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Wednesday, January 29, 2014
The Friendly Water Spirit: Lelembut
A toman, or giant snakehead is said to be a lelembut's pet.
West, water spirits are called Nymphs or Undines. In Malaysia, there are many types of water spirits and ‘lelembut’ is just one of them. Local folks believe lelembut is same as ‘orang bunian’ in
that they also lead a family life in a village. It is said that a lelembut spirit
looks as if a very pretty maiden holding a toman (giant snakehead) in her arms while
playing beside fresh water lakes. Only a handful of lucky folks can see
lelembut and allowed to enter their village or stay with them.
generally shy away from human civilization. They like to congregate on
wetlands, lakes, rivers and seaside. However, they are not as popular as other
types of spirits as lelembut cannot be kept and control like those of ‘hantu
raya’, ‘polong’ or ‘pelesit’.
dwelling place of lelembut is intruded by mankind, they will move away and
seldom confront the intruders directly. At the place where lelembut stays put,
fishes will be in abundance. Amongst the fishes, it is believed that toman fish
especially large ones are the favorite of lelembut.
The locals said
that experienced anglers who fish at the place controlled by lelembut will go
back empty handed; even though the area is renowned to be abundance with toman
A few years
back I accompanied two angler friends to fish in Kenyer Lake. We were on a boat
rented for one whole day in the hope to catch some toman fish. An adult toman
can grow up to 1m in length and weights around ~20kg or so and it never gives
up without a real struggle. Anglers get the thrill while the toman struggles
for their lives. I am never an angler, actually I was there just to make up the
numbers; my interest then was our next destination: Dungun.
owner was an experience local; he brought us to the western end of the lake and
let us does the fishing while he was minding his own business. While my friends
were fishing from both sides of the boat, I was leaning my back against the aft
of the boat looking towards the bow. I can’t remember how many times I fell
into slumber and how many times I was awoken by the shake of the boat due to
fish pulling fishing lines.
perhaps around 4pm and the surrounding was quite bright. I was half awaken by a
scream, seemed that someone had possibly caught a big fish and by the way the
line was pulled; everyone was certain that it was a big toman. As I moved my
sight from the bow to where the commotion begun; I thought I saw a lady in
white staring at me with seemingly agitated expression. She had wide round eyes,
long straight shoulder length hair, and extremely fair complexion.
in a very soft but sweet voice despite her anger:
“Cukuplah kat tu,
jangan ganggu saudara ku lagi.”
(Enough at this stage
don’t disturb my relatives anymore.)
As soon as
the lady had spoken, a disappointed shout switched my attention to the
commotion. Apparently someone’s line has snapped and the fish just got away.
strange as after the sighting, no one on the boat had caught any fish for the
next two hours until sun set when we called it a day. I am not sure if the
sighting was a lelembut or just my hallucination after sleeping under heat. It
was an interesting mystery for my notebook however.