Dayang Kumunah (The Legend of Shark Catfish)

Folklore from Riau

Once upon a time, lived an old fisherman. His name was Awang Gading and he lived alone. His wife died a long time ago and he did not have any child.

In one morning, Awang Gading was fishing. He hoped he could catch some fish today. Sadly, he was not lucky. It was almost dark but he still did not catch a fish yet. He planned to go home and rowed his sampan to the riverside.

When he reached the riverside, he heard a baby cry. He was surprised. It was almost dark and he did not see anyone there. However, he still tried to find the baby.

Finally he found the baby! It was a baby girl and she was very beautiful. Carefully, Awing held the baby and brought her home.

In the morning, he told the head of the village about the baby.

When the head of the village saw the baby, he said, “You are lucky. The baby is the child of the spirit of the river. Please take care of her.”

Awang Gading was very happy. He named the baby girl Dayang Kumunah. He took care of her with great love. Dayang Kumunah grew as a very beautiful and diligent girl. However, there was something strange about her. She never laughed. Dayang Kumunah was so famous for her beauty.

One of the young men who fell in love with her was Awangku Usop. He was a handsome and rich man. He proposed Dayang Kumunah to be his wife.

Dayang Kumuna agreed, but he had to promise one thing. He never asked Dayang Kumunah to laugh.

Though he felt very strange, Awangku Usop agreed to promise. Then, they got married. Sadly,
after they got married, Awing Gading died. Dayang Kumunah was very sad. He loved his father very much.

Days passed by, now Dayang Kumunah and Awangku Usop had five children. Awangku Usop actually wanted to know why Dayang Kumunah never laughed.

However, he did not want to break his promise. Their youngest child was still a toddler. He just learned how to walk. One day, the whole family gathered in the house.

They saw the youngest child tried to walk. Everybody was laughing because the child was so funny. Everybody was laughing except Dayang Kumunah.

This time Awangku Usop could not hold it anymore. And he broke his promise, he asked his wife to laugh.

“I have told you not to ask me to laugh, why did you break your promise?” Said Dayang Kumunah.

“I am really curious. We have been married for years but I never see you laugh,” said Awangku Usop.

Then Dayang Kumunah did it, she laughed. And when she laughed people could see her fish gills. Dayang Kumunah was so sad. She ran to the river and swam. Awangku Usop and the children followed her. They saw Dayang Kumunah slowly changed into a fish. Awangku Usop was really sad. He already broke his promise.

“Please take care of our children. I am not a human. I am from the river and I will live here,” said Dayang Kumunah.

She then changed into a fish. People named the fish as Patin Fish or Shark catfish.***

Shark Catfish

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