Borneo Legends & Myths
Tale of Mandow
Text & Images Courtesy of SarawakAlive!
A heavy mill-stone dropped on the
ONCE UPON A TIME, a woman was taking some sago to her parents. On the way she
met a man-eating mandow (Monster), who had a body like a bull, a head like a
measure of rice, and sharp teeth and claws. Its eyes gleamed, and its coat was shaggy and
thick. The monstrous beast roared with laughter, and said, "Give me all your sago to
eat." The women replied timidly, "I can't do that; they are for my
parents." "Good", said the mandow, "I will come back this evening and
tear your flesh into the hills like a bullet fired from a gun.
The woman was frightened out of
her wits. She did not go to her parents, since her heart was beating like that of a hunted
deer. She stood in the doorway and wept. To everyone that passed by, she told the story
and begged for their help, but everyone turned pale at the very word of "mandow",
and were too frightened even to reply. Naturally. no one could help her, and she began to
cry even more.
Finally, a pedlar came by with two
bamboo baskets on his carrying pole and a little clapper in his hand. He was surprised to
see the woman weeping bitterly, surrounded by a gaping crowd, and asked, "Woman, what
are your troubles that you have to cry so bitterly?" Between her sobs the woman
replied, "The mandow is coming to eat me up this evening." "My dear
woman, don't weep," said the old man. "I will give you twenty needles to stick
in your door. When the mandow arrives, it will prick itself." The pedlar gave
her the needles and then continued on his way, beating his clapper as before. But the
woman thought that twenty needles could only do little harm to the monster, and continued
to sit weeping in the doorway. Then a man arrived who collected swine, dog, and cattle
dung, as manure for the fields. Seeing the subbing woman, he asked for the reason.
"Don't worry," he said when she had told him, "I will give you some dung,
which you must stick on your door. When the mandow arrives, it will soil itself and
run away." The woman accepted the gift, but she was still not confident nor comforted
and continued to weep.
A little later a snake-catcher
came by with a basket full of snakes. He walked slowly along, crying "Snakes for
sale." At the sound of weeping, he also asked for the reason and was told the whole
story. Then he said to the woman, "You needn't be anxious. Nothing will happen."
But she begged him to help her. He
said, "I will give you two big snakes which can climb trees and are terribly
poisonous. You must put them in the water pot, because when the mandow comes in
with dirty hands, it will certainly want to wash them, and then the snakes will bite it to
death. You see, you needn't worry." Then he put the two enormous green bamboo snakes
into the pot, but after his departure, the timorous woman began to weep again.
Next a fishmonger arrived. He saw
that the woman's face was swollen with tears. He did not dare to question her himself, but
he soon learned from other people what the trouble was. He was sorry for her and, putting
three pounds of round fish into the cooking pot, he said, "Don't weep, my poor woman.
Pay attention to me, and you need have no fear. Take this pot with the round fish, but
don't put any water in or they won't bite. If the mandow is bitten by the snakes,
it will go and wash in the cooking pot. The fish will bit it, which ought to frighten it
away at least, if it doesn't finish it off." But when the fishmonger had gone, the
poor woman began crying again.
Next an egg-seller appeared,
calling, "Eggs! Good fresh eggs! Eight for then cents!" He also saw the weeping
woman and asked, "Good woman, why are you weeping? It breaks my heart to here you.
Have you quarreled with you husband, or your mother-in-law, or your sister-in-law?"
The woman then told him her sad story, though she could never imagine that such a man
would be able to help her. At any rate, it could do no harm, she told herself. However,
the egg-seller said, "Don't worry and don't weep. I will give you ten eggs to
hide in the ashes on the hearth. When the mandow is bitten by the snakes and the
fishes, it will try to stop the bleeding with ashes. Then the eggs will frightened him
away." But the woman did not stop weeping.
Finally, there came a man who sold
millstones and iron goods. When the weeping woman confided in him, he also promised to
help her. "I will give you a one hundred and fifty pounds millstone," he said,
"which you must hang on the framework of the mosquito netting around your bed. Prop
it from beneath, and fasten it to the bar with a wire; and when you hear the mandow
coming, cut through the wire, and it will be cursed by the stone." Then he added,
"I will also give you an iron tool. If it is still not dead, you can finish if off
with that. Now there is nothing more to be done. Just follow my instructions
Now the woman was finally
consoled, and she went into her house to prepare all the instructions told to her before
evening came. She rested alone in the pitch darkness, with the iron tool clasped in
her hands in case the monster arrived. The first and second hours of the night went by,
but although she strained her ears hard, listening, she could here nothing. The hour began
at midnight. The sky was blue, with scarcely a star to be seen, since the bright
moon shone into her room and lit up the floor. A cool, refreshing wind sprang up. She was
so tired that she soon fell asleep. Suddenly she heard a noise. It was the sound of
foot-staps, and she knew the mondow had arrived. Hardly daring to breathe, she
listened carefully and clasped her iron tool more securely. "Open the door!"
shouted the beast. "If you will not open it, I will eat your bones." With three
kicks, it broke down the door. A scream and a curse followed, as it scratched itself on
the needles and got the dung all over its hands. "What's all this?" it roared.
"You have made me get my hands all dirty, you filthy woman." The door was now
open, but it said, "I must first wash my hands. There is time enough
afterwards." It went across to the water jar. But as soon as it dipped its hands in
it, the green bamboo snakes bit it in the finger and it screamed with pain as the red
blood flowed out.
With all its strength, the monster
shook off the snakes and then went across to the cooking pot, thinking to itself that the
water there must be safe and clean. The moment it touched the water, something else bit it
in the finger, which made it touched the water, something else bit it in the finger, which
made it cry out even more loudly, "Another of this hag's tricks! I will smash all her
bones. But first I must quench the blood at the hearth." While it was burrowing in
the ashes, all the eggs exploded and bits of shell flow into his eyes and blinded it.
"Damnation!" he cried. "Things are going from bad to worst. I have never
met such a woman. I can't stand it."
Now it not longer cared about its
pains, but burst screaming into the bedroom in such a fury that it tore off its eyebrows
on the door beams. But because its mind was bent on revenge, it did not feel the pain. It
bellowed, and threatened; "Your filthy old hag! All your tricks can't kill me. Now I
am in your room. In a little while, I shall eat you up, bones and all. Only then can I get
my revenge." With these words, it grabbed the mosquito netting. The woman then cut
through the wire with her knife, and the heavy mill-stone dropped on the monster's head.
Its bones were crushed and the blood gushed out like a stream. It began to scream in
agony, whereupon the woman beat it with the iron tool until it was dead. In this way she
escaped being eaten. Instead of being devoured herself, she had killed the mandow.
She sold it for a great sum of money, and bought everything she wanted, and lived happily
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