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Outwitting a Crocodile

A Traditional Malaysian Folk Tale

Retold by Chok Yoon Foo from Malasia

The theme of this folktale is intelligence.

The mousedeer tales have been a favourite among Malaysian folk tales. Sang Kancil, an intelligent mousedeer was known for its wiliness and wit. There are several stories of how Sang Kancil outwits big, bad crocodile, Sang Buaya. One story says that Sang Buaya caught Sang Kancil by the leg at the riverside. Although in pain, Sang Kancil tricked Sang Buaya into believing that he was biting a dry twig. When Sang Buaya opened his jaws, Sang Kancil jumped up and ran away, laughing at his foolish enemy.

There is another interesting folk tale that tells how Sang Kancil outwits Sang Buaya. Sang Kancil's home was full of trees and food and so Sang Kancil had no trouble finding food when he was hungry. Sang Kancil spent his days running and jumping, and his favourite past time was to look at his own reflection in the river.

Sang Buaya, a crocodile, and a few other crocodiles lived in the river and were waiting for a chance to have Sang Kancil for dinner. One day, as Sang Kancil was walking by the riverside, he saw red, ripe fruits hanging on the trees across the river. Sang Kancil wanted to taste the delicious looking fruits because he was getting tired of eating only leaves on his side of the river. He walked to the riverbank and thought hard how to cross the river while Sang Buaya waiting for him at the bottom of the river.

Sang Kancil thought and thought and suddenly an idea came to him. He called out to Sang Buaya, "Sang Buaya! Sang Buaya!" Slowly Sang Buaya emerged from the water. "What is it, Sang Kancil? Why are you shouting my name? Aren't you afraid that I would grab you and have you for dinner?" asked Sang Buaya opening his big mouth.

"Of course I am afraid but I have a mission to do. The King had ordered me to count the crocodiles in the river. He is having a feast and all of you are invited to attend. There will be plenty of foods, but first I need to count how many of you are here. So would you please ask your fellow crocodiles to line up across the river so that I can count you up?" said Sang Kancil.

Sang Buaya was so excited. He gathered all the crocodiles in the river and told them about the feast. Soon all the crocodiles made a line across the river. "Don't try to eat me while I am counting. Otherwise I could not report to the King," warned Sang Kancil. "We won't eat you," the crocodiles promised.

Sang Kancil stepped on top of Sang Buaya's head and counted one. When he came to the second crocodile, Sang Kancil counted two and so to the rest of the line until he reached to the other side of the river. Sang Kancil turned to Sang Buaya and said, "Thank you, Sang Buaya for helping me to cross the river. This is my new home."

"What do you mean? You tricked us to help you cross the river?" shouted Sang Buaya. He was shocked. "There isn't any feast, is there?" The other crocodiles looked at Sang Buaya angrily. They knew they had been tricked.

After that, Sang Kancil lived happily in his new home and had plenty of tasty fruits and green leaves to eat. Sang Buaya, however, was ignored most of the time by the other crocodiles because of his foolishness. 

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