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


(name of the main character in the legend)

This legend shows a theme that is common in other legends, and that theme is arranged / forced marriages. In legends like these there is frequently a competition conducted to see which young man would be the best candidate to marry the King’s daughter.


A long time ago, in a certain village of the Jambi Kingdom, there lived a very poor family. The family’s needs were all provided for through the father’s hunting. Whatever the father was able to get through hunting, he sold so he could purchase what his family needed. If the father wasn’t able to kill an animal through hunting, he then used different types of traps to capture them.

Duako was a young boy who was well known in his village. He had a good reputation because he was a good child and because he loved animals. One day Duako was invited by his father to go hunting and trapping in the jungle. Although Duako was very reluctant, he went anyways. That particular day, when Duako and his father checked one of the traps that had previously been set, they found that it had caught a chipmunk.

“Duako, you hold this chipmunk and I’ll set the trap back up again so we can catch another one,” said his father.

After resetting the trap, Duako’s father then left and checked other traps he had previously set, being hopeful that he had caught something in them as well.

After the father’s departure, the chipmunk said to Duako, “Just release me, because my body is very small and I’m of no value to anybody. If you free me I promise I’ll help you with any problem you have. If you want to call for my help, all you have to do is burn a small amount of incense and I’ll come and help you, as much as I’m able.
With that Duako released him, and the chipmunk said, “thank you Duako for releasing me. Now, don’t forget to burn a small amount of incense if you get into trouble, because like I promised, I’ll come and help.” After that the chipmunk lept into the brush with a heart full of happiness.

When Duako’s father returned he was very angry upon hearing Duako’s story about the chipmunk’s promise. His father, with a voice of sternness said, “next time don’t release them!”

The next day Duako returned again to the jungle with his father. That day they had caught a mouse. Surprisingly the same thing took place as what took place on the first day. Duako released the mouse. His father was so angry that he scolded him with very harsh words, saying that he was a very disobedient and rebellious son.

On the third day they caught a falcon, whereas on the fourth day they caught fireflies. Duako did the same thing again, he released the creatures they had caught. His father became so angry at the disobedience of Duako that he said he was a useless son. With a very sad heart Duako ran away from home and went to a place he had never been before.

Arriving at a certain country, he was adopted by a grandmotherly woman who lived very simply. Because of his love of animals, he often played with them, both the animals that lived in the house, as well as those outside. When he remembered about the falcon that he once released from his father’s trap, he burned incense and that falcon came and picked Duako up and took him to any place Duako wanted to go. The same thing would happen when he remembered the chipmunk, mouse, and fireflies. When he would think of them, then burn incense, they would immediately come and play with him. Sometimes all four of those animals came at the same time. When the animals would come they would bring fruit and then they would all eat together. His adopted grandmother was very happy with her son’s friends. Almost every day that grandmother was able to eat fruit that was brought by them.

The people of that country were very surprised that Duako played with animals. Not only animals that he had previously released, but sometimes those four animal friends of his would bring others with them. Together they did many things as they played, like dancing, as well as climbing in trees and jumping from branch to branch.

On the market day, when there were many people who had assembled in one place to buy and sell their products, Duako invited his friends to entertain the crowds. Duako held and beat on a large piece of bamboo, as if it were a drum. At the same time the mouse and chipmunk would dance. The falcon would sing songs, and the fireflies would lift and carry their friends back and forth as if they were acrobats.

Seeing the performance of Duako and his friends, the word about them spread. There were many people that would toss money into the middle of the platform as they expressed their pleasure with the performance. The news of the performance spread even to the ears of the King of that country. The next day they were invited by the King to come to the palace and put on a performance for them. Certainly Duako and his friends accepted the invitation. They knew that by entering the palace they would obtain a great opportunity. The grandmotherly woman that had adopted Duako, who though never herself had ever been in the King’s private dwelling area, followed the performers into the palace.

That afternoon, the queen, her three daughters, as well as many other famous dignitaries were gathered together to see the performance. When the program began Duako often looked at the three princesses. Not a single person was bored with the performance. When it concluded they all clapped their hands because they were impressed with the performance, and because it was very funny. Duako received a gifts of money from the King, the Queen, princes, and from other famous dignitaries.

The following month the King held a contest which involved asking four questions, and only a one word reply was allowed. The four questions were:

There were three coconuts, and only one of them was given to the youngest child. Which one was it?

There were three rooms, and only one of them was given to the youngest child. Which one was it?

There were seven cages, each one of them contained seven water buffalos. Which one of the cages would be the best to give to the youngest child?

There were three block stones, which one of them is to be given to the youngest child?

The competition was open to the public, and the winner would be given a fairly decent prize. For those who are older, they would get a home, a garden or a large field, and they were to select which one they wanted.

For the younger competitors who were still unmarried, they would have the opportunity to become an in-law of the King. At that time the King had three daughters and two sons that were already teenagers and were prepared to be married to the winners of the competition.

To be considered for marriage to one of these princes or princesses, they would first have to answer the four questions previously stated above. If the winner is still unmarried, they may marry only one of the children of the King. Because there were several children, the winner would be allowed to ask them several questions, and from the answers given by the prince, or princess, they could choose which one they wanted to become their partner for life.

The four questions presented were indeed very difficult to respond to. Many people entered the competition because the prize was extremely tantalizing. The king gave everyone one week in which to prepare their answers to the four questions, which responses were to be given before the public.

Duako, having seen the three princesses, was very captivated by them, and had an extremely strong desire to join in on the competition and win one of those young ladies for himself. For five days he pondered the questions. Even with all that time he couldn’t think of a good answer. He then remembered that his four friends told him that if he would burn incense, they would come and help him. He then took some incense, burned it, and then not long after that the four animals were standing before him. Duako then informed them of why he burned the incense and why they were needed. He then told them the four questions and that he need to come up with the precise answer.

On the following week all competitors were assembled. It was also a market day, so the entire city was overflowing with people. There were also many children present, as well as small babies being carried in their cloth baby carriers.

Though the crowds were huge, the competitors were few, because most people didn’t know how to respond to the questions. Most people gathered just to watch the competition and enjoy mingling in the large crowd. They really wanted to hear the responses to the questions, as well as know who the winner would be.

One of the contestants stood to answer the questions, but they couldn’t reply with a single word. They always gave sentences for answers. Others replied with two or three words. There were many who gave answers, but the answers didn’t follow the guidelines of only being able to use just one word.

“The responses are not correct because you’re not following the clear directions of using only one word with which to respond,” said the person in charge of the event. He then continued, “Is there anyone else that wants to try?” Duako raised his hand. The person in charge then invited him to come to the front.

“Hm, you’re the one that came here a week ago with your animals,” said the King to Duako.

“It’s true King, my friends and I performed for you and your queen last week,” said Duako.

“Are you ready to reply to the four questions?” the King asked.

“I’m ready, Sir,” replied Duako.

“Remember, only with one word are you allowed to reply,” said the person in charge of the event.

“Okay Sir,” said Duako.

“Okay, speak!” said the person in charge.

“It’s up to you (one word in Indonesian—terserah)!” said Duako.

“It’s up to you (terserah)? How?” replied the person in charge.

“Yes, it’s up to you (terserah)!” said Duako

“Actually, it’s whatever you want to say in response,” he said again.

“It’s up to you (terserah)!” Duako repeated that one singular word, meaning you can say whatever you want.

“Yes, it’s up to you, whoever you want to give it to,” he continued.

The person in charge of the event still didn’t understand Duako. The King then stood and came to those two and spoke to Duako.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Duako, my Lord,” replied Duako.

“Please explain your answer,” said the King.

“It’s up to you (terserah)!” replied Duako emphatically.

“Hm, so your response is the one word ‘it’s up to you (terserah)?’” asked the King.

“It’s true my Lord,” replied Duako.

“Try to explain again. Why did you reply with that one word?” asked the King.

“There are several reasons, my Lord,” said Duako.

“Name them all,” commanded the King.

“All four questions have one answer, and that answer is, ‘it’s up to you,’” (terserah) said Duako. He then continued: “Every sentence has the phrase ‘is to be given’ (diserahkan),  in it. That one word, or phrase, I changed with the one word ‘it’s up to you’ (terserah).  That one word is what I choose to use as my response for each of the four questions in this competition.”

“The King asked again, “One more time, try to explain a little clearer.”

“Okay, my Lord, for example; my Lord chose certain named objects in the four questions. It was then my Lord’s right and privilege to give whichever he wanted to his youngest child. It was also the youngest child’s prerogative to receive or reject that gift. ‘It’s up to the youngest to choose’” (terserah).

The King then clapped his hands, and all those in the assembly joined in while they applauded the clever response from Duako. This was the King’s clear sign that Duako’s response was correct. So, all four of the questions were correctly answered with the singular word  “it’s up to you.” (terserah). It’s up to the person that wants to give, and it’s up to the person who wants to receive.

The King then made a public proclamation that Duako was the winner of the competition.

The King then said, “Duako, you are clearly the winner. Following what I promised, that whoever would be the winner, whether it was a male or female, they would be able to become my son or daughter-in-law. Now, you may choose from any of my three daughters to become your life partner.”

Duako didn’t immediately respond. He felt a little embarrassed to respond at all. Finally he thought of something to say, and he replied, “My Lord, following the competition that we just completed, and me being the winner, and that victory being obtained by using the one word ‘it’s up to you’ (terserah), I now wish to use that word for choosing my wife, ‘it’s up to you” (terserah).

It was also very difficult for the King to give a response. After consulting with his wife and advisors and other influential people in his kingdom, they decided that Duako must also conduct a competition. Duako was given the task to present to the King’s three daughters several questions. This decision was conveyed to Duako, and he began to think about what questions he must ask the three princesses. As he did in the past, he summoned his four animal friends with incense and began to consult with them about the challenge he was facing.

The people that were present were surprised to see Duako talking with the four animals. They thought that certainly people can’t understand animals! The falcon’s chirping, the mouse’s squeeking, the chipmunk’s smacking, and the fireflies that were very quiet. The discussion was to come up with questions that would enable Duako to choose the best of the three princesses to become his wife.

Duako, with the help of his friends came up with the question, and it was obtained and passed on to the King, who in turn passed it on to the person in charge of the upcoming event. The King’s messenger then presented the question to the three princesses. The young ladies didn’t know that there were already discussions going on about their marriage, nor that a question was being prepared for them to respond to. They especially didn’t know that their responses could possibly unite them in marriage to Duako!

The person in charge of the event said, “Princesses, you that are much loved, to celebrate the competition we hope you will all respond to this one question from the victor of the competition that we held today. The question is from the champion himself, Duako. For the person that wins, and gives the correct answer to this question, they will receive a gift. Are you all prepared to respond?

The three ladies only smiled while they looked around at the crowd that was assembled.

“To complete the celebration today, with happiness we’re all ready to respond to the question from Duako. Please present the question,” said the oldest of the three princesses.

“Okay,” said the person in charge, and he presented them with the question: “There were two types of fruit that was very much enjoyed by a certain baby. If those two fruits to be eaten could never be finished, could never be swallowed, and could never be chewed, what type of fruit were they?

Each one of the princesses thought long and hard, and it seemed as if there wasn’t any type of fruit that would fit that category. As far as they knew, every type of fruit could be chewed, completely finished, and swallowed. The two older sisters thought long and hard, and couldn’t conceive of such a fruit. The youngest daughter was also thinking deeply while looking around at the people that were present. While gazing about, she saw some fireflies moving about, which seemed to rotate around the top of the head of a mother that was currently breastfeeding her baby. It was as if the fireflies were telling her the answer. The youngest princess immediately raised up her hand and said:

“I know.” The two older sister looked at their youngest sister with surprise.

“Try to name the fruit,” said the person in charge of the event.

“I’m embarrassed,” said the youngest of the three princesses.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed, just name the fruit,” he responded.

“Breast fruit (buah dada),” she said with a small and embarrassed smile.

Energetic clapping took place when the crowds heard the response.

“It’s true, it’s true, it’s true,” said those in charge of the ceremony.

A month later a marriage ceremony was conducted for all three of the King’s daughters. Duako married the youngest, and the two elder sisters married sons of two officials from the Kingdom.

September 12, 2012