Masarasenani and the Sun

July 14, 2018 | Dr. Murti Bunanta


Indonesia has a very rich folklore. To this days there were many folktales publications in Indonesia market. One of the purposes is to expose children with their own culture, traditions, and learn the wisdom of the ancestors. The wisdom and moral of Indonesian folktales can be shared, enjoyed, and appreciated by other cultures. One of the examples of this case can be seen in the story entitled, “Masarasenani and the Sun”, retold by Murti Bunanta and illustrated by Hardiyono, two prominent names in folktales retellings.

“Masarasenani and the Sun,” addresses an environmental issue, warning us not to be greedy about using the earth’s resources.

The story goes like this :



Once upon a time, there lived a man named Masarasenani. He had a wife and two daughters. The eldest daughter’s name was Serawiri, and the youngest was named as Serimini.

Every day they went to pound at the sago tree to get its flour. But the yield was barely enough to keep them alive. At that time, the day was very short. When people hadn’t yet finished pounding the sago, the night came. Many of the villagers were starving.

It continued like this for many, many years.

None seemed to know what to do, until one day Masarasenani had an idea. He planned to meet with the sun, Masarasitumi.

By chance, Masarasenani knew the place where Masarasitumi rose. He had seen that very morning, the sun passed by a narrow rift between two hills.

That night, Masarasenani went in secret to that place. Soon he installed a trap. With this trap he intended to catch the sun.

After he was finished, Masarasenani went home. His wife and daughters didn’t know about his plan.

The following day, as usual, Masarasenani and his wife and his daughters went to pound the sago trees. They worked hard to get as much flour as they could before the sun set.

Buy what had happened?

Their sago basket was full, and still the night hadn’t come. The villagers were astonished! Why hadn’t the sun set? They felt that the day was unusually long.

No one knew what was going on except for Masarasenani.

Although Masarasenani was delighted because the villagers could gather more food, he felt restless. He knew that Masarasitumi had been trapped. Masarasitumi must be released so that he could do his job and revolve around the earth.

Immediately Masarasenani sent his wife and daughters home with the sago they had pounded. He intended to release the sun and night would be dark soon. Hurriedly Masarasenani went to the place where Masarasitumi had been trapped.

Masarasenani’s heart was pounding. Through the trees he spied the trap with Masarasitumi trapped in it. He heard the sun lament, “Please, Masarasenani, come quickly. Bring me some gatal leaves to cure my leg that was hurt and swollen because of your trap.” Now “gatal” means “itch”, and the leaves have always been used to cure itching or swelling in that part of Indonesia.

Masarasenani was startled to hear his name. He was surprised that Masarasitumi had known that it was he who had set the trap. The sun’s lamentation touched his heart. He soon appeared from his hiding place intending to free Masarasitumi.

Seeing Masarasenani coming toward him to help him, Masarasitumi said, “Be careful Masarasenani, approach me from the back. Otherwise you will be burnt by the rays that pour forth from my face, just like those trees around me.”

Masarasenani saw that the trees around the sun were all brown and dried up.

After the sun had been released, he told Masarasenani the place where he could get gatal leaves to cure his swollen leg. He then also explained the shape of the leaves. Masarasenani left immediately.

After arriving at the place where the sun had directed him, Masarasenani took as many gatal leaves as he could carry. He brought the gatal leaves to the place where the sun was waiting. Masarasenani then helped to rub the gatal leaves onto the sun’s swollen legs. Not long after that, the sun’s leg were cured.

“Masarasenani, why did you want to trap me? What have I done wrong?” asked the sun.

“I am sorry sun, I had to trap you because I and my family and all the other villagers were starving. Before we could gather and pound enough sago and other food, you set so that the day became dark. And therefore we couldn’t get enough to eat.”

After listening to Masarasenani’s complaints, the sun promised to change his behaviour. He would try to be fair in dividing the time so that the people had enough time to gather their food and they would not be starving.

After Masarasitumi’s legs were completely healed, he went back to the western horizon, and Masarasenani went home. Masarasenani then told his wife and daughters what had actually happened.

Since then, the sun divides the time between day and night equally. He stays in the sky longer than he had before. The villagers were very happy because they could gather enough food.

People call the place where the sun was trapped “Mayawer.” It means “the trapped sun.” The place where Masarasenani picked the gatal leaves nowadays is a forest of gatal bushes. It is said that the gatal leaves of today are not as big as before when the story happened. But the people still use the leaves to cure itching and swelling.

Dr. Murti Bunanta
President of Society of Children’s Literature / Kelompok Pencinta Bacaan Anak since 1986. President of INABBY (Indonesian Board on Books for Young People) since 1990. Children’s Literature Specialist. Lecturer. Editor. Children’s Book Writer. Children’s Folklorist.

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