Tales from the Forest

on Sunday, June 15, 2008

The equatorial rainforest in Malaysia is said to be the oldest forest in the world. It is a wonderful place busting out with life in a myriad shapes and forms. It can also be a disorientating and scary place. Even hardened scientists who visit the interior regions regularly seem to have lost their veneer of rationality and have given at least token acknowledgment to the traditional beliefs of spirits of the forest. The following is the tale told by one such scientist.

Our story is set on the slopes of Gunung Ledang, the fabled mystical Mount Ophir of legend. A young forest officer was leading his team in the forest to do an inventory of trees and tree species in the low foothills of the mountain. They had been moving around from camp to camp for over two weeks, doing the inventory as they went along. This is hard and relatively boring work which was compounded by the ever suffocating high humidity and heat.

Once they had finished their task, the forest officer decided that for a bit of recreation , the whole team would hike up the trail to the beautiful and cool summit of Gunung Ledang. The team was enthusiastic and they set off. All these men were fit and made good time up the mountain; stopping along the way only briefly to admire the beautiful stands of hill bamboo and for a quick dip in one of the streams.

As they reached higher up, the young forest officer felt very good. He began to pick up his pace and soon overtook all his team members and continued at that pace and began to leave them behind. Even as the gap between him and his team grew, he would stop once in awhile to exhort them to hurry up. Some of the team were men with many years of experience in the forest and the young officer felt elated that as their leader, he could show that he was fitter than the rest.

Soon he had lost contact with the team as he surged on upwards. However, within about 100 metres from the summit, suddenly he felt a sharp pain on his right leg. Thinking it was a cramp or a pulled muscle, he sat down by the side of the path and started to massage the leg. Even though the pain went away, his leg felt strangely weak and he himself felt incredibly tired.

He sat there trying to catch his breath but he was too tired to move. Eventually, his men came by and passed him one by one until all had gone on to the summit. Still, the young officer was not able to move. Eventually, after setting up camp, some of the men had to return down the mountain to carry him and his equipment up to the camp. The young officer could not understand why he felt so weak and tired. After a quick dinner, he just crawled into his tent and slept.

The next day, he woke up and found his strength fully rejuvanated and he was none the worse for wear except that he was profoundly embarrassed that his men had to carry him up the last 100 metres. The trip back down the mountain was fairly uneventful but all the way down, his right leg felt unusually hot especially around the inner thigh area.

When they reached the bottom and made it to their vehicles, he decided to take off his trousers to examine his thigh. To his surprise, he found a large mark on his inner thigh that looked very much like the print of a hand with the fingers and thumbs all fully extended. The print seemed to be impossibly black. One of his senior team member, a wizen and experienced forester, also saw it and immediately placed his boss into the jeep and drove an hour to a nearby village.

At the village, he brought his boss to see the village bomoh or spirit medium. The bomoh looked at the mark and in a voice that sent shivers down both their spines said, "Anak, anak, puteri jumpa adik sombong sayang."

The young officer was profoundly changed by what he heard. He returned to the city and the mark remained with him for over two weeks before it finally faded away.

And what had he heard that had changed him? The bomoh had said "Son, son, the Princess found you to be proud, my love."

By this the young officer felt that he had been taught a lesson in humility by none other than the mythical Princess of the mountain. Squirrel's Believe it or nuts!


MedStudentWife said...

I just love this tale - LGS. And I do believe it !!!

Dr.John said...

You know I almost believe it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thank you for believing it.

I can assure you that the tale is true. However, you can choose to believe whether it is supernatural or just the power of human beliefs.

On a limb with Claudia said...

I spent a lot of time out in the "wilds" of California and Colorado. I definitely believe in both the sprits that live in trees and the spirit of the trees themselves. We are too limited as beings to really understand.

Did you see that they've proven that plants recognize each other? Weird.

Great story!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Plants recognise each other? Nope. Didn't hear that one.

leslie said...

Totally plausible!
People take volcanic rock away from Pele in Hawaii, and then have to mail it back to her when their luck goes bad.
And I'm not even superstitious! ;)

tsduff said...

What an amazing story. I have been becoming more and more open to different beliefs than I used to be. One never really knows. I think the whole earth is alive with spirits and life in many forms.

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