6 Jun 2010

Fairy tales - re told

On my way to Indonesia I finished 3 books - Fairest by Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted by the same author and the Princesses of Bamarre, by the same author. They're all re-tellings of the fairy tales we've read and loved so much - Snow White, Cinderella and Snow White and Rose Red.

Here in Malaysia we also have our favourite folk tales. One of them is Bawang Putih and Bawang Merah. Like Snow White and Rose Red, Bawang Putih (white onion) and Bawang Merah (red onion) are sisters but there the comparison ends. In the Malay folk tale, Bawang Putih was the daughter of a simple farmer. Bawang Merah was also his daughter but from his second wife. The first and second wives hated each other and were often envious of each other. Envy and a desire to be the only wife,led Bawang Putih's mother to kill her co-wife, the mother of Bawang Merah. After her mother's death Bawang Merah had to do all the menial work of the house, so much so she had no time to rest. One day while crying over her fate, she heard a fish from the pond talking to her. It told her that it was the spirit of her dead mother and that if she felt sad or wanted to talk to somebody, she could always go to the pond and call out to the fish. So for many weeks Bawang Merah went to the pond and was consoled by the spirit of her mother. One day, Bawang Putih's mother, her stepmother, heard them talking together. So without telling her stepdaughter, she killed the fish and fed it to Bawang Merah. That night Bawang Merah got a dream and in it her mother told her that she was no longer a fish. She said that Bawang Putih's mother had killed her. The only way she could come back to console her daughter was if Bawang Merah got the bones of the fish and buried the bones in the garden. So Bawang Merah took the fish bones and buried it.

The next day the bones had become a huge Beringin tree, its shady branches hanging low. There was a swing on one of the branches and the moment she sat on the swing, it moved on its own. Bawang Merah was so happy she sang a song about her dead mother and how the tree is now her solace. As she was singing, the crown prince of the country who was out hunting with his men, heard her and came looking for the maiden with the golden voice. But her step mother, seeing her opportunity, shoved her own daughter - Bawang Putih instead and told the prince that it was her daughter who sang. The Prince asked her to sit on the swing then and sing a song for him. However the swing refused to move and she could not sing a single verse,instead croaking out the words " Move swing... for I am to marry the prince!"

The angry prince demanded the mother to produce the real singer, and quietly Bawang Merah was pushed out. The moment she sat on the swing it began to move on its own and Bawang Merah forgot her shyness and sang the song she was singing when the prince came. Entranced by her beauty and her golden voice, the prince proposed to her and she accepted. Of course by this time her stepmother realised her mistake and at once reminded Bawang Merah that they were her relatives. Bawang Merah was too kind hearted to tell her stepmother of the many unkindnesses she had suffered under her and agreed to allow her to live with them in the King's palace.

But the stepmother was still angry that her daughter Bawang Putih did not get to marry the Prince. She tried all kinds of tricks to get the prince to hate his lovely wife, Bawang Merah. One day she told Bawang merah to put grass and lallang on the bed just before her husband went to bed. Of course that resulted in him itching all over his body but he forgave his young wife. Another time she threw an axe at his head as he came into the room because her stepmother told her it was one way to make him love her. THis time the Prince did not forgive her and ordered her to be executed. She was taken and bound to a stake and her head would be cut off. Just as the executioner was about to raise his sword to cut off her head, a strong wind blew and the sword was blown away from the executioner. Everyone was amazed and the Prince realised that perhaps he had been too hasty. He asked his wife again to tell him who had asked her to do what she did to him but she refused to tell him and said instead that if he believed she was  responsible  for trying to kill him, then he didnt love her enough anyway. Angrily he told the executioner to carry out his job. AS the executioner was about to raise his sword again, another stronger wind came about and suddenly Bawang Merah was no longer tied to the stake. In her place was her wicked step mother who cried out to the prince that it was she who had tried to kill him and that Bawang Merah was innocent. Suddenly a golden voice was heard in the distance - it was Bawang Merah and she was singing under the Beringin tree again. The Prince knew then he had committed an error and rushed to ask forgiveness from his wife. She forgave him as well as her stepmother who was banished to the fringes of the country and told never to return to the palace again. Bawang Merah lived happily with her prince.


The Chair Speaks said...

This is the first time I heard of this Bawang Putih, Bawang Merah fairy tale. It is fascinating. I now know how Sophia feels listening to your stories. Thank you. :)

naida said...

Sound like you got some great reds in. I read Ella Enchanted and enjoyed it.
Thanks for sharing the story of Bawang Putih and Bawang Merah :)

akbar khan haneefa said...

Brought tears to my eyes, it did. This story of onions, red and white.