Myth Retellings

The Javanese Tuyul

(Description of a “real” creature described through first-hand accounts, writing inspired by Angela Carter)

Tuyuls are so stealthy they can lie in a shaman’s lap and count his rings without being noticed. They can consume six breast-fulls of milk through the straws in their canines. They can slip a wallet free from any miser using the slightest touch from a sticky finger, leaving their targets none the wiser and with no afterbirth left behind.

Once Bu Andri confronted a Tuyul in the middle of the night without her clothes, and it spit up a jug’s worth of blood before it confessed that it was Bu Andri’s neighbor who sent for the steal.

Most men Tuyuls can dupe with a small bite that leaves victims’ minds vacant as their small bills slip into the Tuyul’s toddler-sized claws. When these Tuyuls are finally captured in translucent bottles, they say, “Why did your mother trade your brain for intestine?” Sometimes these Tuyuls look twice at their genitals when they are discovered, as if wondering if they are human enough for shame. Their umbilical cords, hanging between their legs, are so shriveled that they might be used to tie balloon bouquets. And to think: before they prowled the ether they were raised among us!

Putri Beda Dou

(From NTT, Indonesia, exact region unknown)

Putri Beda Dou was so cheeky she would run to the palace museum and, before the guards could stop her, lift her skirts so the guests might see her thighs. She paled next to the staircase and murals and fine china.

She could paint an entire tapestry in the course of one night, as long as she was accompanied by a maiden who played her the lute and gave her a little cup of coffee. Putri Beda Dou could chase the palace rats with more swiftness than the hedge dogs. Once she climbed the colossal tree at the palace gate faster than her brother and mocked him so well from the top that he set a trap for her at the base of the trunk.

Her brother advised his father to transfer Beda Dou permanently to the branches until she was of age to marry. Her father the king, a pushover by nature, terrified of his daughter’s curiosity, thought temporary imprisonment might be healthy for his daughter and his kingdom. He ordered a treehouse built for her near the gate of the castle.

Rodents came to visit Putri Beda Dou by late morning and by evening, and her songs put the creatures to sleep so that her floor was often tumored by hair-and-crust creatures who inflated and deflated like bubbles in a harbor.

There came a day when a man, Mane Loro, arrived at her door, handsome of face while a bit limp of limb. It happened like this: The young man heard the sad voice in passing the castle hedge and was so enchanted that he climbed a ladder he found semi-hidden along the tree’s great trunk.

Sweating from his journey to the platform in the canopies, Mane Loro stood in Putri Beda Dou’s doorframe and beheld the young woman covered in the fur of other creatures. Princess Beta Dou so forgot herself that she cried, “I’ve abandoned color entirely. I have no use for privacy!”

She invited him in for a chat, and shortly thereafter they set out to elope.

Roro Jonggrang

(A famous myth from central Java, inspired by Summersauq)

Roro Jonggrang was so beautiful she could excite a horse’s member by licking her hand. She could call birds for the slaughter by singing poetry of kingdom domination. Roro sucked on the eyeballs of so many fish that remnants lingered behind her otherwise impeccable teeth. Once she had a weight-lifting contest with her father, the King, and won, gloating “true kings bear heirs from their biceps, not from their swords!” She regretted saying this, for the King died shortly after. He fell at the hands of an arrogant soldier, Banduwoso, who hailed from the kingdom of iron-smiths and wheel-tinkerers. Upon meeting this Banduwoso, Roro spat on the ground before her victor and told him “I bet your junk isn’t one hundredth the size of my late father’s ankle.”

Banduwoso wasn’t one to be cast off. He saw Roro as a fine future companion for his royal bed, and told her so. She scoffed. “Make me 1000 temples and 2 wells within a single day,” she said. “And if you fail, I’ll throw myself under the strongest enchantments and transform into an ogre. Then I will juice you for the boils on my skin.”

As Banduwoso worked, Roro commanded her servants to spy on her suitor and report the angles at which sweat traversed across the brave man’s chest. Sometimes Roro Jonggrang would slap her thighs as if Banduwoso were the initiator of these intimacies. This was all fun and rousing until Roro saw that Bandowoso was about to fulfill her command, and in haste (for who would want to marry her father’s killer?) ordered her ladies to make a fire beyond the hill. Bandowoso’s hired demons, thinking the sun had risen, stopped their work. Banduwoso yelled at his laborers for being dust-heads, but this only added to the demons’ obstinacy. Not a rock was lifted apart from those Banduwoso lifted himself. At last the true morning came, and the last temple was still left unfinished.

Roro rolled on her palace steps with laughter, for she had no intention of transforming into an Ogre. “Go, Bandowoso,” she said. “We’ll leave your juicing for another day.” But Bandowoso, so angered at being duped, summoned his magic to curse Roro as the 1000th temple. Upon the transformation, Roro Jonggrang’s scream so thundered the earth that a typhoon sprung on the southern seas. Aduh. And what fine batik she wore, all turned to stone!

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