Srini and the Giant holding a baby Timun Mas.

The Lesser Known Part of the Timun Mas Tale

With two stories where one frames the other, Bageur presents yet another exploration of queer ecology within indigenous cultures with his unique retelling of the Indonesian folktale of Timun Mas. This in itself is beautiful, but the frame story of a gay dad telling this story to his son—and especially the context thereof—is a true stroke of genius.

Hush now, be calm. Now you have to sleep, Mas. Later when you open your eyes, Daddy and Papa will surely be back here.

What’s that? You want me to tell you a story? Hmm… let me think. Keong Mas? Daddy’s not too familiar with it. What about Timun Mas? Let me tell you the real story.

So let me tell you—yes, the version you hear at schools has been changed. The truth is, Srini and the Giant were in love.

They wanted to get married, but everyone opposed them. Earlier, Srini had also made the whole village unsettled because she told them that she was not a woman! But Srini was not a man either. Don’t be crazy! So what are you? The villagers, fueled with confusion, asked.

Srini, they answered. I am Srini.

Lunatic! The villagers booed them. When Srini announced that they would marry the Giant, the villagers threw even more insults. What a disgrace. This is not normal. You’re inviting God’s wrath. Just like Daddy’s wedding with Papa. But finally, they got married anyway.

The Giant loved gardening. The activity made him tall, big, and green—just like a tree! Srini learned to grow plants from him, surrounding their house with a lush garden. The front yard and backyard were full of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. They even turned an empty patch near their home into a rice field. Yes, just like our home.

The villagers, who once threw insults at Srini and the Giant, suddenly became friendly to them. They bought their harvest and even wanted to learn gardening. Srini and the Giant taught them their ways, and suddenly the barren village became just as lush and green!

For years they lived in peace. Until suddenly, one day, a very big cucumber grew at Srini and Giant’s front yard. When the cucumber was cut open, they found a pretty little baby sleeping inside. The baby looked so cute and innocent. They called the baby “Timun Mas”.

The news about Timun Mas spread. The people got angry. They violate what God intended. This is not normal. The whole family should be killed. For years Srini, the Giant, and Timun Mas had to endure insults and death threats.

The threats peaked on Timun Mas’ seventh birthday. Timun Mas was picking the harvest at the garden with Srini and the Giant when suddenly the villagers charged at them. They stomped on the cucumber garden in the front yard. They ran amok, they burned everything on sight! Timun Mas and the family had to flee the village.

The Giant took Srini and Timun Mas in his right hand. He ran with the strength of a tiger. The angry mob chased them and burned everything in their way.

When the villagers started to tire, they were at the edge of a bamboo field. It meant the sea was near! They were roused because it meant the Giant would not be able to run away.

They cut every bamboo tree; they threw the stalks at the Giant. It was a good thing that he was big and strong! He kept running until he arrived at the shore.

He took a good look at Srini and Timun Mas to ask for strength. Srini and the small Timun Mas could only hug the Giant’s thumb, just like you who would only hold on to Daddy and Papa’s thumbs when you were little. And yet it was enough to boost our strengths!

The Giant saw the villagers laughing at them. Finally, he jumped into the ocean. Splash! Water was everywhere. The further he walked, the bigger the splash. The splashing water came down as heavy rain onto the villagers, and eventually became a deluge that swallowed the village. The sea level rose in a high tide, drowning some of the villagers.

Those whose lives were spared came home in shock to the ruins of their village. There was mud everywhere; the gardens, the rice field, everything was gone! They were forced to evacuate to the nearby village.

There, they told the story about Srini, the Giant, and Timun Mas. But all of the stories were lies, Mas! Just like the stories they tell at your school. They said the Giant was evil and wanted to kidnap Timun Mas to eat the little kid. They said Timun Mas ran away and trapped The Giant with a cucumber field, a bamboo forest, and seawater until the Giant met his untimely demise, drowning in a puddle of hot mud. But that was not the case at all. Now I’ve told you the true story.

Right! Now it’s time to sleep! Poor Papa is alone in the living room with the Police officers. You go to sleep so Daddy can accompany Papa there.

You’re afraid because the Police violently broke in through the door, are you, Mas? It’s okay, they just wanted to take Daddy and Papa to their office for a while. No, no, we’re not going to jail.

They just wanted to ask why Daddy and Papa invited the people to protest the mining project. That’s right! Because with the mining project our village would not be green anymore, our garden would not be productive anymore. You’re such a genius, you’re truly Daddy and Papa’s child!

Oh no, they’re calling for me again, Mas. You’ll have to go to sleep alone tonight, is that alright? Later when you open your eyes, Daddy and Papa will surely be back here. I promise.


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