Monday, April 19, 2010

TRICKSTER OF FOLKLORE: THE MOUSEDEER


I have stumbled upon an interesting finding, while doing a simple assignment in conceiving some lesson plans for my good friend, Dilip Mukerjea, in conjunction with his about-to-be-released new book, 'BrainChildren'.

It is fascinating to know that folklore varies from region to region with regard to certain small animals which are often been depicted as cunning & yet intelligent characters in some ways.

In Chinese & Japanese folklore, the fox comes to mind; in folklore of the wild wild west, it's the coyote; but in African folklore, I read that the tortoise, the spider & the mantis, each has an important role in this respect.

To local folks in Malaysia, & also Indonesia as well as the Philipines, the mousedeer (Kancil in the local Malay & Indonesian language) is a popular character.

So, what follows is just a sampling about the mousedeer or Sang Kancil:

Sang Kancil, an intelligent mouse-deer was known for his cunning and wit. Several times he outwitted the big, bad crocodile, Sang Buaya.

Sang Kancil's home was full of trees and food and so Sang Kancil had no trouble finding food when he was hungry. Sang Kancil spent his days running and jumping, and his favourite pastime was to look at his own reflection in the river.

Sang Buaya, a crocodile, and a few other crocodiles lived in the river and were waiting for a chance to have Sang Kancil for dinner.

One day, as Sang Kancil was walking by the riverside, he saw red, ripe fruits hanging on the trees across the river. Sang Kancil wanted to taste the delicious looking fruits because he was getting tired of eating only leaves on his side of the river.

He walked to the riverbank and thought hard how to cross the river with Sang Buaya waiting for him at the bottom of the river.

Sang Kancil thought and thought and suddenly an idea came to him. He called out to Sang Buaya, "Sang Buaya! Sang Buaya!"

Slowly Sang Buaya emerged from the water. "What is it, Sang Kancil? Why are you shouting my name? Aren't you afraid that I would grab you and have you for dinner?" asked Sang Buaya, opening his big mouth.

"Of course I am afraid but I have a mission to do. The King has ordered me to count the crocodiles in the river. He is having a feast and all of you are invited to attend. There will be plenty of food, but first I need to count how many of you are here.

So would you please ask your fellow crocodiles to line up across the river so that I can count you up?" said Sang Kancil.

Sang Buaya was excited. He gathered all the crocodiles in the river and told them about the feast. Soon all the crocodiles made a line across the river.

"Don't try to eat me while I am counting. Otherwise I would not be able to report to the King," warned Sang Kancil. "We won't eat you," the crocodiles promised.

Sang Kancil stepped on top of Sang Buaya's head and counted one. When he came to the second crocodile, Sang Kancil counted two and so to the rest of the line until he reached to the other side of the river.

Sang Kancil turned to Sang Buaya and said, "Thank you, Sang Buaya for helping me to cross the river. This is my new home."

"What do you mean? You tricked us to help you cross the river?" shouted Sang Buaya. He was shocked. "There isn't any feast, is there?"

The other crocodiles looked at Sang Buaya angrily. They knew they had been tricked.

After that, Sang Kancil lived happily in his new home and had plenty of tasty fruits and green leaves to eat. Sang Buaya, however, was ignored by the other crocodiles because of his foolishness."

So, what can we learn from the story?

For me, it's very simple: when a good offer comes along, & especially it's too good to be true, conduct due diligence. Today, with the Internet search capability & social networking across the globe, much of this work can be done expeditiously.

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