Why not tell a story to your children this weekend...
The Orphan Boy and His Dog
Story adapted from a T'boli tale by Laura Simms
This tale was gathered originally by three T'Boli Scholars: Faw-Wanan, Waning Negwan, and Gadu Udal. The tales were collected and written down in 1973 and later translated into English. (The T'boli live on the southern part of the island of Mindanoa in the Philippines. They are Malay in complexion and gather in seven villages around Lake Sebu. The datu is the head man in charge of village affairs. Until recently, they have had little contact with the modern world, but are known for their sophisticated weaving and their epic literature. Laura Simms visited the T'Boli in autumn 1996. The manuscript from which this story is adapted was given to Laura by anthropologist Helen Alegado in Davoa City, Mindanoa.)
There was an orphan boy who was unhappy. His only companion was a little dog. He lived with his aunt and uncle who mistreated him. They beat the child, gave him only leftovers to eat, and rags instead of clothes. The poor child worked all day and slept in the ashes by the fire at night.
The orphan boy did whatever he was told. He worked hard and never complained. If he disobeyed he was burned or beaten, and the little dog was beaten as well. Everyone in the village made fun of the child, "He is lazy and stupid." The other children avoided him calling out, "He is an ugly child who has no clothes."
One morning, the boy was sent to fetch water. The puppy followed behind him. When they got to the well, the dog began to bark. A tiny old man stood near the cliff. His white beard hung to the earth. The child was frightened, but the puppy began to yelp and ran toward the little man.
The little man said, "Do not be afraid of me. I have something to tell you." The boy walked toward the man as if he was under a spell.
"I have seen how much you suffer," said the little man, "You and your puppy must follow me." They followed the man to the foot of a tree.
"I do not see anything," remarked the boy.
The man said, "Your eyes are blurred." He gave the boy and the dog medicine with which they washed their eyes.
Then the little man said, "Keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them." The boy was afraid. He heard the man unsheathe his bolo (sword). The child trembled, afraid to move. But he could not stand his fear and opened his eyes. He saw a huge snake moving toward him. He screamed, "I am going to die."
He heard a strange voice, like the buzz of a mosquito, "If you obey me you will have good fortune. But if you keep your eyes open, you will have bad fortune. Do not be afraid of the snake." The boy closed his eyes.
All of a sudden, he heard his puppy wail. Then someone tapped him on the forehead saying, "open your eyes." When he opened his eyes he saw a large dog standing before him. When he looked at himself he was dressed in sparkling clothes. His scars and dirt were gone. He was standing next to a house with glass walls.
The man spoke, "You are away from your village and you are away from danger. In my house there are many treasures. But, you can not eat any food in my world because you will not be able to return home. My family is away for four days. You must return home and then come back here to meet them. Your people have been very cruel to you, but one day they will honor you."
The old man gave the boy and the dog some special medicine so they could return to the glass house when they needed to return, then he turned them into their former selves, and turned himself back into a little old man.
The orphan was standing beside the well. He heard his aunt calling angrily for him, "What takes you so long to draw water?"
The orphan boy ran with the water. The little dog ran behind him. At home, his aunt beat him and the dog with a bamboo stick and pushed them into the garbage.
At that time, in the house where the boy was living, there was to be a great wedding feast. The three sons of the datu were to marry three princesses.
The orphan boy was given three times as many chores to do in preparation for the wedding. The three sons were not present because they were looking for the many gifts that the girls asked for their dowries: tedyung (black cloth to make skirts), kamagi (gold for jewelry), fanid ndol (the woven cloth called tinaluk), kfilan (special swords), ulew ndol (red turbans) and brass musical instruments.
The three daughters arrived and waited.
The orphan and the puppy left the kitchen to watch the celebrations. But the people called out, "Drive that ugly filthy child and his hideous dog away. They will bring bad luck. They are a source of embarrassment." The aunt mercilessly beat the boy and the puppy and then forced them to work again. No one took pity on the child.
The child and the dog ran as fast as they could to the well. They covered themselves with the medicine the old man had given them and passed through to the other world. The man welcomed them. He introduced the boy to his wife and two children. The man's wife was a beautiful. Her hair was coiled on the top of her head as elegantly as a finely woven basket. If she was to let down her hair it would reach her feet. She said, "Stay with us until the feast is over. You have suffered enough."
The orphan boy was given food to eat. The big dog was also given food. The man gave the boy two charms: one for good luck and one for bad luck. He said, "Use the good charm tonight at midnight. The youngest princess will see who you are. But, be careful not to confuse the two charms."
Then the boy and the puppy returned as they were before. When they reached the house they were beaten again, because they had been gone so long.
All evening and all night the boy tended the fire and stirred the rice. Eventually, everyone went to sleep. Only the youngest princess could not sleep because she did not want to marry one of the three datus. As the orphan was stirring the rice he thought, "The three datus think that they are the most powerful leaders. But they do not realize that I, whom they despise, will be the most powerful datu."
At midnight, he carefully chose the good luck charm and rubbed it on himself. The fireplace instantly turned into a well-woven mat. The bamboo frame of the stove became two pillows. The fire turned into a lamp and the stones on which he slept became valuable gongs. Everything in the kitchen became a priceless treasure of this world, and theorphan boy became a handsome young man and the dog became ferocious.
The youngest princess went into the kitchen. To her amazement she saw the young man and his place of treasures. She saw his beauty and the power of the dog. She knew it was not a dream. She awoke her mother, but when the old woman went to look, she saw only the filthy orphan boy and his ragged dog.
The youngest princess returned to her bed. She fell asleep and dreamed. The little old man came to her dream and said, "When you must choose a young man tomorrow, choose the orphan boy. You will live in a house of glass and mirrors and be surrounded by treasures. He will be kind and loving. The orphan boy will be the strongest datu." She awoke to the sound of bells and gongs. The wedding ceremonies were beginning.
Each of the young men was seated under nets. Behind the men were rows of horses, cows, water buffalo, sheep and goats. This was the dowry to be given to the fathers of the brides.
As the sun rose, each of the girls was to sit beside their chosen husband under the mosquito net. But the youngest princess had made a form from a pillow the size of a girl and she placed that beneath the net beside the youngest datu. When it was discovered, her father yelled at her. "You must go and choose your husband."
The youngest princess started running. She ran near to the datu, but instead of sitting down beside him, she ran all the way to the orphan boy and sat beside him near the fire. Her father tried to pull her away. She cried out, "If you pull me away or harm the orphan, I will die with him."
The youngest datu was enraged. He lifted up his sword and went to kill the orphan and the princess. But, the orphan took out his good luck charm. He rubbed it on himself and on the dog. He shed his ugly skin and stood up a powerful and handsome young man. The dog grew ten times its size and pounced on the datu's son. Everything in the kitchen turned to treasures.
The people who saw what had happened fell to their knees. The aunt, who had been so cruel, ran to the boy, and put her head by his feet. But, the dog intercepted and bit her hands.
The orphan boy married the princess, and from that day onwards he became the most powerful datu. They lived in that village for a long time.
Then, one morning, all the people saw a flash of lightening. Suddenly, the little old man appeared. His white beard hung down to the earth. When the sky cleared, the boy, the princess, the old man and the dog were gone. They all lived happily in the other world in the house of treasures.