Referring to Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th Edition), a mermaid is clearly defined as “a mythical sea creature with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail of a fish.” The definition might be globally accepted by all people around the globe, but not about its origin. The below story is one of them. It tells about the origin of mermaid based on the story spreading and developing amongst the people of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Here is…!
Once upon a time in a kampong at the province of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, there was a family consisting of a father named Beddolo, a mother named Maloti, and three children – two of them were male and one female. Beddolo worked as either a fisherman or a farmer. He planted vegetables and tubers while he was not fishing in the sea. One of the customs in this family was having breakfast together every morning.
In a morning, all the family members gathered in the kitchen for having breakfast. Menu for the day was baked sea fish. The stock was so many at that time; thus they wouldn’t eat them at the moment. Beddolo asked his wife, Maloti, to save the rest for the lunch time.
“Honey, save the rest for lunch!” Beddolo said.
“Alright!” Maloti answered.
By the end of breakfast, Beddolo went to work, keeping an eye of his vegetable land. His wife put the remaining baked sea fish at a meat-safe.
The day went on and it was almost the midday. All of sudden, one of their children, the youngest, ran to the house in hurry as he got starving. Maloti, as coming out of her affection to her child, then at a moment’s notice served the youngest with a plate of rice and baked sea fish for the side dish. He ate it hungrily. Just in a few minutes, all the rice and the side dish were ate away. Then he got his mom to add more.
“Mom, may I add some more? I’m really hungry now,”
“OK…! But you may only have little… Leave some for the lunch, baby!
Hearing his mother’s advice, the youngest began crying uncontrollably. Maloti got panic with this; hence she gave all the remaining baked fishes to him. Then he stopped crying.
In the mid of the day, Beddolo went home. He was hungry after working a half of the day. He got his wife to serve him with foods and drinks.
“Honey…! Would you please serve me some foods and a cup of tea?” Beddolo said.
With a sneaking feeling, Maloti spoke, ”I’m sorry. Before you went home, our youngest cried out loud asking for more foods. He just stopped crying when he got more foods I gave to him. So I gave the remaining baked fishes to him,”
Beddolo got angry. It appeared that he didn’t want to know any reason; the only thing he wanted at that day was a plate of rice and side dishes since he was really hungry.
“Really? I’ve told you to save the rest of baked fishes for lunch! Why you served them all, leaving any rest for lunch?” Beddolo barked.
Maloti was speechless. She didn’t know what to do. She could only tear and apologize to her husband. But several times she apologized, Beddolo just blinded over anything she said.
She was really sad of this. She couldn’t shed her tears anymore; thus decided to go away from the homey house.
“I can no longer stay here. He has changed a lot just because of baked fishes. I have to go,” she mumbled while tearing.
Maloti tried to scare up some bravery to leave her family. In the mid of a night, when her husband and children were sleeping, she tiptoed towards the door, and went away. Her destination was the nearest beach.
When the sun was going to rise, Beddolo and his children woke up from sleep. They gathered in the kitchen but they didn’t see Maloti who used to prepare the breakfast for them.
Beddolo tried to find his wife at the kitchen but he found nothing. He ordered the children to look around the house as well, but nothing. They found no traces of Maloti.
Then being flashed on Beddolo’s mind to get the children to find her on the nearest beach.
“Kids, try to find your mom on the beach. Perhaps she is there now, looking for fishes to cook,” Beddolo said.
“Alright, Dad. We will,” the eldest said.
Those three children went to the nearest beach. While searching for their mother, the youngest one sang a song about his deep yearning of his mother. Along the way to the beach he sang,
Where are you, mommy….
Where are you, mommy….
I miss you so much here….
All of sudden, when they had reached the beach, Maloti appeared from afar. They ran quickly to her, happily.
“Mom, where were you this morning?” the youngest asked.
“Now I’m here,” she smiled.
“Hey, I have some fishes to cook this day. Will you bring this home?” she said pretending as if she wasn’t sad.
“No, mom! We won’t go home without you along with us,” the eldest shouted appealing her mother to go home.
“Oops, slow your voice down. You’re better going home first; I’ll look for more fishes. I’m going home after this is done,” Maloti ensured them.
Those children believed it. They went home, bringing some fishes to cook that day. At home they told Beddolo that their mother was on the beach at that day.
“You’re right, dad. Mommy was on the beach, looking for fishes. And here are the fishes she got,”
“Ad why didn’t your mom go along with you,” Beddolo quizzed.
“Oh… Mommy will seek more fishes, dad!” the youngest replied suddenly.
“Ok… Are you all hungry now? How about baking these fishes now?”
“Yes, of course. Let’s do bake them!” the youngest shouted very happy.
They all baked the fishes together in the back of the house. When it had been done, Maloti, their mom, hadn’t been back yet.
“Kids, you said you’re hungry, didn’t you?” Beddolo asked his kids.
“Yes we are. But where is mommy?” the youngest said.
“Don’t wait for your mom going home. Just eat them all now,”
“How about our mom? She net these fishes alone, dad!”
“Just shut up, kids! You don’t need to care about her. She didn’t care of me. All the foods were given to the youngest yesterday, didn’t she? Now eat them all, no need to wait for your mother,”
They scared of Beddolo’s barked. The youngest was sad and cried. They’re not brave enough to deny their father; thus ate all the fishes leaving no remnants. Until the mid of the day, when they have finished eating, they went to the beach again to find their mother.
Along the way to the beach the youngest sang the same song,
Where are you, mom….
Where are you, mom….
I miss you so much here….
All even sang together until the sun was going to set, but their mother didn’t appear. They sang more loudly with hope that Maloti, their mother, would hear of it.
All of sudden, Maloti appeared from the sea with slightly different physical appearance. Her head and trunk was as a normal human, but she had a tail of a fish.
She called for them to get closer, but they didn’t want to. They couldn’t believe it.
“You’re not our mother. She has no scaly skin as you! Simply you’re not her! The eldest said loudly.
She could do nothing over this situation. At a moment’s notice, she went away, deep beneath the sea. Those children, they kept looking for their mother to the unknown places and never got back home anymore after this. Beddolo then lived alone, without any wife as well as kids.
Here is the story about the origin of mermaid that persists amongst the people of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The story is categorized fairy tale with a moral message that can be derived; do not be harsh to all people as it might lead misfortunate. It is seen from the figure of Beddolo. As he was harsh to his wife, Maloti, he was left alone, without any wife and children around him. In the Tunjuk Ajar Melayu (Tenas Effendy, 1994/1995: 55), it is said through a pantun:
Binasa diri kasar langgar
Binasa badan kurang ajar
It appears that the pantun would like to suggest that we shouldn’t be kasar langgar (harsh) to everyone. For such an evil deed, we would be rewarded with binasa badan/diri (misfortunate).