Friday, August 29, 2014

Crossing the water on the backs of beasts

Filipino, Malaysian and Japanese tales about a small clever animal who tricks dangerous creatures into serving as its "bridge" :

RegionSmall Trickster vs Big PredatorsTale
MalaysiaMouse-deer tricks CrocodilesSang Kancil, startled by a crocodile on a river bank, talks his way out of danger by claiming to be taking a crocodile census on the order of the king. When the crocodiles line up on the surface of the water, Sang Kancil crosses to the other bank by hopping from one crocodile's back to another's.1,2

The animal kancil, pronounced 'kanchil', is also known as the lesser mouse-deer or lesser Malay chevrotain.3
PhilippinesMouse-deer tricks CrocodilesPilandok wanted to cross a deep river, so he calls out to the crocodiles, pretending that he needed to count them. After stepping across their backs to the other side, Pilandok mocks them and flees.4,5

The animal called pilandok is also known as the Philippine mouse-deer or the Balabac chevrotain.6
JapanHare tricks WanizameA hare wanted to cross from an island of Oki to Cape Keta, so it lied to a clan of wanizame about counting them to see whose clan was bigger.7 (Wanizame are variously interpreted as sharks, soft-shell turtles, or crocodiles.8)

Although the hare managed to cross the sea by stepping on the backs of these creatures, the trickster of this tale fared much worse than its counterparts in Southeast Asia.9