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Legend of a two-tailed monster and how poison came about in Borneo

Poison always plays a role in a legend or fairy tale. The most famous example is in Snow White where the evil queen gave the princess a poisoned apple.

Here in Borneo, we have our own version of how poison came about and it came from the mountainous part of this island.

According to Gallih Balang from Pa Longan who wrote to the Sarawak Gazette on July 31, 1965, the legend starts with a hunter named Parang.

One day, while he was out on a hunt, he walked and crossed many streams and mountains. On his way to the top of a hill, he saw a cleared field.

Parang was interested to examine the field and wanted to know what kind of creature could be there. He then decided to sit and watch.

The appearance of a monster

After some time, there came a strange monster. At first, Parang thought it was a crocodile. Unlike a crocodile, however, the creature had two tails.

The appearance of the crocodile amazed Parang as he never seen such a creature.

When Parang returned home, he told his fellow villagers what he had seen. They all gathered together and decided to kill the monster.

Gathering all kinds of weapon such as blowpipes, knives, spears and shields, they all went ahead to find the monster.

When they reached the field, the two-tailed monster was not there. So they decided to wait until the creature came back.

The moment the monster appeared, the villagers killed it. They then discovered that the name of the monster was Ale, the eater, and were relieved with its death.

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About three months after they killed Ale, the villagers returned to the site where they killed it.

They found the body had rotted away but only its tails were still fresh as if still alive.

They took the tails home and used it to poison animals and people(!). That was how poison was discovered in Borneo. At the time of Gallih’s account in the 1960s, it was believed that the Bisayas in the interior and along the coast still used the poison.

According to Gallih, the people named the place where the monster was killed Budok Ale, and it is actually not far from Long Bawan, Kalimantan.

A view of Long Bawan in 2019.
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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