The creation of the World, Deluge, Origin of white people and survival of the books


The Creation of the World.

** The following account of the creation is given by the Dyaks of Sakarran : —
In the beginning, existed in solitude, Rajah Gantallah, possessed of a soul
with organs for hearing, speaking, and seeing ; but destitute of any other
limbs or members : he rested upon a lumbu. Lembu is the Malay word for a
bull or cow ; but it was not upon this animal he had his seat ; nor were the
Dyaks able to give any account of what a lumbu is. By an act of his will,
Rajah Gantallah originated two birds, a male and a female, after which he did
not directly produce any creature, his will taking effect through the
instrumentality of these birds. They dwelt on the lumbu, above, beneath,
and around, in what was originally a void. Whilst dwelling upon it, they
created first the sky, then the earth, and then the Batang Lupar — a large
river in Borneo — which was the first of waters, and the mother of rivers.
Leaving the lumbu, they flew round the earth and sky, to discover which of
them was the greater. Finding that the size of the earth considerably
exceeded that of the sky, they collected the earth together with their feet, and
heaped it into mountains. Having completed this work, they attempted to
create mankind. For this end they made the trees, and tried to turn them
into men ; but without success. They then made the rocks for the same
purpose. These they shaped like a man in all respects ; but the figure was
destitute of the power of speech. They then took earth, and, by the aid of
water, moulded it into the form of a man, infusing into his veins the gum of
the kumpang-tree, which is of a red colour. They called to him — he
answered ; they cut at him — blood flowed from his wounds ; as the day
waxed hot, sweat oozed through his skin. They gave him the name of
Tannah Kumpok, or Moulded Earth.

“Besides this account of the creation of the first man, the Dyaks have
Hkewise several traditions regarding the Deluge, one of which, curiously
enough, connects it with the universally diffused story of the dragon, the
woman, and the fruit of a tree for which she longed.” (Horsburgh, p. 20.)

Another Account of Creation.

*’ Their traditions of the creation are also singular. In the beginning, they
believe, there were Solitude and Soutan (a Malay word meaning curious
person or soul), who could see, hear, speak, but had no limbs, body, or
members. This deity is supposed to have lived on a ball, and after some ages
to have made two great birds — bullar and erar. He himself did nothing
further ; but the birds flew round and round, and made the earth, sky, and
rivers. Finding the earth greater than the sky, &c. &c. (as above) ….
After a time this first man, Tanacompta, brought to life a female child, who
gave birth to offspring. The succession of day and night then began ; and
her progeny became most numerous, and sailed continually up and down on
the river. Hitherto the sky had been so near the earth that one could touch
it with the hand ; but she now raised it up, and put it permanently on props.”
(Bishop McDougall, T. E. S. ii. 27.)

The Deluge.

** My friends now gave me a description of the Deluge. The fact of their
telling me that Trow (Noah), who was the ancestor of these Dyaks, married a
Malay woman named Temenjen, made me wonder, however, whether or not
the following is a story derived from the Malays, — most probably it is.

** Trow was a great man, and when the flood commenced proved himself
to be so, for he procured a lessong (a large wooden mortar used for pounding
paddy), and made a boat of it, and taking the fair Tewew/Vw, and a dog, a pig,
a fowl, a cat, &c., he launched forth into the deep. After the flood subsided.
Trow, having landed his stock and cargo, thought long and deeply, and after
mature consideration seems to have come to the conclusion that to re-people the
world many wives were necessary ; so out of a log of wood he made one, and
out of a stone he created another, and various other articles having been
converted to a similar purpose, he married them, so that it was not surprising
that ere many years he had a family of some twenty, who learned to till the
earth and to lay the foundation of various Dyak tribes, including that of

** Trow, then, is the reputed ancestor of the Tringus Dyaks; Tuppa is their
Supreme God, who in his anger sends thunder and lightning, and in his mercy
the sun and gentle rain. But unfortunately this is not all, for the Tringus
folk, both young and old, believe in other good genii, who, like the heathen
gods of old, are supposed to have special charges, such as that of war, &c.,
and to whom offerings are made ; and besides this, they have a very great
dread of many evil spirits, which cause sickness, bad crops, and the like, and
require propitiation.” (Grant, p. 68.)

^ Compare the classical story of Deucalion and Pyrrha. [Wm. Chalmers.]

A Sea-Dyak Tradition of the Deluge and Consequent Events.

** Once upon a time some Dyak women went to gather young bamboo
shoots to eat. Having got the shoots they went along the jungle and came
upon what they took to be a large tree fallen to the ground, upon which they
sat, and began to pare the bamboo shoots, when to their utter amazement the
tree began to bleed. At this point some men came upon the scene, and at
once saw that what the women were sitting upon was not a tree, but a huge
boa-constrictor in a state of stupor. The men killed the beast, cut it up, and
took the flesh home to eat. As they were frying the pieces of snake strange
noises came from the pan, and at the same time it began to rain furiously.
The rain continued until all hills except the highest were covered, and the
world was drowned because the men killed and fried the snake. All mankind
perished except one woman who fled to a very high mountain. There she
found a dog lying at the foot of a jungle creeper, and feeling the root of the
creeper to be warm she thought perhaps fire may be got out of it : so she took
two pieces of its wood and rubbed them together and obtained fire ; and thus
arose the fire-drill, and the first production of fire after the great flood.

** This woman and the fire-drill gave birth to Simpang-impang, who, as
the name implies, had only half a body, one eye, one ear, half a nose, one
cheek, one arm, one leg. It appears that many of the animal creation found
refuge in the highest mountains during the flood. A certain rat, more
thoughtful than the rest of his friends, had contrived to preserve a handful of
paddy ; but by some means not told, Simpang got knowledge of this and stole
it from the rat, and thus man got paddy after the flood. Simpang spread his
handful of paddy upon a leaf and set it upon a tree-stump to dry, but a puff of
wind came and away went paddy, leaf, and all. Simpang was enraged at this,”
and set off to inflict a fine upon the Spirit of the Winds and to demand the
restoration of the paddy. Going through the upper regions, he passed the
houses of Puntang Raga and Ensang Pengaia, who asked Simpang to inquire
of the Wind Spirit the reason why one plantain or sugarcane planted in the
ground only grew up one single plant, never producing any further increase.

After this, Simpang came to a lake, who told him to ask the Wind Spirit why
it was it had no mouth and could not empty itself. Then he came to a very
high tree whereon all kinds of birds were gathered together and would not fly
away. They had taken refuge there at the deluge. The tree sends a message
to the Wind Spirit, * Tell the Spirit to blow me down : how can I live with all
these birds on the top of me, balking every effort to put forth a leaf or branch
in any direction ? ‘ On goes Simpang until he arrives at the house of the
Spirit, he goes up the ladder and sits on the verandah. * Well,’ says the
Spirit, * and what do you want?’ *I am come to demand payment for the
paddy which you blew away from the stump on which I had set it to dry.’

* I refuse,’ replies the Spirit ; * however, let us try the matter by diving.’ So
they went to the water, the Spirit and his friends and Simpang and his friends.
Simpang’s friends were certain beasts, birds, and fishes, which he had induced
to follow him on the way. Simpang himself could not dive a bit ; but a fish
came to the rescue, dived and beat the Wind Spirit. But the Spirit proposed
another ordeal. * Let us jump over the house,’ says the Spirit. Simpang
would have been vanquished here had not the swallow jumped for him and, of
course, cleared the Spirit’s house. ‘ Once more,’ says the Spirit, * let us see
who can get through the hole of a sumpitan.’ This time Simpang got the ant
to act for him, and so held his own against the Spirit. But the matter was
not yet decided, and the Spirit declared he would not make any compensation.

* Then,’ says Simpang in a rage, * I will burn your house down about your
ears.’ ‘ Burn it if you can,’ says the Spirit. Now Simpang had brought the
fire-drill with him and he threw it on to the roof of the Spirit’s house, which
flamed up into a blaze at once. The great Spirit fumed and raged and
stamped, and only added fury to fire. He soon bethought himself of submitting
and shouted out : * O Simpang, call your fire-drill back and I will pay for the
paddy.’ He recalled the fire-drill, and the flames ceased. Then there was a
discussion. Spoke the Spirit : * I have no goods or money wherewith to pay
you ; but from this time forth you shall be a whole man having two eyes, two
ears, two cheeks, two arms, two legs.’ Simpang was quite satisfied with this
and said no more about the paddy. Simpang then gave the messages with
which he had been instructed on the way, and the Spirit made answer :

* The reason why Puntang Raga and Ensang Pengaia are not successful with their
sugarcanes and plantations is that they follow no proper customs. Tell them
never to mention the names of their father-in-law or mother-in-law, and never
in walking go before them ; not to marry near relations, nor to have two
wives, and the plantains and sugarcanes will be all right. The reason why
the lake cannot empty itself is that there is gold where the mouth ought to
be. Take that away and it will have an exit. The tree I will look after.’
The tree fell by the wind, the lake found an exit, and the world went on as
before. But how paddy was recovered does not appear.” (Perham, S. G.
No. 133, p. 53.)

The Origin of White People and of the Survival of Books.

** A story that was related to one of our clergymen, William Chalmers,
by a Balow Dyak, which had reference to the origin of the white people. He
said that, once upon a time, a Dyak woman, who had skin disease, and was
consequently whiter in colour than her countrywomen, got into a canoe,
which drifted out to sea. As she had no paddle the boat was at the mercy of
wind and wave. After some time she descried land ; the boat was driven to
it by the wind, and, to her great joy, she was enabled to get to the shore. In
course of time she gave birth to a child, who was white-skinned, like the
mother, and who was the father of the Europeans.

** In the course of conversation with Pa-M along, I asked him if it was true,
as I heard, that his forefathers * grew out of the top of the mountain ‘ on
which they lived, viz., Gumbang? ‘No,’ said he, * that is not the case. The
story I have heard is this : — ‘ Years and years ago there was a great rising of
the waters (the Deluge ?) There were four men who encountered this flood,
and who did not perish in it. Each had a sural (a writing, or book). The first
man tied his round his waist, and the waters rising up to his shoulders
destroyed it. This man was the ancestor of the Dyaks, who, even to this
day, cannot read or write, seeing his book was then lost. The second man
put his writing under his arm ; but the water reached it too, and wet it,
though without entirely destroying it. He was the father of the Malays, who
can read, though imperfectly. Another put his book on his shoulder, but the
rising deluge just reached it, and, like the last, it was partially, destroyed, or
rather damaged. See in his descendants the Chinese, many of whom can
read and write though they, too, are not very clever at it. But behold the
cleverness of the fourth and last man. The waters rose and rose, but what
did he do ? He put the writing on the top of his head and consequently the
waves did not reach it, and the result is, that even now, whenever you meet
a white man, he is sure to have a sural, alias a book, before him.’* (Grant,
p. 79.) ** This story being related to the Orang Kaya of Sennah : * No! No ! ‘
said an old man, * that’s not right. The Dyak took his across in his sirih-case
quite safe, and the Malay lost his, but when they got ashore, and the Malay
discovered his loss, he bullied the Dyak till the latter gave up the writings and
has remained ignorant ever since.* ** (S. G. No. 161, p. 9.)

The Origin of the Sibuyaus.

** The Sibuyows never eat the puttin, on account of an old tradition
in their tribe. One day a Dyak was fishing and caught only a single
puttin, which he gave to a Malay at whose house he landed to procure a
light for his pipe. On his coming back to get the fish, the fish, was no
longer there ; but crouched in the bottom of his canoe was a pretty little
girl. The good Dyak was greatly astonished at this transformation, but
carried the little girl home, where she was brought up with the family,
and grew to be a woman ; and in due course married her finder’s son. No
peculiarity was observed in her conduct ; she was like any other Dyak
woman, and made a good wife; she pounded the rice, drew the water,
made mats, and conducted the affairs of the household with propriety and
neatness. After a time she bore her attached husband a son, and suckled
the boy till he could run about ; when one day, being at the edge of the
water with the boy, and her husband, she suddenly said to him ** Here,
take the child ; be kind to him for he is my child ; I have been a good
wife, but I must now rejoin my own tribe ‘* ; and thus saying she plunged
into the river and became once more a puttin.” (Keppel’s Meander ii. p. 77.)
According to Bishop McDougall, the fay left her husband because one day
in a temper he struck her. (T. E. S. ii. 27.)

** A different version was given by an old Bruni man, who said there
were some white people who lived in a hill a few days off. As usual a
man loses his way, sees seven nymphs bathing, nooses one, and brings the
girl home to his wife to be brought up as a wife for his son. All goes
well ; but the son has a violent temper. One day he takes off his jacket
to beat her, another jacket drops from heaven and the fairy woman
vanishes, leaving her child who is the ancestor of the tribe.** (Mrs,
McDougall, p. 144.)


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