The Toucan/Small Hornbill (Burung Enggang)

The toucan or small hornbill (enggang) is said to have been a man. Legend has it that he was one of two men who broke into the house of an old hermit living in the jungle. The hermit was slain by the two men, who then threw a sheet over the dead hermit’s body, and proceeded to ransack the house, throwing the loot into a second sheet close to the body. It was near daybreak, when a false alarm induced them to make a hurried departure. They picked up the sheet with their loot slung hastily upon a pole between them and made off with it.

As they made on their way, the man behind noticed something unexpected about the bundle, and called out to his companion, “Orangl”.   The man in front misunderstood this exclamation, and thought he meant that they were pursued by “orang” and began to make his way faster. He then heard his comrade cried, “Orang!” for the second and the third time. He then turned round, and saw the feet of the dead hermit protruding from the sheet. The sight startled him to such a degree that he turned into a hornbill, and subsequently flew away up into a tree, repeating as he went, the fatal cry of “O Rang! ‘Rang!”.

To this day, whenever the Malay hears among the treetops the cry of ” ‘Rang! Rang !”, he knows he is listening to the cry of a feathered animal which was once a murderer.

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