THE BUTTERFLY AND THE PRINCESS: An Indonesian Folktale by Amanda Bergloff

She sang a song of love so sweet, the butterflies around her stopped to listen...
Long ago, in a palace that stood next to a great river, there lived a beautiful young princess named Kembang Melati. With the warm summer sun shining down on her, she sat on the bank of the river weaving her wedding gown. While she worked, she sang a song of love so sweet, that the butterflies around her stopped to listen, to the delight of the princess.

Not only did Princess Kembang Melati’s song call to the butterflies, but also to Rajah Banjir...the Monarch of the Rains. His great palace, that was all the colors of the rainbow, stood on the other side of the great river.

Rajah Banjir felt his heart stir when he heard the princess’ song, and when he went to the window of his rainbow-colored palace, he saw the beautiful girl in the summer sun and instantly fell in love with her.

He hoped that she would raise her head and gaze upon him, but she was so intent on her weaving and singing that she never did. With a heavy heart, Rajah Banjir realized that she would not return his love if she did not even look at him, so he wept. Since he was the Monarch of the Rains, the tears he shed in longing for the princess caused the waters in the great river separating them to rise.

As the waters rose higher and higher, Sarinah, the old nurse that had cared for the princess since birth said, “We must go inside now princess, before we are swept down the great river by the rising waters,”

The princess agreed, so they left the bank for the safety of the palace.

Rajah Banjir was even more distraught when he could no longer see the princess weaving by the water’s edge, so he devised a plan. He knew that the princess loved butterflies so he changed himself into a butterfly that was the golden color of the sun overhead. He fluttered across the great river and heard Princess Kembang Melati’s song coming from a window in her palace. He was drawn to it and flitted back and forth by the window. The princess, being dazzled by the enchanted golden butterfly outside, held out her hand for it to land on.

“Oh beautiful butterfly,” she said. “You are the color of the sun on a cloudless summer’s day.”

Rajah Banjir was overjoyed that he pleased the princess and gently settled in the princess’ palm. He kissed her fingertips with his butterfly lips which made her smile. Then, the golden butterfly fluttered up to her cheek and whispered into her ear, “Dearest Princess Kembang Melati, your bridegroom will soon appear, so be quick and weave your wedding dress.”

The princess only heard the word “bridegroom” before the golden butterfly flew off through the window and asked, “Where is my bridegroom?”

Now the old nurse, Sarinah, had a selfish and wicked son named Nasiman who happened to be outside Princess Kembang Melati’s window. Nasiman overheard her when she asked where her bridegroom was. He thought that he would pass himself off as the bridegroom she was looking for, so he went to his mother and asked for her help.

“Go tell her that I am her bridegroom, and I have come to claim her,” he said to his old mother.

Sarinah did not want to help him for she knew her son to be selfish and cruel. “You can never marry Princess Kembang Melati, my son, for you are not of noble birth,” she told him, but he insisted. The old nurse was frightened of him and his wickedness and thought he would harm her, so she went to the princess and told her that her bridegroom had now arrived.

The princess made herself ready to meet him, but the golden butterfly returned through her window and whispered in her ear, “The one waiting for you is not your true bridegroom. Do not marry him! He is Nasiman, the son of your old nurse. Wait for your true bridegroom to come to you, as this one is false.”

Princess Kembang Melati watched her golden butterfly flutter out of the window and turned to her nurse. “I must wait until my true bridegroom comes to claim me, Sarinah, so I will not marry today.”

The old nurse trembled for she was afraid of what her wicked son would do. “Please...please marry him now, princess, or we will both come to harm,” she begged.

Princess Kembang Melati did not want any harm to come to them, but she thought of what her dear golden butterfly had said to her and knew she must wait for her real bridegroom.

“Go tell Nasiman that he shall wait seven days for me to contemplate marriage to him, and tell him to stay on the bank of the great river until I send him my answer.”

The nurse obeyed and told her son, who agreed, and went to wait at the river’s edge with seven days of food and drink until the princess made her decision.

That same day, the golden butterfly returned to his human form as Rajah Banjir, the Monarch of the Rains, and wrote Princess Kembang Melati a letter of love from his rainbow-colored palace. He sent for his fastest and best messenger, the white crow, to deliver the letter, along with a small chest full of gold and jewelry. The Monarch of the Rains placed the letter in the crow’s claws and bound the chest to her back and bade her take both to the princess without delay. The white crow promised to fly as fast as she could to deliver the Monarch’s message.

As the white crow flew over the great river, she spied Nasiman sitting on the bank eating fish which was the crow’s favorite food. She circled him and called out, “Could you kindly spare some fish? I am so very hungry as I have flown fast carrying this letter and chest to deliver to the Princess Kembang Melati from the Monarch of the Rains.”

Nasiman never wanted to share anything, but he did not want the princess to receive anything from the Monarch of the Rains. He let the crow land by him and told her to take the chest off her back and put down the letter so she could eat the delicious fish he offered to her.

The white crow did as she was told and was soon so busy eating that she didn’t notice Nasiman had opened the chest and took the gold and jewelry out and replaced it with spiders and scorpions. While the crow continued eating, he also quickly took the letter full of loving thoughts from the Monarch of Rains to the Princess Kembang Melati to his mother and ordered her to change it so that it was full of hateful thoughts instead.

When the white crow had greedily finished all the fish, she had no idea the chest and letter she carried had been altered. When she delivered them to the princess, the princess was shocked.

“My true bridegroom has sent this horrid letter, filled with hateful thoughts and a chest full of spiders and scorpions!” she cried as she threw both out the window into the river in a rage. “My golden butterfly lied to me, and now I shall not marry anyone!” The princess wept and ordered her nurse to take away her wedding dress and weaving stool as she would never work on it again

When the Monarch of the Rains, in his guise as the butterfly, flitted into Princess Kembang Melati’s window and whispered in her ear, “Why, o beautiful princess, are you not wearing the gold and jewelry that your bridegroom sent with the white crow?” she waved away the butterfly with her hand. Rajah Banjir was puzzled by this and said, “You will meet your true bridegroom in the morning. He will take you to his palace where the summer sun transforms it into the colors of the rainbow, so be quick in finishing your wedding gown.

The princess frowned and angrily swatted at the butterly. “I once thought you dear, golden butterfly, but you have lied to me. You must leave and never return!”

Upon hearing this, the Monarch of the Rains became infuriated and caused the great river to flood that night, causing the palace of Princess Kembang Melati to float away.

The princess’ drifting palace neared the bank on the other side of the great river, where Rajah Banjir angrily watched the flood. He turned his head away when she cried out to him, asking for help, but Sarinah, the nurse, knew the trickery she and her son Nasiman had played, which caused the flood and confessed.

“Oh great Monarch of the Rains,” the old nurse called out. “Please save the princess, as it was I who changed the words in your letter of love to her to hateful ones, and it was my son, Nasiman, who took the gold and jewelry from the chest and replaced them with spiders and scorpions, while your white crow messenger was eating fish.”

At that, Rajah Banjir understood why the princess had acted the way she did and immediately forgave her and caused the rising waters to stop. He saved the princess and all those in the palace, but left Sarinah and her wicked son to be covered by the flood waters, never to be heard from again.

The Monarch of the Rains also punished the white crow for her greediness in eating fish and allowing Nasiman to trick the princess. He turned the white crow’s feathers black and took away her ability to talk. After that day, the crow could only say, “Kaw...kaw!”

Then Rajah Banjir gently took Princess Kembang Melati’s hand and told her how he had fallen in love with her the first time he heard her sing and saw her weaving her wedding gown in the summer sun. He explained that it was he who had changed into the golden butterfly to be near her and tell her that her true bridegroom would come for her.

The princess looked into the eyes of Rajah Banjir and recognized her dear golden butterfly. She understood that he was indeed her true bridegroom, so she finished weaving her wedding dress.

The two were soon married, and the Monarch of the Rains and the Princess Kembang Melati lived happily until the end of their days in the rainbow-colored palace on the banks of the great river.

Amanda Bergloff writes modern fairy tales, folktales, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in various anthologies, including Frozen Fairy Tales, After the Happily Ever After, and Uncommon Pet Tales.
Follow her on Twitter @AmandaBergloff
Check out her Amazon Author page HERE

Cover Layout: Amanda Bergloff
Thank you for reading my re-telling of this folktale. What did you think? Leave a comment below, as I'd love to hear from you!
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Comments

  1. I had never read this story before, so this is the first version I’ve read. What a rollercoaster of emotions and visual delights your words elicit, Amanda. I had no idea how this story would end, which heightened the experience even further. This is a fine example of how vital EC is to keeping fairy tales and storytelling alive in the 21st century.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Guy, and thank you for your point of view on the story. It was definitely a fun one to write. EC is happy to be part of the fairy tale-story telling community!

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  2. I love it - I had also never heard this one before. I can see the colours and smell the sweet smells of the garden where she sits...

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  3. Thank you, Angelika. I came across this tale a few months ago and wanted to re-tell it. The "stars aligned" and it worked out for this summer issue.

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  4. This is a wonderful tale. I enjoyed the simplicity with which it is told here.

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