Author: Dian Sukma Kuswardhani Editor: Triani Retno Illustrator: Merri Ann Translator: Sari Nursita Proofreader: Ratih Soe Origin: North Sulawesi

“Are you sure you are ready for this?” asked Tonaas Utara to his only daughter.

“Yes, father.” Marimbouw answered without flinching. “For the sake of our people, I am ready.”

Marimbouw then glanced at her mother, who graced her with a small smile, eyes wet with unshed tears.

Opo Empung, the elder of the North To Un Rano tribe, led the ritual. Every man and woman of the tribe was present to witness the Sacred Vow ceremony.

“I do solemnly swear, in the name of our holy ancestors, not to marry before I am deemed worthy by the elders to lead the people of North To Un Rano tribe.” That was the sacred vow Marimbouw took.

For the To Un Rano people, a sacred vow was the highest form of oath one can make. When one breaks the vow, the elders and the tribe will not be the judge and jury for the trial and prosecution. Instead, the universe itself will hold the person accountable, and exact payment until justice is met.

Tonaas Utara had no choice but to ask Marimbouw to take the sacred vow. It was done to preserve the chieftain’s bloodline, for he only had one daughter.

From that day onward, Marimbouw changed the way she lived. She started to dress like a man. She practiced martial arts and weaponry. She trained with the masters until she excelled archery.

One day, Marimbouw went to the woods alone. She had been hunting for a while, but she still hadn’t caught anything yet.


Marimbouw heard a deer’s footsteps. She wielded her bow and pulled the string. Her arrow shot straight to the deer’s feet. When Marimbouw crept closer to check on the fallen deer, a spear hurled her way. Luckily she managed to duck.

“Stop! Who are you?” A young man showed up, yanking the spear that pierced the tree bark. “You are not from South To Un Rano, are you? You must be a spy!”

Marimbouw was surprised. She didn’t realize she had crossed their territories.

The To Un Rano area existed on the hill of a tall mountain. Two tribes resided in the highland, separated only by a small river. Tonaas Utara ruled the North To Un Rano tribe, while Tonaas Selatan led the South To Un Rano tribe. The tribes’s law decreed them not to cross the boundaries, whether it was to hunt or to set up camp. Now Marimbouw had broken the treaty.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. I was just chasing my hunt.” Marimbouw replied.

The young man didn’t believe Marimbouw. He pulled his spear and fought her. Marimbouw was much slower. The man’s spear nicked her temple and ripped her headband open, revealing her long hair. The man stopped his attack.

“You’re a woman?” He whispered. “I do not fight women!”

Marimbouw would like to go, but she was exhaused. She sat under the tree while trying to catch her breath.

“Who are you anyway?” asked the young man. His tone softened a little.

“I’m Marimbouw. And you?”

“My name is Maharimbouw.” It turned out that the young man was the son of Tonaas Selatan, the next successor of South To Un Rano chieftain.

Instead of being sworn enemies, the two of them became friends. Maharimbouw allowed Marimbouw hunt into the South tribe area and vice versa.

Marimbouw taught Maharimbouw the art of archery. In return, Maharimbouw taught Marimbouw how to use a spear until she was proficient. They often hunted together.

To tell the truth, Maharimbouw had been attracted to Marimbouw the moment he discovered her identity. Now that they were close friend, Maharimbouw was head over heels for her. He wanted to take her as his wife.

“Maharimbouw… I can’t.” Marimbouw said, ignoring the ache in her heart, for she also wanted him back. “I am bound by my oath to my tribe and the elders.”

But Maharimbouw was patient in his courtship. He waited for another chance to talk to her. He would ask and reason and just wouldn’t give up on her.

“Marimbouw, I could marry you in secret. If we get married now, when we ascend to the throne we can join the To Un Rano tribes as one. Our people will become more prosperous.”

Marimbouw kept thinking about what Maharimbouw had said. Finally, she accepted his marriage proposal. She also agreed to get married without her parents’s consent.

So they started the proceedings of the marriage ceremony. But not long after they exchanged the marriage vows, the land suddenly shook in hard tremors. An oath was an oath. Even though the marriage was held in secret, Marimbouw truly had broken her sacred vow.

The tall mountain they resided erupted in rapid burst of explosions. A fiery storm of lava and molten debris rained on them. The plateau of the mountain top collapsed into a massive crater, releasing a giant wave of flood that swept the area clean in one swift hit, including Marimbouw’s village. In the aftermath, the caldera was filled to the brim with water and became a very wide lake.

This lake was located in North Sulawesi province and since then had been known as Tondano Lake, which name was derived from the word “To Un Rano”


This post is also available in Bahasa Indonesia.

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