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How Apai Saloi and Apai Sumang Umang became frenemies

Apai Saloi (which means Saloi’s father) is a famous comical legend in Iban folktales. His stories would often be told by an elder at night at the longhouse as a source of entertainment.

Behind his foolish deeds, there is always a lesson to be learnt when it comes to Apai Saloi stories.

One of the famous characters in Apai Saloi’s tales, besides his long-suffering wife, Chelegit, and his children, is Apai Sumang Umang.

Here is how Apai Sumang Umang tricked Apai Saloi into exchanging a house with him:

Iban ethnologist Benedict Sandin recorded and sent this legend to publication on November 30, 1965 in The Sarawak Gazette.

One day Apai Sumang Umang told Apai Saloi that he was eager to build a new house. Apai Saloi replied that he too would like to build one since his house was too old. In fact, his house was built by his father when Apai Saloi was just 7 years old.

A few days later, Apai Saloi took his sons to look for belian wood to build their house. They gathered a lot from the forests.

Apai Sumang Umang, on the other hand, did not collect any belian wood. Instead, he merely cut some flimsy bamboos, building his house out of them.

Eventually, they finished building their new houses and moved in. Two years went by before Apai Saloi went to visit Apai Sumang Umang at his house.

As they conversed with each other, the wind blew gently, making a variety of musical sounds in the holes left by Apai Sumang Umang’s depleting bamboo house.

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Curiously, Apai Saloi looked around trying to figure out where the sounds came from.

In the meantime, Apai Sumang Umang, who knew what his guest was looking for, kept quiet, his clever mind working.

He asked instead whether Apai Saloi’s house made such pleasant music? To which Apai Saloi replied, “No, no matter how strong the wind blows.”

He also complimented Apai Sumang Umang on the lovely sounds his house made and how much he loved the flute-like sounds.

Apai Sumang Umang took the opportunity to ask Apai Saloi, “Would you exchange your soundless house for mine?”

Overjoyed, Apai Saloi immediately agreed to exchange their houses.

The exchange with Apai Sumang Umang

Apai Saloi went back to his family telling them about the exchange. About a week later, Apai Saloi visited Apai Sumang Umang again to confirm their agreement.

Apai Sumang Umang later told Apai Saloi that he only agreed on the exchange because he was his old friend. They then to agreed to move into each other’s house the very next day.

After the move, Apai Sumang Umang lived happily in Apai Saloi’s solidly-built house.

Meanwhile, Apai Saloi was happy to be enjoying the melodious sounds he had first fell in love with when he visited Apai Sumang Umang.

As time went by, the house Apai Saloi lived in continued to decay. Until one day, the worst thing happened to the house.

A storm hit, blowing Apai Saloi’s house away with all his worldly possessions.

Angry, Apai Saloi’s wife scolded him for his foolishness, and Apai Saloi vowed to take revenge on Apai Sumang Umang.

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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