The legend of the crocodile

This reptile, say the Perak Malays, was first created in the following manner:

There was once upon a time a woman called Putri Padang Gerinsing, whose petitions found great favour and acceptance with the Almighty.  She it was who had the care of Siti Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet. One day she took some clay and fashioned it into the likeness of what is now the crocodile. The material on which she moulded the clay was a sheet of upih (the sheath of the betelnut palm). This became the covering of the crocodile’s under-surface. When she attempted to make the mass breathe it broke in pieces. This happened twice. Now it chanced that the Tuan Putri had just been eating sugar-cane, so she arranged a number of sugar-cane joints to serve as a backbone, and the peelings of the rind she utilised as ribs. On its head she placed a sharp stone, and she made eyes out of bits of saffron (kuniet) ; the tail was made of the mid-rib and leaves of a betel-nut frond. She prayed to God Almighty that the creature might have life, and it at once commenced to breathe and move.

For a long time it was a plaything of the Prophet’s daughter, Siti Fatima ; but it at length became treacherous and faithless to Tuan Putri Padang Gerinsing, who had grown old and feeble. Then Fatima cursed it, saying, ‘ Thou shalt be the crocodile of the sea, no enjoyment shall be thine, and thou shalt not know lust or desire.’ She then deprived it of its teeth and tongue, and drove nails into its jaws to close them. It is these nails which serve the crocodile as teeth to this day.

Malay Pawangs in Perak observe the following methods of proceeding when it is desired to hook a crocodile.  To commence with, a white fowl must be slain in the orthodox way, by cutting its throat, and some of its blood must be rubbed on the line (usually formed of rattan) to which the fowl itself is attached as bait. The dying struggles of the fowl in the water are closely watched, and conclusions are drawn from them as to the probable behaviour of the crocodile when hooked. If the fowl goes to a considerable distance the crocodile will most likely endeavour to make off; but it will be otherwise if the fowl moves a little way only up and down or across the stream.

Source:  MALAY MAGIC  AN INTRODUCTION TO THE FOLKLORE  AND POPULAR RELIGION OF THE MALAY PENINSULA BY WALTER WILLIAM SKEAT, 1900

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