Author: Dian Onasis Editor: Triani Retno Illustrator: Ratna Kusuma Halim Translator: Sari Nursita Proofreader: Ratih Soe Origin: North Sumatera

Morning had left. The sun had climbed and claimed its way into midday.

Tare Iluh, a young man from Tanah Karo, Sumatera Utara, prepared himself for a journey to leave his village. Beru Sibou, his younger sister, couldn’t bear to think a life without him and tried in vain to hold back her tears.

“Do you really have to go?” Beru Sibou’s voice cracked.

“Sister Beru, we have been a burden to auntie since father and mother passed away. I think it is time for me to go and earn a living for both you and her.” Tare Iluh answered, unwavering. He didn’t know how yet, but he would do whatever it takes to support them.

Nothing would change her brother’s mind. So with heavy heart, Beru Sibou bade him goodbye.

Months passed. Years raced on fast. Her only brother never sent her a word.

One day, Beru Sibou had a nightmare. In her dream she saw the foreigners capture and shackle her brother in jail. She was frenzy with worry when she woke up, so she asked her auntie’s permission for her to leave the village and find her brother.

Beru Sibou had walked a long way from home. None of the people she met knew of her brother’s whereabout. One day she met an old man in an unknown country.

“Greetings, sir. I wonder if you could help me?” Beru Sibou asked, hope swelled in her heart.

“Greetings, young lady. What can I do for you?” The old man answered.

“Have you ever met my brother? His name is Tare Iluh.”

“Hm… I think I’ve heard his name before. I’ve never met him though. He owes a lot of money to people in this country. So they shackled him and threw him into a hidden prison where not many people know its location,” said the old man.

“Is that true?” The news drowned Beru Sibou in sorrow. “Do you have any idea where it is?”

She really wanted to find the prison, but unfortunately the old man didn’t know where it was.

As Beru Sibou started to weep, the old man felt a pang of pity. “Hush child, listen to me. Go find the tallest tree and climb to the top. When you’ve reached the peak, sing a song and call your brother’s name. May the Lord will him to hear you. May He will him to sing back to you.” The old man left soon after giving her advice.

Desperate, Beru Sibou followed the old man’s advice. She found and climbed the tallest tree near her. At the top of the tree, she sang and cried and called her brother’s name. She hoped whoever hid his brother would let him go.

Boru Sibou had sung for hours, but her brother hadn’t sung back to her. In despair, she finally prayed to God.

“Lord, please show me where my brother is. Please, give me a chance to pay back his debts if that’s what it takes to find him. I will give my tears, my hair, all of my body for the people he is indebted to. May they find my offering useful. May they find it plentiful enough to pay back what he took from them.”

Suddenly, the sky turned black. A ripple of deafening thunders blazed across the dark sky. Lightning ripped apart the heavy clouds into shreds of lights. The wind howled and hard rain hit the earth in waves. The very air turned to frost.

“What is going on?” asked Beru Sibou. Before she got any answer, something happened to her. Her body elongated and started to transform. She slowly morphed into an Enau, a tall sugar palm tree. Her tears crystallized and became a drinkable brown-sugar sap. Her beautiful hair hardened and became the black sugar palm fibres. Her tall body produced sweet palmfruits.

According to people in Tanah Karo, that was the origin of the sugar palm tree.

Even though her missing brother had never been found, Beru Sibou’s sacrifice meant a lot for the people in Tanah Karo. Just as she pleaded in her prayer. Thanks to her, they could enjoy the many benefits of sugar palm trees.

As a token of their gratitude for Beru Sibou’s sacrifice, the locals carried on her wish. They would sit and gather and sing the Enau song before consuming the brown sugar sap. Hoping that her brother heard her words. Waiting for him to sing back to her.


This post is also available in Bahasa Indonesia.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Sari Nursita says:

    This is the first story I translated in Indonesian Folktales. I chose the story because I like Dian’s books. When I read the manuscript I just fell in love 😀 This is one of the good stories that is easy to translate; the words just flow and fill in the pages. Love it, keep up the great work :)

  2. Sari Nursita says:

    Ooh, and I also adore the awesome artwork! :)

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