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

The Eagle that Rescued Upik

(Elang Sikat Elang Si Gonggong)

The title of this legend is very confusing. After asking Indonesians what it means, and they being confused, we made up a title that fits the story. The original Bahasa Indonesia title, literally translated is: Eagle Brush Eagle that Barks. The legend has nothing to do with a brush, nor about an eagle that barks. One remote possibility for the translation of the word “gonggong,” is “to pick up with the mouth.” If that was the meaning, then it would fit the legend.

This story communicates a common theme found in other legends, and that theme is that children should always honor and obey their mothers.


One day there was a woman was working in her rice fields, laying out her recently harvested rice to dry in the sun. She was also busy cutting down the grass that was growing alongside other stalks of rice that was just beginning to form. Her young teenage daughter, Upik, was also helping her with the work.

“Upik,” said her mother to her daughter.

“Yes, Mom,” replied Upik.

“It’s already noon. This morning I cooked rice and fried potatoes. Please grind up some peppers and mix them with the potatoes,” requested her mother.

“Ok, Mother. Where’s the board we use to grind our spices on?” asked Upik.

“It’s in the hut. The peppers are in the basket,” said her mother.

Upik climbed up into the elevated hut and evidently found the grinding board in the corner of the kitchen. After throwing out the pepper stalks, she placed the peppers on the board, which she thought was used for grinding spices.  When she started to grind up the peppers, suddenly the thing she thought was the grinding board started to move, and it ran into the tree then down to the ground.

“Mom! Mom! Our grinding board just ran away,” said Upik.

“Follow it, Upik,” said her mother from below the hut.

Upik quickly followed the grinding board all the way to the edge of the river. This grinding board actually turned out to be a turtle. The turtle accidentally entered a huge trap that had been built by a giant female ogre. Upik, not realizing it was a trap also entered in behind the turtle. It was told that the giant that built this trap always ate the hearts of both animals and people.

After 12 o’clock noon the giant came to check her trap and was very happy to have found two creatures inside; the turtle and Upik! The giant then lifted up the trap and carried it, with Upik and the turtle inside, back to its home. The giant took the two out of the trap and guarded them carefully. It didn’t eat them right away because it wanted them to fully grow so their hearts would be large enough to completely satisfy its desire.

“How big is your heart, young lady?” asked the giant.

“It’s still very small. Very, very small,” replied Upik calmly.

“Since Upik’s heart was small, certainly the heart of the turtle was even much smaller,” thought the giant. It then made the decision to do what had to be done to get their hearts to grow as large as possible. The giant then made plans to give them as much food as possible so their hearts would grow large and strong.

The giant took a mortar and pestle and ordered Upik to pound the rice in preparation for cooking. While pounding the rice Upik began to think about how she could escape and return to her home. While taking a break from pounding the rice, she saw an eagle flying around in the sky.

“This is my chance,” she thought, and then she said to the eagle; “Mr. Eagle, please carry me home to my mother. I’ll pay you by giving you a special chicken that lays a lot of eggs!”

The eagle screeched with delight in response to the proposal.

Not hearing the sound of the pestle pounding the rice in the mortar, and in its place hearing voices, the giant ran back to where Upik was and asked, “What’s going on here?”

“There’s nothing going on,” said Upik, “it’s just that my head is itchy from the heat of the sun.”

“Okay then, just wear that gold hat,” said the giant. And with that Upik was given a gold hat to put on her head. “Now, get back to work and get that rice pounded,” ordered the giant.

“How big is your heart now?” asked the giant.

“It’s still small,” Upik replied. With that the giant left, and when alone again Upik said to the eagle, “Mr. Eagle, please carry me home to my mother. I’ll pay you by giving you a special chicken that lays a lot of eggs!” The eagle gave out a loud screech affirming that the payment would be much enjoyed.

Since the giant heard that the pestle wasn’t pounding the rice in the mortar again, it ran back to find out why Upik had stopped her work. “What’s the problem, why did you stop your work,” asked the giant.

“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s just that my ear itches,” replied Upik.

“I think your ears need earrings to stop the itching,” said the giant. With that the giant got two gold earrings and gave them to Upik, who immediatly put them on her ears.

“How big is your heart now?” asked the giant.

“My heart has grown to the size of a blade of grass,” said Upik.

“Hmm, still small,” thought the giant.

“Get back to pounding rice then,” said the giant to Upik.

“Ok,” responded Upik, as she started back in pounding the rice.

When the giant had left her Upik spoke to the eagle again, “Mr. Eagle, please carry me home to my mother. I’ll pay you by giving you a special chicken that lays a lot of eggs!” Again, like before, the eagle gave out a loud screech affirming Upik’s proposal. The whole time Upik was pounding the rice the eagle kept circling around in the sky, listening to Upik’s requests and offers while watching her work.

With that Upik started back in on her task of pounding rice. And the giant, having heard a pause in the pounding rhythm, came back to find out why she had stopped.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” said Upik. “It’s just that my neck is itching.”

“You just need a gold necklace to protect your neck,” said the giant, and she went and got one and gave it to Upik to immediately put on.

The giant then asked, “How big is your heart now?”

“My heart is only as large as a blade on a corn stalk,” replied Upik.

“Still too small to eat. Get back to work,” said the giant.

When the giant left Upik started back in on her work, and while pounding she said to the eagle what she had said earlier. The eagle replied like before, with a screech, indicating that it agrees to the payment.

This same thing happened over and over. After she told the giant that her neck was itching, and she received a gold necklace, she then told the giant that her hands were itchy. The giant then gave her gold bracelets. After each golden object was given she would again speak with the eagle, and the eagle always responded that it would help. And continuing, when the giant would come back to check up on Upik, it would end up giving Upik gold jewelry to stop the itching she always claimed to have had. She had received a gold hat, earrings, necklace, bracelets, and after them she was given rings, bracelets for her ankles and even a belt to go around her waist—all made from gold. Every time Upik was given another ornament of gold she was asked how large her heart had become. She had replied that her heart had become a little larger with each questioning. From being the size of a leaf on a corn stalk, to the size of a leaf on a sugar cane plant, and finally as large as a leaf on a banana tree.

For the last time the giant asked her, “How large is your heart now?”

Upik replied, “My heart is now as large as a huge plate.”

“Okay then, your heart is large enough! I will now offer you as a sacrifice to the gods and then I’ll eat you,” said the giant. With that the giant took a knife and began to sharpen it so it would be able to cut Upik’s heart out with ease.

While the giant was sharpening the knife Upik called out again to the eagle, “Mr. Eagle, please carry me home to my mother. I’ll pay you by giving you a special chicken that lays a lot of eggs!” As always, the eagle said that he would.

“Okay then, hurry, hurry, come and rescue me!” said Upik.

With lightening speed the eagle made a sweeping dive and picked up Upik with his large beak and began the flight high into the sky and back to the rice fields where Upik was previously working with her mother.  “Kilik-klik,” said the eagle, as the two of them began their journey.

After Upik and the eagle’s departure the giant came into the room where Upik was previously being held captive. The giant was holding the sharpened knife with which to kill Upik and cut out her heart. The giant called out to Upik, “Hey, hey young girl where are you?” But there was no response from Upik because she had already been swept off to safety by the eagle.

Seeing that Upik was gone, the giant looked up, and seeing the young girl being carried away in the beak of the eagle, she immediately set off in the direction the eagle was flying.

All the while Upik was gone her mother was terribly worried about her, not knowing where she was or if something bad had happened to her. She knew she wasn’t in the hut, but she thought, “Where in the world could my daughter have gone?

At about that same time the eagle safely set Upik down at the edge of the rice field. A hen below the hut began to cluck, “The young girl has been brought back to the rice field. The young girl has been brought back to the rice field.”

Hearing the hen’s voice, Upik’s mother looked outside, and it was clear to see that an eagle had set down a young lady at the edge of her rice field.

Upik’s mother said to the hen, “It is true that my daughter is missing, but is that really her at the edge of the rice field?

The hen replied, “Cluk, cluk, cluk. The young girl is at the edge of the rice field.”

Upik’s mother climbed down from the hut and went to the edge of the field, and when she looked, it really was her daughter that was standing there.

“Oh, my daughter, you were gone for a long time without saying anything to me about where you were going,” said Upik’s mother. “Why in the world were you brought back by an eagle? Where were you and why were you and the eagle together?”

The eagle responded with several loud screeches, as it responded to Upik’s mother.

Upon hearing the eagle’s voice, Upik remembered her promise and said to her mother, “Oh, I made a promise to the eagle that if it would rescue me I would give it the special chicken that lays a lot of eggs.”

“Special hen? What hen is that?” asked her mother.

“The hen that lays all the eggs,” replied Upik. “Actually, the chicken that was clucking a little bit ago was at that time laying eggs.”

“Cluck, cluck, cluck, I wasn’t laying eggs,” said the hen.

“Did you hear my friend?” said Upik to the eagle. This chicken already laid all its eggs, and there’s no more chickens that have eggs to lay. I’m sorry, please forgive me my friend. You rescued me and for that I’m grateful. Thank you for all your help.”

With that the eagle let out its familiar screech and flew off into the distance, far out of the sight of them all.

Back in the hut, Upik told the story of her experience to her mother. Her mother didn’t understand why the board they used for grinding up peppers and spices ran off and entered a huge fish trap. She also didn’t understand why Upik followed it into the trap.

“Mother, you ordered me to follow, so I followed it, even into the fish trap,” said Upik. “I want to obey everything you tell me to do.”

Upik continued the conversation, “If the giant comes later on and looks for me, tell her that I’m on the other side of the swamp.”

Her mother asked, “Where will you go if the giant comes back?”

“I will hide in the rafters of our hut, so that if the giant looks into our hut she won’t be able to see me,” replied Upik.

“Okay,” said her mother.

“After I’m in the rafters cover me with leaves that we use to make our roof. That will make everything look the same, just like the roof,” said Upik.

Not long after that the giant ogre came and asked Upik’s mother, “Was there a young girl that came by here, wearing a lot of decorative gold jewelry?”

“Yes there was,” said Upik’s mother. “That young girl went across over there,” she said, while pointing in the direction of the swamp.

The giant asked, “What did she use to get across the swamp?”

Upik’s mother responded, “She used a boat.”

“Is there another boat here,” asked the giant.

“There is a boat tied up in the middle of the swamp. You can see it over there,” said Upiks mother while pointing at the boat.

“Okay, I’ll take that boat then,” said the giant. With that the giant set off towards the boat. As the giant began to step out into the swamp she found that it wasn’t very deep. But, as the giant got closer to the boat the depth of the water in the swamp was up to its waist. Another problem for the giant began to develop. The weeds and grasses at the bottom of the swamp began to coil around its feet, and slowly  creeping up, the grasses eventually coiled around her entire body. The giant began pulling up the grasses and throwing them out, but the more she pulled up, more and more grew up and coiled around her. Eventually the weeds and grasses pulled that giant ogre down under the surface of the swamp and that was drowned and seen no more.

The mother and daughter were thrilled beyond words seeing that the giant would no longer be able to trouble them. Because of all the gold Upik got from the giant, that mother and her daughter became the wealthiest people in their village.

October 13, 2012