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Spirtuality in Javanese Fable Story

Serat Kancil is Javanese fable story, adopted from Indian Jataka. The theme of the story contains journey of spirituality.

Si Kancil is famous fable character in Indonesia and Malaysia. The meaning of Kancil is mouse-deer. The character is taken from the story of Jataka from India. Si Kancil is smart animal in the jungle. The story of Kancil has been told through oral tradition in Indonesia. Javanese wrote its story in Serat Kancil (Book of Mouse-Deer). As media to tell the story to children, Javanese also created shadow puppet performance, called “Wayang Kancil”.

Although the origin of this fable is from India, Javanese version of this story is influenced by Tantularism. Tantularism was presented by Mpu Tantular in the book of Sutasoma. It states that all various religions have one dharma. In Serat Kancil, the story also contains Islam spirituality. There are some characters in this fable story from Islamic tradition, such as: Adam and Nabi Sulaiman ( Salomon).

However, many Indonesians only knows the story partially because the story is told through oral tradition and re-written partially.

If we only read the story partially, we will lose its moral teaching related to spiritual journey of Kancil. It is story of the quest from immaturity to maturity, from unconscious, subconscious, to awareness. There is character transformation of Kancil. Kancil symbolizes immature young character with smart brain in his journey to get meaning of life. He sometimes became savior, survivor or even bad boy. However, smart brain is not enough, he should achieve something beyond – that is wisdom. Young Kancil still had pride. Pride is one of ultimate sin. Kancil underestimated The Snails in a race. Kancil thought that he could win because he was faster than The Snail but, finally, The Snail could defeat him. Kancil made an apology to The Snail for his previous pride. The Snail forgave him and became Kancil’s guru (teacher). Through the experience and education, finally, Kancil gained more awareness.

Serat Kancil has been ever translated from Javanese language to Bahasa Indonesia by Balai Pustaka. However, the translation version is hardly founded.

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  1. masgoeroe

    On April 17, 2009 at 5:21 am


    Your stroy is interesting. I didn’t know that kancil, my favourite fable when I was a schoolboy, has such a deep philosophical value. Thank’s for sharing.

  2. chudori

    On July 9, 2009 at 7:51 am


    nice story, that was right that javanese got alot of fables that give us good lesson. Mas Purnomosidhi I also try to introduce javanese spiritual and moral fable, pls visit my http://darmokusumo.blogspot.com thanks for share together. Keep our heritage.

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