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A Selako legend of the Golden Monkey and the Sultan of Sambas

The Selako people are an indigenous group found mostly in West Kalimantan, Indonesia and the western part of Sarawak, Malaysia.

Although they are grouped under Bidayuh by the Malaysian government, they have their own unique culture and language which bear little resemblance to other Bidayuh groups.

Here is a Selako legend about a golden monkey that the current generation might not have heard of:

Sarawak museum curator Tom Harrisson recorded the story from a Selako man named Pengarah Otoh from Biawak in December 1948.

Long time ago, there was a Selako husband and wife clearing a part of the jungle for their rice paddy.

At that time, the area was ruled by the Sultan of Sambas.

One day while doing their work in the clearing, a monkey came and ruined the couple’s paddy which they had planted previously.

The husband then told his wife to follow the monkey. Carrying a piece of wood from the fire, the wife started to follow the monkey.

The moment she got up close to the monkey, the wife hit it with the wood, killing the monkey almost immediately.

The Golden Monkey

When she saw that the monkey had died, she returned to the hut and told her husband to fetch the dead monkey.

Thus, the husband went out to where the wife had killed the animal. But to his surprise, he was unable to lift the monkey. That was when the man found out that the dead monkey was made of gold.

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He went home and told his wife about the golden monkey. Night soon came and the couple went to sleep.

That night, the man had a dream. A ghost appeared to him, telling him, “If you want to fetch that monkey, you must prepare it by wrapping it in yellow cloth, and then you will be able to carry the monkey back.”

The man woke up the next morning pondering about the dream. As much as he wanted to follow the dream, this was the day when common people like him only had bark cloth to wear.

There were Malays who had fabrics, but they did not have any yellow cloth. Only Malay Sultans were permitted to wear yellow cloth back then.

Meeting with Sultan of Sambas

Having thought about it over and over again, the man decided to see the Sultan of Sambas.

After travelling for three days, he arrived at the Sultan’s palace. There, he was granted an audience with him.

When the Sultan found out that he was asking for yellow cloth, the king was angry, as commoners were not allowed to wear yellow clothing.

But the man explained himself; of how his wife killed the animal and how it turned out to be a golden monkey.

On hearing the story from the man, the sultan proposed an arrangement. He could not give the man a yellow cloth but he would go to fetch the monkey with the man.

The man agreed and they both went to take the body of the golden monkey.

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When they arrived there, the golden monkey was still where the wife had killed it. Using the yellow cloth that the sultan brought, they both were able to carry the monkey to the man’s home.

Then the Sultan said to the man, “The right ear from this golden monkey I am leaving with you but the rest I must have for myself.”

What was more, the Sultan promised the Selako man, “From this day forward I will not take any tax from you, on to your children and grandchildren, and on to all those descended from you.”

Being a loyal subject to the sultan, the man agreed with the arrangement. He gave the golden monkey to the Sultan of Sambas with only the right ear left for himself.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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