Author: Ina Inong Editor: Triani Retno Illustrator: Rita Agustina & Susy Suzanna Translator: Rini Lasman Proofreader: Ratih Soe Origin: Papua

Once there lived a man named Towjatuwa in a village of Sawjatami (now Jayapura).He built a house called Honai (a traditional Papua house) together with his pregnant wife. It was not far from the Tami river.

Towjatuwa’s wife showed signs of labor on the expected day. Towjatuwa rushed to a female shaman (midwife) and asked her to helpwith the baby’s delivery. But after hours of trying, Towjatuwa’s wife was still having difficulty. Towjatuwa felt worried to see his wife in so much pain.

“My husband, help me… my tummy hurts,” Towjatuwa’s wife groaned.

Towjatuwa was really sad to see his wife. He was afraid that neither his wife or their baby would make it.

“Grandma, how is my wife?” Towjatuwa asked the shaman.

“Towjatuwa, it seems that the baby is too big so it won’t come out easily,” the shaman answered.

“What will you do then? Please help her.”

“Go get some water grass from the Tami river. That’s the best remedy.”

He wanted to get the grass right away. He didn’t want to see his wife suffer any longer.

Unfortunately, he could not find it anywhere. He searched everywhere but the water grass was nowhere to be found. Towjatuwa even dived to the bottom of the river but he still could not find it.

It was getting dark, Towjatuwa still could not find the Tami river water grass. He finally decided to go home before dark.

Suddenly… he heard an animal groaning behind him. Towjatuwa stood still. He was afraid but also curious at the same time. Towjatuwa turned his head towards the sound.

Towjatuwa was stunned! It was a humongous crocodile. And the weird thing was that the crocodile grew kasuari bird feathers on his back. The crocodile groaned and looked furious. Towjatuwa trembled. He decided to flee before he got eaten by the vicious-looking crocodile.

“Hey, Towjatuwa! Wait up!”

Towjatuwa stopped. He was stunned and then turned his head. There was nobody there except the scary looking crocodile.

“W-w-were you the one who call me?” Towjatuwa asked. He was scared and surprised.

“Yes, I was the one who called you. My name is Watuwe, the ruler of this river,” answered the humongous crocodile.

“What’s the matter? W-what do you want from me?”

“Towjatuwa, please free me from this huge rock.”

Towjatuna stood still. He felt sorry for the crocodile and at the same time hesitated. He was afraid that once the crocodile got free, it would eat him alive.

The humongous crocodile seemed to read Towjatua’s mind. He said,“don’t be scared, Towjatuwa. I won’t eat you.”

Hearing Watuwe’s promise, Towjatuwa immediately approached the humongous crocodile.

Apparantly Watuwe’s tail got stuck under a huge rock. Towjatuwa immediately removed the heavy stone with great effort. When the stone had rolled over and Watuwe’s tail was finally free, Towjatuwa intended to continuehis journey.

“Wait, Towjatuwa. I want to know why you are here,” Watuwe stopped Towjatuwa.

Towjatuwa told the crocodile his problem to find the water grass for his wife’s remedy.

Watuwe growled softly. “Here how it goes, Towjatuwa. You have helped me so in return I’ll help you. I will come to your house tonight,” Watuwe promised.

Watuwe kept his promise. That evening he went to Towjatuwa’s honai. He cured Towjatuwa’s wife with his magic power. Not long after that, Towjatuwa’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

“Thank you, Watuwe. You’ve saved my wife and my baby’s lives,” Towjatuwa said.

“Thank you for helping me, too, Towjatuwa,” Watuwe replied as he said farewell.

Before leaving Towjatuwa’s house, Watuwe gave a prophecy about Towjatuwa’s son. The magic crocodile also said a very important message.

“Towjatuwa, you should know that your son will be a skillfull hunter. Remember this, don’t let your children kill and eat me and my kind.” Then Watuwe walked away leaving the couple and their new-born baby.

“My wife, despite his scarry appearance, Watuweis a very kind and loving creature. How canwe repay his good deed?” Towjatuwa said as he said farewell to Watuwe.

“My husband, the best way to do so is by doing what he has asked us to do. We have to pass on his message to our children and grandchildren so that their children will get Watuwe’s message, too,” Towjatuwa’s wife answered.

Ever since that time Towjatuwa and his offsprings always protected the magic crocodile and other crocodiles in the Tami River. It is said that even up until now, the villagers that live in the banks of Tami River still holds this tradition dearly. The crocodiles of Tami river are saved from harm.


This post is also available in Bahasa Indonesia.

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