Read CHAPTER XI of Children of Borneo , free online book, by Edwin Herbert Gomes, on


The Dyaks of Borneo, both young and old, are very fond of listening to stories, and often in the evening in the public hall of the long Dyak village house, a crowd of men, women and children may be seen seated on mats, listening to a legend or fairy-tale related by some old man. They have a large number of stories about animals which the Dyaks are never tired of listening to; and though they know them well, still they love to hear them retold again and again. These animal stories correspond to the adventures of Brer Rabbit, or our own tales illustrating the cunning of the fox. In the Dyak stories the mouse-deer, one of the smallest animals to be found in Borneo, is represented as very clever, and able to outwit with his cunning the larger and stronger animals. Here are two animal stories which I have myself heard related by the Dyaks themselves:


Once upon a time the Mouse-deer, accompanied by many other animals, went on a fishing expedition. All day long they fished, and in the evening they returned to the little hut they had put up by the river-side, salted the fish they had caught, and stored it up in large jars. They noticed, when they returned in the evening, that much of the fish they had left in the morning was missing. The animals held a council to decide what it was best to do, and after some discussion, it was decided that the Deer should stay behind to catch the thief, while the others went out to fish.

“I shall be able to master him, whoever he is,” said the Deer. “If he refuses to do what I wish, I shall punish him with my sharp horns.”

So the others went out fishing, leaving the Deer at home. Soon he heard the tramp of someone coming to the foot of the ladder leading up into the hut, and a voice called out:

“Is anyone at home?”

“I am here,” said the Deer. Looking out he saw a great giant, and his heart failed him. He wished he had asked one of his companions to stay with him.

“I smell some fish,” said the Giant. “I want some, and you must give it to me at once. I am hungry. Let me have what I want.”

“It does not belong to me,” said the Deer, in great fear. “It belongs to the Pig, the Bear, the Tiger, and the Mouse-deer. They would punish me severely if I gave any of it to you.”

“Don’t talk to me in that way,” said the Giant, impatiently. “If you do not let me have what I want, I will eat you up.”

The Deer was too frightened of the Giant to refuse his request, so he let him eat the fish, and take some away with him.

When his companions returned, the Deer gave them his account of the Giant’s visit. They blamed him for his cowardice, and the Wild Boar said he would keep watch the next day.

“If the Giant comes,” said he, “I will gore him with my tusks, and trample him underfoot.”

But he fared no better than the Deer, for when he saw the Giant, who threatened to kill him if he refused to give him some fish, he was afraid, and let him take as much as he wanted.

Great was the disgust of the others to find on their return that their fish had again been taken.

“Let me watch,” said the Bear. “No Giant shall frighten me. I will hug him with my strong arms, and scratch him with my sharp claws.”

So Bruin was left in charge the next day, while the others went out to fish.

Soon he heard the Giant who came to the foot of the steps, and shouted: “Hullo! Who’s there?”

“I am,” said the Bear. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

“I can smell some nice fish, and I am hungry, and want some.”

“I cannot let you have any,” said the Bear. “It does not belong to me.”

“Let me have some at once,” said the Giant in a voice of thunder, “before I kill and eat you.”

The Bear was too much frightened to interfere, while the Giant ransacked the jars. When he had had enough, he bade the Bear “Good-bye!” and went off.

On the return of the other animals, the Tiger said he would put a stop to this state of things. He would stay at home the next day and keep watch. It would have to be a very strong Giant indeed that would dare to fight him!

The Giant paid his visit as before, and told the Tiger that he was hungry, and asked for some fish. At first the Tiger refused to give any to him, but when the Giant threatened to attack him, he was afraid, like the others had been, and let him have as much as he wanted.

On their return, again the animals found their fish had been stolen.

Then the Mouse-deer spoke. “I see,” he said, “that it is no use depending on you others. You boast, but when the time comes for action, you have no courage. I will stay at home, and secure this giant of whom you are all afraid.”

When his companions had gone away the next morning, the Mouse-deer tied a bandage round his forehead and lay down.

Soon the Giant came, and shouted: “Who’s there?”

“Only me,” said the Mouse-deer, groaning with pain. “Come up, whoever you may be.”

The Giant climbed up the rickety ladder, and saw the Mouse-deer lying with his head bandaged.

“What is the matter with you?” asked the Giant.

“I have a headache,” was the answer.

“Whatever has given you the headache?” asked the Giant.

“Can’t you guess?” said the Mouse-deer. “It is the smell of this fish in these jars. It is so strong, it is enough to make anyone ill. Don’t you feel ill yourself?”

“I think I do,” said the Giant. “Cannot you give me some medicine?”

“I have no medicine with me,” said the Mouse-deer, “but I can bandage you, as I have bandaged myself, and that is sure to do you good.”

“Thank you,” said the Giant. “It is good of you to take the trouble to cure me.”

So the Giant lay down as he was bid, while the Mouse-deer bandaged his head and fastened the ends of the bandage to pegs which he drove into the ground under the open flooring of the hut.

“Don’t you feel a little pain in your ankles?” anxiously suggested the Mouse-deer.

“I think I do,” said the foolish giant. “Suppose you bandage them also.”

So the Mouse-deer, chuckling to himself, bandaged his ankles, and made them fast to the floor of the hut.

“Do you not feel the pain in your legs?” asked the Mouse-deer.

“I think I do,” was the foolish Giant’s reply.

So the Mouse-deer bandaged his legs and made them secure, so that the Giant was quite unable to move.

By this time the Giant began to get uneasy, and trying to get up, and finding himself securely bound, he struggled, and roared in pain and anger.

The little Mouse-deer sat before him and laughed, and said:

“You were a match for the Deer, the Pig, the Bear, and the Tiger, but you are defeated by me. Don’t make so much noise, or I shall drive a peg through your temples and kill you.”

Just then the others returned from their fishing. Great was their joy to find their enemy securely bound. With shouts of triumph they fell upon the Giant and killed him, and praised the Mouse-deer for his cleverness in securing him.


A Mouse-deer, wandering in the jungle, fell into a pit. He could not get out, so he waited patiently for some passer-by. Presently a Pig passed by the mouth of the pit. The Mouse-deer called out to him, and he looked in and asked the Mouse-deer what he was doing at the bottom of the pit.

“Don’t you know what is going to happen?” said the Mouse-deer. “The sky is going to fall down, and everybody will be crushed to dust unless he takes shelter in a pit. If you want to save your life, you had better jump in.”

The Pig jumped into the pit, and the Mouse-deer got on his back, but he found he was not high enough to enable him to leap out.

Next a Deer came along, and, seeing the two animals in the pit, asked them what they were doing there.

The Mouse-deer replied: “The sky is going to fall down, and everyone will be crushed unless he hides in some hole. Jump in, if you want to save your life.”

The Deer sprang in, and the Mouse-deer made him stand on the back of the Pig; then he himself got on the back of the Deer and jumped out of the pit, leaving the other two to their fate.

The Deer and the Pig were very angry at being tricked in this way by such a small animal as the Mouse-deer. They scratched the side of the pit with their feet until it sloped, and enabled them to scramble out; then they followed the trail of the Mouse-deer, and soon overtook him.

The Mouse-deer saw them coming, and climbed up a tree from the bough of which a large beehive was hanging.

“Come down,” said the Pig and Deer angrily. “You have deceived us, and we mean to kill you.”

“Deceived you?” said the Mouse-deer in pretended surprise. “When did I deceive you, or do anything to deserve death?”

“Didn’t you tell us that the sky was going to fall, and that if we did not hide ourselves in a pit we should be killed?”

“Oh, yes,” was the reply. “What I said was perfectly true, only I persuaded the King to postpone the disaster.”

“You need not try to put us off with any more lies. You must come down, for we mean to have your blood.”

“I cannot,” said the Mouse-deer, “because the King has asked me to watch his gong,” pointing to the bees’ nest.

“Is that the King’s gong?” said the Deer. “I should like to strike it to hear what it sounds like.”

“So you may,” said the Mouse-deer, “only let me get down, and go to some distance before you do so, as the sound would deafen me.”

So the Mouse-deer sprang down and ran away. The Deer took a long stick and struck the bees’ nest, and the bees flew out angrily and stung him to death.

The Pig, seeing what had happened, pursued the Mouse-deer, determined to avenge the death of his friend. He found his enemy taking refuge on a tree round the trunk of which a large python was curled.

“Come down,” said the Pig, “and I will kill you.”

“I cannot come down to-day. I am set here to watch the King’s girdle. Look at it,” he said, pointing to the Python. “Is it not pretty? I have never seen such a handsome waist-belt before.”

“It is beautiful,” said the Pig. “How I should like to wear it for one day!”

“So you may,” said the Mouse-deer, “but be careful and do not spoil it.”

So the foolish Pig entangled himself in the folds of the Python, who soon crushed him to death and ate him for his dinner, and the clever Mouse-deer escaped, having outwitted his enemies.