The Tiger People, Indonesian Children Myths from Sumatra

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Long ago, there are many tigers in the forest of Sumatra. The Tigers have always stolen away the villagers’ cattle and frightened them. The villagers never called this tiger by its real name in their conversation about the tiger.

The villagers thought that the Tigers could understand the human language.  They would feel insulted if weak creatures like the human if they called them by their real name. The villagers knew how big a tiger could be.

The villagers believe that some Tigers could change themselves into the human being.  They also believe that there were people who could turn themselves into a tiger.

These tiger’s people had a double life. In the daytime, they were the ordinary peasant. At night, they would leave their huts and creep into the forest to change themselves into tiger. There are many stories about such tiger people and here is one of them.

Indonesian Children Myths from Sumatra: The Tiger People

Once, there was a sales man who used to travel from village to village to sell cloth. One day, he was on his way on the road. He carries big bundle of beautiful woven, fabric, sarongs, and headscarves. Finally, he arrived at a crossroad.

The left the road was broad and smooth. The right it was narrow and full of stones. After a while, he decided to choose the left road. He thought that a good road would lead him to the real and generous customers in the village.

He walked on this road. The further he walked the bush becomes the trees which grew on each side of the road.

When dusk feels, there was still no sign of a village. The sales man did not meet a single person too. There were only monkeys on the trees and lizards hide in the grass.
Green Fire Tiger Spirit With Little Boy Illustration Credit littletiger488.deviantart.com
A long last, he could hardly see the shadows of the trees. It started to be dark in that forest. Then this sales man saw a big house.

When he knocked the door, an old woman opened the door and asked what he wanted. He said that he wanted to sell a cloth, but he could not find any village.

The man asked if the old woman allowed him to stay in her house. He just needs for one night because the forest was full of tigers. He was afraid if those Tigers would eat him.

The old women feel sorry for the sales man, but he could do nothing. She said that her husband, brother, and son were all Tigers. If they found the sales man in the house, they would kill him.

The man felt frightened, and he did not know what to do. Finally, the old woman felt sorry for him. Then she allowed the man entered the house. She warned the man not to make any noise while her family was at home.

This woman gave the man meal. She took the bundle of cloth from him and hid him in a small room at the top of the house. Then the man growling and scratching in the room downstairs.

The tiger’s man had come home. As soon as they were inside, those Tigers said, they smelt a man inside the house. The old woman said that there was no man in the house. She told those Tigers people that a half an hour ago, a man trying to sell cloth.

He left his cloth and sarongs behind, and then went to the forest to sleep under the tree. Tomorrow he will come back for the bundle. The woman showed the Tigers people a bundle of cloth.

Those tiger’s people were interested in the fabric and sarongs. They wanted to have one. Every one of them chose a sarong and a headscarf. Those Tigers paid for those things with big pieces of gold since they did not have money at all.

After dinner, they decided to go back to the forest to look for the man and frightened him. It would be fun to scare the daylights out of him, they thought.

The next morning, the old woman woke up the man. She told him to go as fast as he could before the tigers' people came from the forest. She gave him the pieces of gold. The old woman showed him the nearest way to the village.

This salesperson thanked the woman then he walked away as fast as he could. He did not stop until he arrived on the main road and knew that he was safe.

When he looked at his bag, he saw that gold. He found that they were worth a thousand times more than the cloth the Tigers people had bought. He returned home as a wealthy man. How happy he was.

After a year's latter when he had forgotten about the bad night, he decided to go back. He wants to go to the house in the forest with some expensive woven cloth and jewels to sell to the tiger’s men.

When he arrived at the place where the crossroad used to be, he found nothing. The broad and smooth path had disappeared. For days, he walked around the whole area. However, he could not locate the way to the old woman's house.

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