Adapted into English for kindergarten children by David Edgren
This is one of the many stories told by Indonesian Shadow Puppeteers when performing to children. I rewrote this story for Kindergarten teachers who are hosting Sumardi and Gamelan in the next few months.
Little Kancil: Lesser Mouse deer – A mouse-deer is a small deer-like creature that lives mostly in Asia. The Lesser Mouse Deer is the smallest of the species and adults grow only to 45cm tall and weighs 2kg. They eat plants. In this story Little Kancil’s smallness is characterised by cunning and naughtiness.
The Farmer: Farmers plant and protect their crops. This farmer has a healthy crop of cucumbers, until our cheeky antagonist comes along to nibble them in the night. The farmer comes up with an ingenious way of catching the small but wily thief.
The Farm Dog: Every good farmer needs a great farm dog.
One day as Little Kancil explores the land near a village he discovered a field full of his favourite food – cucumbers! He looks to the left and the right and sees cucumbers as far as his little eyes can see. In the middle of the field, Little Kancil sees the farmer working hard – caring for his cucumbers. Not wanting to get caught, Little Kancil creeps back into the forest and plans to come back in the darkness of night.
That night, after sunset, Little Kancil quietly tip-toes into the far corner of the cucumber field and eats until he can’t eat any more. His little tummy is the fattest little mouse-deer tummy you’ve ever seen. Satisfied, he wanders back into the forest.
The next morning, the farmer comes to look after his cucumbers and is upset to find one corner of the field is destroyed. Studying the ground, the farmer sees tiny hoof-prints and knows exactly who ate his cucumbers.
That afternoon, Little Kancil is hungry again. He remembers the field of cucumbers with such happiness and bounds out of the forest and into the delicious field. In his excitement, he forgets to look left and right and suddenly realises he is being watched. There standing not a meter away is the farmer! Little Kancil jumps backward in fear and bounds toward the forest. Looking over his shoulder, he realises the farmer is not chasing him. Little Kancil stops and turns around to look at the man who is still standing in the same place and the same pose as before.
Little Kancil realises the farmer is not real! It is just the farmers clothes, somehow propped up in the middle of the field. Bravely, Little Kancil tests the fake farmer and approaches carefully. He gets close enough to see the straw poking out of the farmer’s clothes and knows he was tricked. This is not the farmer but just a silly scarecrow. In his new found bravery, little Kancil kicks the scarecrow.
His leg sticks fast to the scarecrow. Little Kancil tries to pull his leg back but it is stuck. The farmer knew that a deer-mouse was a cunning and brave little creature and would not be scared away by a scarecrow. So, the farmer covered the scarecrow’s pants with glue. The trap worked and Little Kancil was stuck with no hope of escape.
The farmer sees the scarecrow jiggling in the field and knows he has caught the little cucumber thief. When he gets to the scarecrow, the farmer wraps his big hands around Little Kancil and pulls him free from the scarecrow. Then, the farmer puts Little Kancil into a cage for the night.
In the dark of night, Little Kancil is startled by a big farm dog who comes to visit the cage. The big dog looks at Little Kancil and begins to laugh. He says, “You thought you were so smart! Eating cucumbers in the farmer’s field! Look at you now! Tomorrow my master is going to have deer-mouse stew for lunch!”
The dog expects his words to upset the deer-mouse and is frustrated when nothing he says seems to work. Little Kancil just shakes his head and says, “You are wrong.”
“Wrong?” the dog laughs. “We will see about that!” But, in time the relaxed nature of the little deer-mouse really starts to bother the dog. Finally, the dog asks, “Ok, why? Why don’t you believe the farmer will eat you?”
“Because,” the deer-mouse says with a sigh, “I am going to become a prince. Don’t you know what this cage does? It turns you into a prince overnight! Tomorrow I will be a prince and I will marry the farmer’s daughter! Now, go away and let me get some sleep.”
The dog is not happy about this new information. “How do you know this?” he asks the little deer-mouse.
“Everyone knows,” Little Kancil says, “that a farmer’s cage makes you into a prince overnight! All this time, you’ve been the farmer’s faithful helper and he’s never let you sleep in the cage. He doesn’t want you to become a prince! He wants you to be his hard working farm dog! But a cute little deer-mouse, well, that’s a perfect prince to be!” Little Kancil turns around three times and lays down to go to sleep.
The dog thinks about the cage late into the night. Finally, he lifts the latch with his nose, opens the door and wakes Little Kancil. When the little deer-mouse sees the huge dog’s teeth so close to him he jumps in fright and runs for his life! Out of the cage and into the night.
The dog laughs at the deer-mouse’s misfortune, curls up inside the cage and pulls the door closed with his paw. Tomorrow he will be a prince.
In the morning, when the farmer comes to the cage, he is confused to find his dog trapped in the cage and no deer-mouse. His dog’s tail wags expectantly. The farmer shakes his head with wonder at the way life always seems to surprise him, and let’s his dog out of the cage.
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