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Folk-lore in Borneo A Sketch   By: (1866-1920)

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FOLK LORE IN BORNEO

A SKETCH

BY

WILLIAM HENRY FURNESS 3D, M.D., F.R.G.S.

MEMBRE DE LA SOCIÉTÉ DE GÉOGRAPHIE À PARIS MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN ORIENTAL SOCIETY

[ PRIVATELY PRINTED ]

WALLINGFORD DELAWARE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA 1899

[Illustration: A KAYAN CHIEF.]

A SKETCH OF THE FOLK LORE OF BORNEO.

In this short monograph I do not pretend to give anything more than a Sketch of the Folk lore to be found among the Borneans. The island is large, and the people, scattered and isolated by constant inter tribal warfare, differ one tribe from another, in language, customs and appearance almost more than do Germans, French, or English; to say that any tradition or custom is common to all the tribes, or even to all of one tribe, of Borneans, would be far too sweeping. A still greater drawback to any universality, in legend or custom, is that there is no written language, not even so much as picture drawings on rocks to give us a clue to ancient myths or traditions. The natives of Borneo are in a certain sense savages, but yet they are savages of a high order, possessed of a civilization far above what is usually implied by the term; they live together in what almost might be called coöperative communities, they practise the art of weaving, they forge rough implements of iron, they cultivate rice and esculent plants, and in all their work, such as house building, boat building, manufacture of cloth and weapons of warfare, they show an ambitious desire, and a skilful ability, to ornament their work and add, to its usefulness, pleasure to the eye. One of their gravest faults, however, is their embarrassing tenacity to the fad of head hunting, and a strict adherence to the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This keeps the different households, even of the same tribe, at constant war and makes inevitable an uncomfortable yet pleasing interchange of heads during the tedious months of the rainy season, when time hangs heavy on the warriors' hands, and disused swords might get rusty.

So little is known of the social and anthropological position of these people, to others than those who make Malaysia and the South Sea islands their study, that it may not be out of place to give a short description of the people themselves before entering on the subject of their Folk lore.

The remote origin of the Borneans, as well as of the greater part of all of the inhabitants of the Polynesian islands, is an ethnological problem; they are not Malay, neither are they Mongolian nor Negrito; they bear resemblances here and there to all of these races, but not marked enough to claim any one as the parent stock. Furthermore, there is some evidence in favor of the theory that they are the result of successive migrations of tribes from northern India and from Anam.

[Illustration: A KAYAN LONG HOUSE.]

The inland tribes of Borneo, by which I include all the natives except the Malays settled along the coast, are without any definite forms of religious worship; they make idols of wood, but I have never seen any offering made to them, nor do they regard them apparently as anything more than as scarecrows to frighten off evil spirits. They are the children of Dame Nature and as such have inherited their mother's disregard for life, and this feature of their temperament has kept them in a constant turmoil of warfare, which in turn compels them for mutual protection to band together in communities of several families and build for themselves a common house wherein to live, ever ready to turn out in force and resist the attacks of hostile tribes. In not a few instances these houses are as much as a quarter of a mile in length and shelter as many as four hundred people. Every household is presided over by a head man known as the elder, or Orang Tuah , and he in turn is governed in a measure by the chief of the tribe, known as the Penghulu . The government of the household seems to be conducted in the quietest manner; I have lived on several occasions in these houses for three or four weeks at a time, and have never seen anything that could be called a violent quarrel between two members of the household, nor have I seen the Orang Tuah or the Penghulu submit any of the members to what might be considered harsh treatment... Continue reading book >>




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