A legend from Indonesia
Our story takes place a very long time ago in Sunda land (islands that are part of Indonesia). There was a king by the name of Tapa Agung who ruled over the kingdom of Pasir Batang. The king had two daughters — Purbararang and Purbasari.
Purbasari, the younger of the two, was a kind and caring princess, wise beyond her years. Her sister sadly was the opposite – rude, cruel and wicked. But it must be said that both of them were blessed with good looks.
When the king became old and could no longer conduct the affairs of the state himself, he decided to appoint a successor to the throne. Much to the surprise of his older daughter Purbararang, it was Purbasari who was picked to be the queen. Purbararang stormed into her father’s court to seek an explanation. “How can you make Purbasari the queen? It’s my right as I am the first born.”
“That is not the way I’ve chosen my heir to the throne,” said the king. “Purbasari has some qualities, which sadly you lack.”
An angry Purbararang rushed off to meet Prince Indrajaya , her fiancé . “Do you know what my father has decided to do in his madness that has come with old age? He is going to make Purbasari the queen! How could he... when I am the rightful heir, being the eldest?”
Indrajaya was a very resourceful man. That night he took her to visit an old witch who had a solution. She gave Purbararang a gel — from the sap of a tree. “Take this and rub it all over the body of your sister as she sleeps tonight. And see what happens.”
Purbararang took the gel that the witch gave her in the shell of a coconut and applied it on her sleeping sister. The next morning when she awoke, Purbasari was in for a very nasty shock. Her entire body was itching and she had a rash all over. To make it worse her skin had turned black! Everyone was shocked to see this transformation. “See father, it’s a curse! It is now clear that the gods have chosen me instead of Purbasari to be queen,” said Purbararang to her father, who seemed to believe her.
He was angry with his younger daughter. “What have you done to displease the gods? Surely this is a sign.... Tell me what you did,” he demanded to know. Poor Purbasari had no answer. “Father, believe me, I’m innocent. I do not understand how this happened to me.”
“You have to banish her to the forest or she will bring more misfortune to our kingdom. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?” Purbararang whispered in her father’s ear. The king once again listened to his older daughter’s counsel and ordered that Purbasari be sent away to the forest.
A royal attendant was sent to escort the unfortunate princess to the forest. He was a kind man and found a clearing where he made her a little hut to stay in. Purbasari was left alone to fend for herself, but soon a little monkey came up to her with a bunch of bananas. “How kind of you, little one,” she said as she thanked him and soon several other animals came to visit her. All of them became her friends and brought her fruit, berries and fish to eat. One monkey, a small black one with large kind eyes, brought her some herbs to apply on her itchy skin. The herbal scrub brought down the rash and the itching stopped. Purbasari was grateful for this kindness and soon they became close friends.
One full moon night, the monkey led her to a valley where there was a pond with a hot spring. “These waters will heal your skin,” the monkey told her. Purbasari was surprised to hear the monkey speak. “Who are you?” she asked. “I’m Lutung Kasarung,” he said simply, offering no other explanation.
After a dip in the hot spring Purbasari felt much better. The next day when she saw her reflection in the water, she found that she was completely cured and as beautiful as before. Now she could return to her kingdom, she thought, and with her trusted friend Lutung Kasarung she made her way back to Pasir Batang.
Now Purbararang, who had become queen, was not expecting this. “So you want to claim this kingdom? Let’s see who among the two of us has the longest hair.’’ A rather silly criterion if you ask me, but then who can question a queen? Purbasari unrolled her hair, which was fashioned into a bun, and it turned out to be much longer than her sister’s. “Umm... so your hair is longer, but there is one more condition you must fulfil. Do you have a more handsome fiancé than Indrajaya here?” Purbararang pointed to her future husband. “Do you have someone you can marry?”
What could Purbasari do? Marriage had not been on her mind. She turned to her monkey friend Lutung Kasarung and pulled him to her side. “This is whom I shall marry,” she said to her sister. Purbararang and Indrajaya began to laugh loudly. Lutung Kasarung, meanwhile, closed his eyes and meditated quietly. Suddenly he was transformed into a young man, more handsome than Indrajaya.
Everybody was amazed. “Who are you?” asked Purbararang. “I’m a prince who was cursed to become a monkey due to a mistake I made a long time ago. My curse would lift only if a girl was willing to be my wife.”
Purbararang had no choice but to admit defeat. She gave up her kingdom to her younger sister. And finally Patir Batang had the queen that everybody approved of.