Thursday, April 3, 2008

Malaclemys inelegans

Asleep at the Shell
: At one point in the exhaustive Ramakavaca (an Indonesian Ramayana variant), the monkey-god Hanuman, while on an important journey to the city of Longka, is briefly separated from his simian retinue at night. Wishing to sleep rather than locate his troop, he hitches a ride on the back of a river-borne Siamese basking terrapin (Malaclemys inelegans) and breathes into its nostrils a dream instructing the turtle to swim on until it finds the missing monkey soldiers. Once populous throughout Southeast Asia, basking terrapins were indeed indolent enough to ferry monkeys down rivers, as mid-19th century photographs bear witness. But such passivity also made them easy prey to hunters and led to their extinction. The Penyu Kecak dance, well-known in Balinese musical theater, dramatizes Hanuman’s memorable aquatic doze.

From: Michelin NEOS Guide Indonesia, 2001: English edition, p.26.