen!”

Before Melenggang’s words had all come out of his mouth an enormous rain began to fall. Flashes of lightning and thunder were causing the citizens of the Bidar Alam Kingdom to become hysterical. During the darkness of night, flash floods inundated and overwhelmed the capital city of the Bidar Alam Kingdom. So devastating was the flood that there wasn’t a single survivor, except Putri Kesumba Ampai.

The beautiful young lady called out for help when she heard Melenggang, Tembaga, and the palo fish calling for her. When the three fish saw her in the rafters of the home they immediately turned back into human form.

This picture shows the mother and her two sons, Melenggang and Tembaga, transforming from fish to human form in front of Putri Kesumba Ampai.

“Melenggang,” said his mother. “Tembaga and I will guard Putri Kesumba Ampai. You go and free your brother. Open the trap that is still under water and set him free. The trap is located at the entrance of the palace.

“How mother? I’ve already become human. How can I dive down for that long a period of time?” asked Melenggang.

“We’ll stay here and pray! Now you go!” said his mother.

Their prayers were heard by the One and Only God, and Melenggang received the powers to be able to endure the deep dive and free his brother from the trap. After that, Kudung desired to become human again, like his mother and brothers. He put his brother Melenggang on his back and they swam to where his fiancée, Tembaga, and mother were waiting.

Finally they were all reunited and they returned to the Teluk Kualosebo Kingdom to restore the damage that the Bidan Alam Kingdom had inflicted on them.

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The above legend was challenging to translate, since parts of the story didn’t mesh. The part about how they used a tree to get over the waterfall wasn’t explained. The legend also doesn’t say if Kudung ever turned back into a person, but it is assumed he did. There were also several other areas that were poorly written, which we took the liberty to smooth out the story out without dramatically altering the original.

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