The Greedy Fisherman; a Malay folk tale re-imagined

This story is published here to point to their existence and add another version to the few already in circulation.  It is re-imagined and rewritten folklore, first shared during the launch of Bookish Charms: A Folk Tale Collection; a for-charity collaboration between Heartwrite Co. and Enya Bijoux.  For their creativity, twists and deficits, we ask your kind indulgence


There was a poor fisherman who lived in an unnamed village.  He usually fished near Pulau Jong Batu.  If you knew your folktales, you’d realise that this is the sunken ship of Nakhoda Manis, the man who was cursed to stone by his mother.

Back to the fisherman, who we shall call Si Perawai.  One morning, the fisherman rowed his small boat to his usual fishing spot.

He placed his line and waited patiently. After sometime, he checked on it, and found nothing.  There wasn’t even one small fish stuck on his longline. He tried again. Still nothing, much to his dismay.  Yet, he was patient. Suddenly, his longline tensed and started to bob up and down, as if it was pulled by something. He quickly pulled his longline out of the water and with each pull, the line felt heavier.

‘Must be a big fish,’ he thought to himself.

His excitement turned into disappointment when he saw that it was actually a chain.  Instead of throwing it back in the water, though, he became curious.  Where did the chain come from?

He started pulling the chain onto his small boat.  It was a long chain and no matter how much he pulled, the chain kept coming. He was caught between wanting to throw the chain back into the water and an internal nudge to get to the bottom of things.  He took a piece of cloth and started to wipe at the chain, looking for clues. As he did so, his excitement increased.  Something glittered underneath the surface.  He brushed more briskly.  It was gold!

His heart bursting with joy, he pulled more of the chain onto his boat whilst his imagination went wild with the consequence of having this treasure.

Though he had been pulling at it for a while, the chain seemed no closer to reaching its end, but it was as if he were no longer able to think.  He kept pulling, and pulling.  The chain piled up on his boat as his eagerness continued to rise.  His imagination became more grandiose, his logic abandoned.

The small boat was sinking but Si Perawai was too absorbed in his task.  He had barely realised the bird flying in circles around him saying, ‘stop, stop!’ as if to warn the him.  Instead of heeding the bird’s warning, he took offense and angrily waved the bird away.

“What a waste it would be if I stop now.  There’s still so much gold!” he said out loud, already imagining himself becoming the richest man in Brunei.  Even when the water was up to his neck, he was laughing, his hands continuing to pull…


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