Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How the crocodile got his teeth ~ in performance!



A Temuan folktale retold by Antares (from TANAH TUJUH ~ Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos)
Year of composition: 2008;
Composer: Yii Kah Hoe;
Conductor: Joost Flach;
Performer: High Winds Ensemble;
Narrator: Tshiung Han See

How the Crocodile Got His Teeth

BUAYA THE CROCODILE was once a toothless creature that could only feed on insects and slugs.
    
Not so Keniling, the Pangolin, who was equipped with the most fearsome fangs imaginable, and delighted in climbing trees and lolling on branches, waiting for the next unsuspecting human to appear. Whereupon Keniling would let out a horrifying shriek and hurl himself fangs first upon the hapless victim, ripping through flesh and gulping down the mess with greedy slurps. Soon the human population of Tanah Tujuh was diminishing at an alarming rate. To Keniling, killing was merely a sport.
    
Buaya (who was mindful of Tuhan's laws and ate only when necessary) decided to do something about it. He went to visit Keniling with a sob story (could this be the origin of the expression, 'crocodile tears'?):
    
“O Keniling, my friend, how I envy you your very interesting and varied diet. Me? I have to content myself with a daily gruel of slugs and bugs in slime and slush!”
    
Keniling made a face and then sniggered. “Yuck! How very poetic! Serves you right, you toothless twit!”
    
Buaya let out a long, deep sigh. “Actually, I don't mind it all that much. At least the bugs are tasty. I bet they're much tastier than flesh.”
    
“No way,” smirked Keniling, “there's nothing that can beat the flavor of raw, succulent flesh - especially human flesh.”
    
“Well, I guess I'll never know what it's like,” said Buaya with an air of resignation. “For all I know, you may just be bragging about the wonderful taste of meat. Unless...” He paused thoughtfully, and then abruptly dismissed the thought. “Ah, forget it.”    
    
“Unless what?” Keniling asked, suddenly intrigued.
    
“Never mind, it was just a whim,” said Buaya, taking his leave.
    
“Unless WHAT?” demanded the Pangolin, leaping down from his tree.
    
Buaya smiled and put a conspiratorial arm around Keniling: “I was going to suggest that you lend me your teeth for a while, so that I can savor for myself the flavor of flesh and forever envy you.”
    
“Don't be ridiculous,” Keniling snorted. “How can I be sure you won't run off with my teeth?”
    
“I've got an idea,” Buaya said, unzipping his scaly hide. “I'll entrust you with my best suit of armor, if you'll let me try on your teeth for a week or two!”
    
Now, the Pangolin had long coveted Buaya's tough-looking jacket of finest crocodile skin. “Hold it! Let's see if it fits,” Keniling said, grabbing Buaya's beautifully tailored hide and putting it on.

    
With an expert eye, Buaya appraised Keniling in his borrowed suit of scales. Then he nodded his approval, saying: “Goodness me, I must say you strike a macho figure in that horny hide!”
    
Keniling was delighted to hear that. He removed his teeth and was about to hand them to Buaya, when he remembered what his father had taught him about business acumen. “Hold it jutht a thecond,” the Pangolin lisped toothlessly, “you can 'ave my teef for a week - but I get to keep your thuit for a MONTH!”
    
“Tho be it,” Buaya agreed, popping Keniling's enormous set of fangs into his own mouth. Then the two shook hands and parted.
    
A few days later, Keniling got hungry and he sought out Buaya to demand his teeth back, so that he could sink them into some human flesh. He found Buaya sunning himself by a river. “Thorry, the deal ith off,” the Pangolin whined, “I'm thtarving!”
    
“All right then, come and collect your bloody fangs,” shrugged Buaya. He waited till Keniling was within easy reach, and then clamped his great jaws on the Pangolin, who curled into a tight ball in shock (but was otherwise unhurt, thanks to the scaly armor he had on).
    
“Lemme go, lemme go!” shrieked Keniling, twisting helplessly in Buaya's grip. 
    
“Thay Uncle, you toofless terror!” mocked Buaya.

“Uncle! Uncle!” Keniling screamed, his voice muffled by his own tail.

“Louder,” hissed Buaya, tightening his vice-like grip.
    
“UNCLE! UNCLE!” the Pangolin pleaded. “You can 'ave your thuit back!”
    
Buaya tossed Keniling away with a nonchalant flip of his snout. “Keep it, I've got a whole wardrobe of scaly hides. And without any teeth you're certainly going to need a thick skin. Okay, Pangolin, your serial killing days are over. Now listen to 'Uncle' and go find yourself some nice juicy Ants!”
    
From that day on Keniling the Pangolin was known as the Scaly Ant-Eater. He never spoke again for fear his lisp would be ridiculed. And no matter how many millions of those tiny, crawling creatures he consumed, their population remained undiminished.

[First posted 1 July 2011]


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