The New Sang Kancil Tales

The Tiger and The Golden Touch

May 2nd, 1999

Sang Belang the Tiger was the King of the Forest. He was Lord-of-All-He-Surveyed. In every part of the forest that he went, all the animals still cowered in fear before him and knelt to the ground in servile homage. Food was plentiful. The rivers were clean. There were no humans to fight. No enemies to kill. His animal subjects were happy (those he hadn't eaten, anyway).

But Sang Belang was getting bored out of his mind.

"Surely there must be more to ruling the forest than this!" he roared, as he was munching on one of his subjects for lunch one hot, lazy afternoon. "I am Ruler of All I Survey - but I still sleep on the dirt of the forest floor like everyone else! I deserve to be in nothing less than a golden multi-million ringgit palace!"

"Everywhere I go, I see nothing but trees, trees, trees!" he snarled, as he angrily clawed the bark off a nearby Meranti. "Where are the dazzling office towers that adorn other kingdoms?! Where are the glittering airports?! Where are the towering dams?! Where are the sprawling highways that go for as far as the eye can see?!"

"And why am I still as poor as a field mouse?!" For Sang Belang, there was nothing in the world better than the glitter of gold. "Shall my family and friends remain penniless for the rest of their lives?"

In a fit of rage, he rose up and let out an immense roar that thundered into the forest. "Aaaaaooooouuuuummmmmmmm!!!!"

Sang Kancil, the wily Mousedeer, who all this time had been watching from behind a bush, was startled by this outburst and ran. Spotting the fleeing Mousedeer, the Tiger leapt up and pursued the frightened animal as he disappeared into a winding trail. With a gigantic leap, he pounced on the little Mousedeer and pinned him to the ground with his enormous paws.

"You sniveling pathetic little creature!" he snarled at the petrified Mousedeer. "I shall eat you up with just one gulp!"

"Oh please, please, spare me, Your Highness!" Sang Kancil pleaded and squeaked, shaking with fear. "If you give me my life, I shall tell you of a place where you can have your greatest wish fulfilled. I shall tell you where you can find the gift of the Golden Touch."

Sang Belang lifted the Mousedeer up by his neck and shook him like a bundle of rags. "Take me to this place - or you will die in moments!"

Sang Kancil led him deep into the jungle for many, many days until they arrived at a small clearing where there were three small pools of murky, dirty water. "These are the Pools of Cronyism, Corruption and Nepotism, Your Highness," the Mousedeer explained. "Drink from these pools and you shall have the gift of the Golden Touch."

The eager Tiger flung the little Mousedeer to the edge of the clearing as he greedily lapped up the water on one pool, then the one next to it, and then the next. The water smelled awful and tasted vile, but he drank it all the same, so desperate was he to have the gift of the Golden Touch.

"But remember, Your Highness," cried the Mousedeer, just before he fled into the darkness of the surrounding forest. "It is not all gold that glitters."

The tiger drank until he could drink no more and lay flat on his back, letting out an immense burp of satisfaction. "Buuuuurrrrppppp!!!!" Ahhhh ... I shall now try out my wonderful gift!"

Rising up, he placed his paw upon a nearby tree and, in an instant, it was transformed into a pair of towering office blocks that was so high that it reached up the clouds and disappeared behind them. Chuckling with delight, he touched another tree, and it became yet another tall skyscraper that reached to the heavens. He galloped through the forest, touching tree after tree, until the verdant green of the forest became a forest of grey glass, steel and concrete buildings.

"Surely this is not all that I can do?" he wondered. Dipping his paw into a nearby stream flowing with clear, mountain-fresh water, it was transformed into a river of thousands of cars that twisted and turned for miles through the jungle, honking and spewing smoke everywhere.

Satisfied, he dipped his other paw into another river and instantly, huge factories mushroomed on its banks along its entire length, spewing toxic waste, chemicals and poisons into the river until its crystal-clear fast-flowing waters became a sluggish, murky yellowish-green that stank badly.

"Ahhhhh!" Sang Belang glowed with satisfaction at all his work. "Now, this is what I call Development! This is truly a kingdom worthy of my greatness! "

Sang Kera the Monkey chattered nervously from a nearby tree-top. "All the fruit trees are gone! What shall we eat? The water is undrinkable - we shall all die of thirst! My comfortable leafy tree-branch is now a fifty-floor luxury condominium filled with sarong-party girls! Where shall I live? Your Highness, please, please stop all of this madness before it is too late!"

The tiger roared angrily at the Monkey and pounced on him. As soon as his paws touched the Monkey, the poor creature was instantly turned to gold - a silent, dumb, lifeless golden statue with a terrified look on its face. "I shall not stand for any criticism or dissent!" roared the Tiger.

And every animal - large and small - that dared to raise a whisper of dissent was quickly turned into dumb, silent golden statues that adorned his towering buildings.

Finally, the Tiger's second-in-command, the Leopard, could stand it no longer. "This is too much, Sir!" he snarled angrily at the Tiger. "Your subjects are suffering. Stop all of this now!"

The Tiger was outraged. "How dare you display such disloyalty!" With one blow of his powerful paw, he struck the Leopard full on the face and it fell unconscious to the ground, its left eye black and swollen. Instantly, thick iron bars emerged from the ground and the Leopard was trapped, wounded and bleeding, in an iron cage.

The other animals of the forest were suffering. Food and water was scarce. They were slowly losing their leafy homes. They lived in constant fear. They became weak and frightened. Those who complained were either silenced or caged. Where the Tiger was once feared and respected, he was now hated and despised.

"Ah, all this Development is hungry, thirsty work," he said as he lay in the magnificent palace that was once his leafy, forest den. "I think I shall go look for something to eat and drink."

He walked to the tiny patch of forest still left and saw a durian tree heavy with thick ripe fruits. With his powerful paws, he shook the tree and the fruits tumbled to the ground, just seconds before the tree was transformed into a tall telecommunications tower. "Ooops!" the Tiger said. "I shall have to be more careful next time with what I touch!"

He tried to open one of the fruits on the ground. But as soon as he touched it, it became a glittering gold durian - very nice to look at, very valuable, but quite inedible. He touched another fruit, and it became transformed into a bundle of blue-chip share certificates. Another fruit was transformed into prime property deeds, another became a stack of construction contracts - all worth many billions of ringgit, but not really very nourishing meals.

Starving, the poor Tiger walked to a nearby river. "If I can't eat, at least I can drink," he muttered. But as soon as his tongue touched the water, it became a river of gold coins - very shiny, but also dry as a bone.

Within a few days, the poor King of the Forest was a pathetic, lonely creature. He was surrounded by riches and symbols of his power - but he was weak from hunger and thirst. All the animals of the forest had either fled or were in hiding - the only subjects he had left were the silent, dumb golden statues of those who had spoken up against him. He became the most hated creature in his kingdom.

He began to miss the leafy shade of his jungle lair, the coolness of the mountain spring, the calls and chattering of his animal subjects.

He had everything - but he had nothing. The poor Tiger burst into tears. All day, he lay in the silent palace, surrounded by the silent statues of his subjects, a picture of sheer misery.

But as the sun set, little Sang Kancil appeared. The Tiger rose up, overjoyed that a living creature had brought renewed life to his lonely dwelling. "Are you satisfied?" said the Mousedeer, as he tiptoed towards the Tiger, smiling ironically.

And the Tiger answered humbly: "I was wrong. There are many gifts that are far better than gold. I had them and I did not know it. Is it too late? Can I give back this terrible Gift?"

The Mousedeer smiled and led him to a secret jungle trail, where they came across another clearing, with three pools of crystal clear, cool water. "These are the Pools of Freedom, Justice and Democracy, Your Highness," the Mousedeer explained. "Drink from these pools and you shall have your kingdom back."

And the Tiger drank slowly from each pool and with each sip of water, the statues turned one by one back into living creatures, and the buildings turned back into trees, and the rivers flowed with life-giving water and life returned in all its glory and bounty to the forest.

"And remember, Your Highness," cried the Mousedeer, just before he again disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding forest. "It is not all gold that glitters."

And for the remainder of his days, the Tiger ruled wisely and justly, loved and respected by his subjects, and his forest became the most happy, respected kingdom in all the animal world.

And they all lived happily ever after.

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