How the dayak learned to plant rice (1) story
Long, long ago, the Dayaks lived on tapioca, yams, potatoes and fruits. They did not know how to grow rice. At this time, there was a great Dayak chief whose son was called Siu. His father died when he was small, and he was brought up by his mother. Later, he became the head of the longhouse where he lived. There were three hundred families living in it.
Siu was very handsome young man. His coat was made of brightly coloured cloth. He were hornbill feathers in a rattan band around his head. In his belt, he carried a sword and many magic charms. He believed that the charms would prevent any harm coming to him. He carried a long spear in his right hand and a shield in his left. “You look handsome and strong, my son,” his mother said. “I am proud of you.”
One day, Siu called together all the young men of the longhouse. “Let us go into the jungle to shoot birds,” he said. So they all started off, carrying their blowpipes. In few minutes, they had disappeared into the thick jungle. They each went their separate ways.
Siu went towards a mountain not far from his house. Although he hunted the whole morning, he did not see a single animal or bird. “How strange!” he thought. “Everything is so quiet and peaceful.” Suddenly he heard some birds chirping not so far away. He hurried towards them. He saw hundreds of birds flying around a tall tree. Some of them he had never seen before. There were wild pigeon, parrots, and hornbills. Siu crept towards them. He raised his blowpipe to his lips and shot a poisoned dart at one of them. But he was surprised to see not one but several birds fall to the ground. Soon, he had killed many more birds then he could carry. So e made a little bamboo basket to carry them. He tied the basket on his back and started home.
He wanted to return by the same way that he had come. However, he could not find the path.
“I must hurry.” He said to himself. “Otherwise I’ll have to spend the night in the jungle.”
Then he saw a winding path which led to Dayak longhouse.
“I didn’t know there was a house here,” he said to himself.
He stopped to hide his blowpipe and the basket of birds behind some bushes near the longhouse. He could hear some people talking inside. “Hallo!” he called out. “Is anyone at home?” no one answered. Siu called out again. This time someone said, “Yes, come up!”
The front part of the longhouse was empty so he sat down on a mat. Presently he heard a woman’s voice coming from one of the rooms, “make yourself at home, Siu. I’m cooking some food for you.”
“who is that?” he asked himself. “How does she know my name?”
Soon a young and pretty girl came out of a room carrying a tray of food. “Please eat first,” she said. “You must be very hungry after hunting all day. We can talk afterwards.”
After he had finished eating, she came and sat down beside him.
“Why are you living alone?” Siu asked her. “This is a Dayak longhouse. There must be many families living in it. Where are they?”
“I’ll tell you later,” the girl replied. “First tell me something about yourself. How did you find this longhouse?”
“Well, I was hunting for birds and lost my way. Then I followed a small path which led to this longhouse. Tomorrow morning I must return home otherwise my mother will wonder what has happened to me.”
He then told her all about himself and his life.
“Why do you want to leave so quickly? Stay here for a few days at least.”
She spoke so sweetly that Siu had to agree.
The next morning, Siu was awakened by the noise of some children playing outside. But he still did not see any grown-up people.
Although Siu did not know it, this was the house of Singalang Burong. The Dayak God of War. Singalang Burong was very clever and could change himself ia a bird. When he travelled, he always flew high above the jungle. But in his own house and among his own people, he appeared as a man. He had eight daughters. All of whom knew how to change themselves into birds. The girl who had met Siu was Singalang Burong’s youngest daughter.
After Siu had remained in the longhouse for about a week, he decided that he could not stay any longer and the time had come for him to return home.
“I must go home now,” he told the girl. “Though I don’t know your name, you have been very king to me. May I ask you something? Please don’t be angry at what I say.”
“What is it?” the girl asked.
“Will you become my wife and come home with me?”
The girls thought for a long time. “I shall be happy to marry you” she said. “But you must promise never to tell your people about this house or anything you have seen. And you must promise never to kill a bird again or even catch one. If you should break this promise, I shall leave you.”
“All right,” said Siu.
“Now I shall tell you about myself and the people who live here,” the girl said. “My name is Bunsu Burong (the youngest of the bird family). Many of my people were killed in a fight with another tribe. All the remaining men have gone out to fight with the other tribe. I hope they will win this time. perhaps I should tell you that our people are able to change themselves into birds. I’m sure you have heard of my father. He is Singalang Burong.”
Siu was surprised that he did not know what to say. He was very pleased that he had not brought his blowpipe and the basket of birds into the longhouse.
When Bunsu Burong left the longhouse with Siu, he saw that she seemed to know the way. After walking for several days, they reached a stream not far from where Siu lived. They stopped to take a bath. Some children from Siu’s longhouse saw them. They ran home shouting, “Siu has returned! He has brought a beautiful girl with him as his wife.”
All of Siu’s people came out to welcome him and Bunsu Burong. His mother kissed both of them. “My son,” she cried, “I thought you were dead and I would never see you again. Now you have returned home with your lovely wife, we must have a big feast.”
So they had a big feast and drank a lot of wine and everyone was laughing and happy. Siu’s mother prepared a special room for her son and his wife. They were greatly liked and respected by all the families living in the longhouse.