|Nunuk Kayu and Kolimunduk Kayu
Borneo Legends & Myths
Text & Images Courtesy of SarawakAlive!
THERE WERE ONCE A husband and a wife who loved each other so dearly.
One day, the wife died. Not being able to forget her, the man at last decided to go
in search of her. He had heard people say that the dead became ghosts and lived in
the Spirit Land. So he left his home and set out for this land. After a short
while, he came to an inn and asked the waiter which was the best way to take toreach the
Spirit Land, and how he could find his wife there.
"It is only one day's journey from here to the Land of Ghosts,"
said the waiter. "If you go quickly, you can get there and back in a day.
When you arrive, go straight to the well. Your wife will certainly come to fetch
water, and then you can see her."
The husband (Nunuk Kayu) followed the waiter's advice and started off the
next day. Everything happened as he had been told. He went to the well, seated
himself on the edge, and waited. Then he saw a beautiful woman coming for a pail of
water. It was his wife (Kolimunduk Kayu), who looked just the same as she had before
her death. He called out and took hold of her, but she did not look at him or even
raise her head. She behaved like a stranger, filled the pail with water, and
returned home. Sadly, and with low spirits, the man returned to the inn, where he
told the servant how his wife had not recognized him and paid no attention to him at
all. "Of course, yesterday I forgot to tell you," said the servant.
"You must return tomorrow and take a small piece of money. When she draws
water, throw the coin into her pail. Then she will speak to you."
After a few hours sleep the man went off, full of joy, and waited at the
well. Everything happened as he had been told. He threw the money into the
pail, and she began to speak to him. She seemed to remember that she was his wife,
but she said to him, "Return home. I have become a spirit. We cannot be
husband and wife again." She slowly walked away.
The man did not want to let her go, and he hurried after her. As the
sun was sinking below the hills, they arrived at a small village. She turned around
and said to him, "My dear husband, don't come any further. In front of you lies
my house. I am now married to a ghost who is an official in underworld.
He is very cruel, and if he sees you he will certainly eat you. Please go home
now." But the husband could not tear himself away. "Very well,"
said the woman, "I will conceal you in mu house. I will say you are my
brother. If he offers you some food, watch to see whether I eat it and then act
accordingly. There are many things, poisonous worms and frogs, which you cannot
eat." Shortly afterward the ghost arrived. As soon as he reached the
doorway, he shouted, "I smell human flesh. I smell human flesh. Who has
come to the house?" He showed his teeth and stretched out his claws to reach
for the stranger. "It's only my brother," explained the wife.
"Oh, it's all right, my brother-in-law. Be quick and get wine and dinner
ready." They greeted each other, and the ghost did not eat the man.
Fortunately, during the ten days he spent there , the ghost had to go to the
office of the king of the underworld every day, and the man and his wife were able to be
alone. But the wife said to her husband, "My dear husband, we can't be married
gain, and since we can't live here, we had better flee." So one day they ran
away. After travelling for more than seven days, they arrived in the upper
world. They stopped outside a house, where the woman said, "I am so thirsty.
Wait a moment, I will go in and get some water. Each of us must take half of this
coin." After she had gone in, the man waited and waited, but although he waited
till nightfall there was still no sign of her. Feeling very angry, he went into the
house and asfked the owner whether he had seen his wife, but the man denied it.
"But I saw her go in my self," said the husband, very mystified.
Just at that moment the owner's wife gave birth to a daughter, and the crying
of the little child could be heard throughout the house. The husband refused to go
away, and became a workman in the house. It was very strange for no matter who
carried the baby, it began to cry; but if the workman took it, the crying ceased at
once. Also, no one had been able to open the right hand of the girl sincer her
birth; so great was the strength in her fist.
She grew up very quickly. Eventually, when she was seventeen years
old, the workman managed to open her hand. Inside was half a coin, which fitted
exactly into his own piece and made a whole coin. The became engaged and were soon
husband and wife again and lived happily ever after.
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