The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/Raja Donan: a Malay Fairy Tale


IN the Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Mr. W. E. Maxwell gives the following story, never before printed, as taken down from the lips of Mir Hassan, a Malay:—

Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Mandi Angin, there reigned a certain King Raja Besar, whose wife was the Princess Lindongan Bulan. He was blessed in every way that the gods bless mortals, except in one respect, which was that he had no son and heir. By constant prayers and the giving of alms, at length when the king had reigned nearly eight years, there was a prospect of Raja Besar's happiness being completed. All the astrologers were summoned to tell whether the child would be male or female, and what was the lot in store for it. The astrologers, having for a long time continued their incantations, at length perceived that the expected child would be a prince, and that he would be gifted with extraordinary qualities. But the astrologers hated the king, and so they did not tell him the truth, but told him that his child would be a prince who was fated to be a curse to all who would come in contact with him.

Next day the king summoned an old astrologer who was both blind and deaf and infirm to tell the destinies of the child. The old man having pursued his divinations from sunset to sunrise, announced to the king that his son would be a highly-gifted prince, and that under him the kingdom would attain an unheard-of prosperity. "This is altogether different," said the king, "from the prognostication of the former soothsayers." "I am blind and deaf and of failing memory," said the old man, "but in all things that concern the prince your highness may rely on what I say." At last, a terrible storm then raging, the princess gave birth to a son. The infant disappeared into the earth; then he was vomited out again, seated on a cushion, and with him a sword, a hen's egg, a swivel-gun, a flute, a piece of scented wood for burning, and some incense. The king, influenced by the opinion of the seven lying astrologers, directed that the child should at once be put into a rickety old boat and set adrift on the river. The princess wept on hearing what was to be the fate of her child, and directed her maids to put into the boat a basket full of clothes and another full of provisions for the child. This done, the boat was cast off amid the roaring of cannons which the king had ordered to be fired off for joy that evil had been averted from his kingdom.

The king's elder brother, Bandahara Tua, was living some distance away, at the mouth of the river, and, hearing the cannons, he said, "Surely a prince has been born, and the king has believed the lying astrologers and cast his son away." He prayed that God would send his new-born nephew to him, and, after waiting a day and a night on the bank of the river, at last the little boat was wafted up to his very steps. The Bandahara went into the cabin to seek his nephew, and having found him he brought him on deck to take him to his house, but found that while he was below the boat had floated into midstream, and was being rapidly carried out to sea. Day and night for a year the boat went on, and at the end of that time the little castaway, now able to talk, gave himself the name of Raja Donan. One day the Bandahara, at the request of his nephew, who said he felt a presentiment of approaching evil, climbed into the look-out place and carefully scanned the horizon, and at length sighted a great fleet of 99 ships approaching them, whose masts were like a grove of cotton-trees. Raja Donan now prepared for the worst, and put on the magic garments which his mother had given him, and girded on the sword which was supernaturally produced at the time of his birth. The fleet approached; it was that of Raja Chamar Lant, of Mundam Batu, who was on board the "Biduri," the largest of all. On sighting the little boat, Raja Chamar Lant ordered one of his galleys to be manned to see who was on board the stranger. This huge boat, carrying 44 rowers, came alongside, and those on board it saw no one but a pretty child, who said that he came "from the country of Mandi An gin, from the rice-fields where there are no embankments, from the waters where no fish are ever seen, a lonely place where the ape howls nightly, inhabited only by people who live on fern-shoots." The officers of the galley said that tribute must be paid to his master, or the little boat would be seized as a prize. Raja Donan said he did not refuse to pay, but he should first ask the port-fire of his cannon and the blade of his sword, and if they answered that he should pay there was an end of the matter. With this answer the officer returned to his master, who at once ordered his men to fire and blow the little craft to pieces. For seven days and nights did the fleet keep up a terrible shower of ball from cannon and musket, and at the end of that time the order to cease firing was given. When the smoke cleared away, there stood the little boat, brighter than ever, and quite unharmed. Raja Chamar Lant was furious. He would show his men how to shoot, and so he fired at Raja Donan's boat. But he did not harm it. Raja Donan now fired his little brass swivel-gun which was thrown out of the earth when he was born, and with the one shot he sunk the whole 99 ships, leaving only the "Biduri" afloat. His trusty craft bore him alongside the survivor. With a. terrible shout he boarded it. For three days and nights, single handed, he kept up the battle with the warriors on board, and finally killed them all, the last being Raja Chamar Lant.

The prince found in the cabin of the "Biduri" the younger sister of Raja Chamar Lant, who prayed him that he would kill her. He, however, soothed her with an account of his woes, and she agreed to go into his boat and remain with him. Raja Donan brought his prahu alongside with a wave of his turban, and, having got the princess into it, he then stepped in and sank the "Biduri" Che Amborg, as the princess was called, told Raja Donan that the reason she had left her beautiful home was that Petukal, a powerful raja, had asked for her in marriage, but her brother had taken her to sea to save her from Petukal, who was even now pursuing them. Raja Donan now prayed for a breeze that would bring them up to Petukal—a breeze "so strong as to be visible in a form resembling human shape, which would lay prostrate the cattle feeding in the fields, and sweep away the young cocoa-nuts growing in the court-yard." For seven days and seven nights they ran before the wind that sprang up, and on the eighth day, about noon, the fleet of Petukal, 99 ships in all, was seen right ahead. Raja Petukal, observing the new comer, sent off his eighty-oared galley to make inquiries. Raja Donan answered them as he had the officers of Raja Chamar Lant, and met their demand for tribute in the same way. In the same way Raja Petukal opened fire, and continued it for seven days and nights, at the end of which time he ordered the firing to cease. So dense was the smoke that it took three days to clear away, and then the little home of Raja Donan was seen to be quite untouched. Raja Petukal, having, like Raja Chamar Lant, fired some of his guns with his own hand, had no better luck. Then Raja Donan with a single shot from his gun sent the whole fleet, excepting the raja's vessel, to the bottom. Raja Donan boarded this, and slew all his enemies except their chief: with him he had a dreadful struggle. Once Raja Donan's sword shivered in his hand when he made a thrust at Raja Petukal, and before he could recover himself his opponent threw him overboard. His prayer to be put back again on deck was answered; and in the next struggle Raja Petukal was hurled into the sea, where he perished.

Che Muda, a sister of Raja Petukal, was found in the cabin, and went with Raja Donan aboard his boat. Guided by the princesses, he sought the shores of the country in which resided the beautiful Princess Ganda Iran. He played his magic flute, and, though he was many miles away, his prayer was heard that the Princess Ganda Iran should be able to hear his music. She was enraptured, and despatched a kite to bear to the youth a cap made of beautiful flowers. The kite carried his message, and placed the cap in the hands of Rajah Donan, who in return sent three rings, one as a sign of betrothal, one to bind the promise, and one as a sign that whatever was undertaken would be successfully carried out, and a shawl as a sign of intimacy. When the kite had safely delivered the prince's message, the beautiful princess again despatched the bird with all kinds of sweetmeats, and in return the prince sent some other presents, telling the kite that they were setting out at once for the princess's palace.

By the prayer of Raja Donan all the troops of Raja Chamar Lant and Raja Petukal were restored to life, and his little boat was turned into a magnificent palace. He called all the restored warriors together, and, putting chiefs over them, he set out on his journey on foot, taking with him his sword and his magic flute. When on his way, a certain princess, named Linggam Chahya, who resided in heaven, but came down often to the earth to amuse herself, met and fell in love with him, and sent her favourite bird to ask him to come to see her. He pleaded another appointment, but promised to come within three years, three months, and ten days. Disguised as a Semang, or wild hill-man, with all the skin diseases and sores which disfigure those people, he gained admittance to the Princess Ganda Iran. The raja, her father, forced him to play his magic flute, which when the princess heard she fell down, and was thought to be dead. Preparations were made for her funeral, and the Semang was promised her hand in marriage, and the sovereignty of the country if he restored her to life. He played his magic flute, and when he saw her coming back to life disappeared from the palace. The Semang could not be found, but in their search the officers of the raja met a pretty child by the road-side. They brought him to the palace, where the princess took a great fancy to him. The child suddenly changed one day into Raja Donan, a handsome young man, and the princess, having heard who he was, was exceedingly happy. Raja Piakas, who had been affianced to the princess, being exceedingly jealous, on losing her, went to his home and begged his sister that she would help him to take revenge on the country of the Princess Ganda Iran. Now the sister of Raja Piakas had power over all dragons, crocodiles, and all beasts of the earth. These she summoned from all parts of the world, and ordered them to invade the country of the princess who had injured her brother. The reptiles and animals advanced, doing immense mischief; but at the prayer of Raja Donan the sea rushed over the whole land and drowned all these creatures. Raja Piakas then fitted out an expedition against his former friends, but he was slain in single combat by Raja Donan. The magnanimous conqueror, however, brought him back to life, and married him to the princess Che Amborg.

Raja Donan now set off with his uncle and a large fleet to find his old home in Mandi Angin. After a long voyage they arrived at the well-known river, but found everything desolate, the palace gone, the cottages burnt. An old man told them that the king had been dethroned years ago by seven lying astrologers, who were living like rajas far up the river. Raja Donan found his parents occupying a poor hut in a wood; but, having slain the lying astrologers, he put his parents on the throne again, and made Mandi Angin as prosperous and peaceful as it had ever been. Having done this, Raja Donan sailed away to his kingdom, where he ever after dwelt in peace and happiness. He was absent for a short time, however, when he kept his word and visited the Princess Linggan Chahya in the heavens.