Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Apple Tree and the Dandelion

It was spring and the apple tree put out its bright little flowers. They were so lovely that even the princess was much impressed.
She cut off some branches and arranged them in a valuable vase in a palace hallway.
The apple branch was very proud of this tribute to its beauty. Through the windows it could see the flowers in the garden and the meadow, and it pitied them greatly for their foible, especially the humble dandelion, because with one puff chil­dren could blow away their seeds, suing them naked and defenceless. He pitied them because their destiny was so different from his. At the same time, he was proud of his own shapeli­ness, his beauty, and his rich vase in the hall. It did not occur to him that the sun shone on the poor dandelion just as brightly as it did on him.
One day, however, the princess brought in a dandelion to paint, and put it in the same vase as the flowering apple branch. Beside the delicate beauty of the meadow flower, destined to be blown away by the wind, the white flowers of the apple grew a bit red, with shame.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Knives and spears

Knives and spears are popular weapons in Borneo. They are used both for fighting and for hunting.
The most common knife is the long knife called a “parang”. The parang was first introduced to Borneo by Chinese traders who called at the ports along the coast. The traders gave the tribesmen parangs in exchange for wild pigs and birds. These same traders may have taught the Dayaks to make parangs later on.
Parangs are made of iron. The iron is beaten into the cor­rect shape, and the finished parang blade is usually three to four feet long. The “tang” (or end) of this blade fits into a handle made of wood or horn. The handle is then carved into the shape of a snake or bird. A sheath is made to hold the parang so the hunter will not hurt himself accidentally. The sheath is also decorated with carvings and is bound with rattan strips.
Other knives used in Borneo include the small, curved “keris” of the Malays, the short, richly carved “dunggulok” of the Muruts in Sabah, and the “barongs” of the Bajau and Suluk tribes. Another long knife is the “gayang”, used by the Kadazans. The gayang is a sacred knife and is always used in religious ceremonies.
The Kadazan tribes were probably the first in Borneo to make spears. They used their spears for hunting animals and against their enemies. The first spears were made of hard wood. The spearheads were sharpened over slow-burning open fires.
When metal was introduced, the tribesmen began making their spearheads of metal. The metal spearheads were attached to long bamboo or wooden poles with strips of rattan. Spears with metal heads were double-edged and very sharp. Some­times the tribesmen would put poison on the tip of the spear to kill an animal or an enemy more quickly.
There were many ideas about the magic of spears, and hunters were careful not to walk over their spears. If a hunter stepped over his spear by mistake, he had to kill a chicken to satisfy the spirit of the spear. The Dayaks believed that if this was not done, the spear would lose its power. Before a hunting trip, the hunters would gather special leaves from the jungle and burn them. They would place their spears over the fire hoping that this would give the spears magical powers.
It is easy to see why knives and spears are important in Borneo. Many of the tribesmen must hunt food for themselves and their families, and they must be able to protect themselves from wild animals and other enemies.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Viper, the Frogs and the Water Snake

A viper often went to drink at a pond which a water snake claimed as his own. The two snakes decided they would have to settle the matter by fighting. The frogs eternal enemies of the water snake, supported the viper.
On the day of the contest, the frogs began to croak madly, for they could think of nothing else to do. The viper won the battle, and afterwards the frogs asked the victorious viper for their share of the spoils. The viper began to whistle and the frogs were baffled.
“I'm repaying you in the same way you helped me,” explained the viper.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Akmal Hakim

Once there was an Arab boy called Akmal Hakim. He lived with his parents in a village by the river.
Akmal Hakim was not like other boys in the village. In­stead of playing games after school he spent most of his time in the forest gathering herbs and roots. When he came home, he would boil these and make medicines. Whenever anyone in the village was sick, Akmal Hakim gave the person one of his medi­cines, and the person immediately felt better.
Of course, some of the villagers did not think Akmal Hakim could cure their sicknesses. These villagers whispered evil things about him.
But Akmal Hakim's parents told him not to mind. “Some people are jealous,” they said. “But if these people are ever sick, they too will come to see you.”
Years passed, and Akmal Hakim grew into a young man. He spent a good deal of time writing about his herbs and roots in notebooks, and he carried these notebooks with him every­where. As he grew older, his powers became even stronger, and people from all over the countryside came to see him. But many of the villagers still whispered about Akmal Hakim's evil power, and he behaved rudely towards them.
One day Akmal Hakim told his parents that he was leaving home. “These people in our village are ungrateful,” he said. “I will go across the sea to find people who want my medicine.”
He wrapped his notebooks in a parcel, climbed into a boat at the riverside, and waved goodbye to his parents.
As soon as the boat reached the sea, it sank, carrying Akmal Hakim and his precious herbs with it. Unfortunately, Akmal Hakim could not swim.
But that is not the end of the story. Akmal Hakim's note­books floated across the sea. They floated across the oceans of the world and landed here and there in distant countries. They were found by holy men who studied Akmal Hakim's books. These holy men made medicines by following Akmal Hakim's instructions, and they became the world's first doctors.


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