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The Legend of Lake Toba

The Fish's Oath: Lessons in Promise-Keeping

Legenda Danau Toba | Edisi Indonesia

Folklore from North Sumatra

LONG ago, lived a poor young orphan in a fertile valley. Everyday he supported himself by farming and fishing at the river not far from his home. The harvest of farming and fishing were used as the side dishes of his meals. So far, it's easy for him to get the fish at the river.

One afternoon, after returning from the fields, he went fishing in the river. After a long time fishing, he couldn't catch any fish. This was never happened before. And then he reeled in his bait and went home. Strangely when the rod is pulled, a fish suddenly caught the bait. He was happy when he saw a very pretty goldfish hanging at bait. The young man rushed home to cook the fish.

At the house, the man put the goldfish in a place and immediately prepare firewood for cooking. The firewood ran out and he immediately came out to fetch firewood in his backyard. After taking a few pieces of firewood he returned to the kitchen to cook.

The young man surprised when he found the carp had gone. Strangely near where the goldfish laid, he found few pieces of gold. The young man confused then went inside his room. The young man very surprised when he saw a beautiful woman in his room.

"Who are you, O beautiful lady? Where did you come from? Why are you in my house?" asked the astonished farmer.

"I was your carp and the gold coins on the table are the embodiment of my scales." Replied the beautiful woman.

"Will you be my wife O beautiful lady?" Asked the young man shyly.

The woman looked down and was silent for a moment, then she said, "Well, I'm willing to be your wife, but with one condition you should not bring up my origin, the fish incarnation."

"Well, I agreed your requirement." Said the farmer as he nodded his head.

Soon they too were married. Time passes so quickly for this happy couple. They had a son named Samosir. After the age of 6 years old, he turned into a very naughty boy and difficult to advised. His mother often told him to deliver rice to his father in the fields, but Samosir always rejected. His mother was forced herself to deliver the rice for her husband at the field.

One day, as usual, Samosir's mother told him to deliver the rice to the fields. At first he did not want to do it, but because his mother kept insisted,  he finally went to the fields to deliver the rice to his father.

On the way to the field, Samosir was hungry and then eat the rice parcel until empty. Samosir left only the bones of fish and then wrapped it back.

When he arrived in rice fields Samosir gave the parcel to his father. Because he's so hungry, Samosir's father directly to unwrap the rice. Knowing the package only contained the bones of fish, then the father scolding Samosir.

"Samosir!, what is this? Why the parcel only contained fish bones? Have you eaten it? ", shout his father.

"Sorry dad, on my way here, I felt hungry, so I ate your meal," said Samosir with fear.

The father was furious then slapped his cheek, and said that his son was a fish child.

"You are outrageous, son of fish!"

Samosir cried because his father slapped and ran back into the house. Arriving home, Samosir asked her mother if he was was a son of a fish.

"Mom ... is it true what my father said that I was his son of fish?"

The mother was shocked to hear his question. She tearfully hugged Samosir and said that his father had broken his oath.

"Your father broke his oath by told the origin of your mother. Now I must return to my origin."

At that moment the sky became dark, lightning followed by heavy rain. Samosir and his mother disappeared without any trace, while at the former place they stand spurted heavy water. Not long after that, the place flooded to form a lake. While the father could not save himself, he died, sinking into the lake.

People then call the lake as Lake Tuba. Meanwhile, a small island located in the middle of the lake is called the island of Samosir.

The word tuba means ungrateful or has no good in returned. Over time, people gradually call it as Lake Toba.

Moral Message: Honoring Promises and the Consequences of Breaking Agreements

When the young man promised not to disclose the origin of his wife, who was once a fish, he failed to uphold that promise. Breaking this vow had significant consequences, leading to his wife returning to her original form and their family being torn apart in a tragic event.

Breaking promises not only results in personal loss but can also bring unforeseen consequences to others. This teaches the significance of maintaining integrity and trust in every agreement made.

The story serves as a reminder that promises should be honored, as the consequences of breaking them can be severe.


Did you know?

Lake Toba (Indonesian: Danau Toba) is a vast natural lake occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. It stands as both the largest lake in Indonesia and the world's largest volcanic lake. However, Lake Toba is more than just a scenic wonder. It holds a secret within its depths—a connection to a massive supervolcanic eruption, estimated at a cataclysmic VEI 8, which shook our planet between 69,000 to 77,000 years ago. This eruption had far-reaching consequences, significantly impacting Earth's climate.

Lake Toba: Where Science Meets Folklore

The intricate relationship between the scientific origins of Lake Toba and the local folklore that surrounds it is a testament to the interconnectedness of human understanding. Delving into North Sumatra's heart, one encounters the breathtaking Lake Toba, or 'Danau Toba' in Indonesian. This colossal lake, Earth's largest volcanic reservoir, conceals a profound secret—a prehistoric supervolcano that played a pivotal role in one of history's most impactful volcanic eruptions.

This seismic event, dating back tens of thousands of years, is intertwined with a captivating local legend. Passed down through generations, it narrates a story of love, betrayal, and transformation, ultimately unveiling the genesis of this massive body of water and the birth of Samosir Island. While science unravels the mysteries of our planet's tumultuous past, folklore weaves an enchanting tapestry, offering a timeless glimpse into humanity's unending quest to make sense of the world that surrounds us.


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