The News of the East
Underneath the hills and mountains of Panjang, the wind sews the leaves and branches together. Rows of ancient trees stand tall along the mountain slopes, with blue sky and green earth, steep cliffs, and uninhabited valleys. Reality and unpredictable nature present themselves as small sparks of life for the people of Lungau. A peaceful community colony lives in harmony with the abundant nature that fulfills all its needs. A powerful village chief named Samson leads the village named Lungau, which is surrounded by an expanse of green mountains. In their peaceful days, almost all of the villagers’ needs are met by nature. Like living in paradise, not a single need of theirs is left unfulfilled by nature. Their agriculture grows lush, their livestock is well and fat, and their hunting yields are also abundant. Samson and the people of Lungau only worry about one thing, which makes them tremble with fear. The people of Lungau call it the dark day. When the sun’s light cannot penetrate the thick snow, livestock dies of cold, and green trees freeze to death. On such dark days, the people of Lungau must face hunger, anxiety over something unseen, and fear of freezing to death.
To face the dreadful snow season, Samson and the people of Lungau are always accompanied by an owl figure that helps them predict when the deadly snowstorm is coming, the direction of the wind, and when the storm will end. If the snow season comes, the owl will perch on the roofs of the houses that have turned white with snow and chirp as a sign. Only Samson can understand the meaning of the owl’s chirping. If the owl chirps at night, Samson will get up from bed and go out to pick up the owl and stay awake to guard the village. He will walk around and check on every house until morning. When morning comes and the villagers still see the owl perched on Samson’s shoulder, they will look in the direction where the owl’s head is looking and hunt for boars and deer in that direction.
That morning, Samson is sitting, patting the back of the owl, occasionally stroking its soft reddishbrown feathers. His round fiery eyes move quickly to capture the wind blowing down the slopes of the Lungau mountains. As a signal, Samson immediately gets up from his seat. He lets the owl, which had been perched on his arm for hours, fly. With his eyes, Samson follows the direction of the owl’s flight before the owl slips through the trees and disappeared. From a distance, before Samson turns around, he sees a stranger wearing many layers of clothes and a horse carrying many goods walking towards him. A wonder that also carried with it a hanging question in Samson’s mind, because his village had never been visited by strangers before.
“Good morning! I know that you are not a native of Lungau. You are a stranger,” Samson says to the tired-looking stranger walking towards him.”
Good morning, Sir. I am a merchant from the far east. My name is Madlatip, and I have no ill intentions. Last night, while I was camping on a hill, I heard the chirping of an owl and then followed its flight direction. Apparently, the bird landed in this village,” Madlatip replies to Samson, who stands tall in front of him.
“The bird was old and the only bird left in this village. I have gone all around this mountain many times to find a replacement bird, but so far I have not found any,” Samson says as if wanting to share the anxiety that was hidden in his heart. For him, losing the bird was the same as losing the tranquility of the Lungau village residents. After hearing Samson’s story, Madlatip takes a handful of salted fish from the sack he was carrying and offered it to Samson.
“This is very suitable for long journeys. It will still be able to be eaten within two to three months.”
“We never run out of food if we can predict when the snowstorm will come. And as long as there is the owl, the snowstorm can always be predicted. Because, before the storm comes, we will gather as much food as possible for our needs during the storm,” Samson replies.
“That is not what I meant. I have information about an area inhabited by many owls. The area is called Jember, an area flanked by two large mountains named Raung and Argopuro. Topographically, the area is almost similar to the village you live in. According to some people I met, there are many mounds created by the eruption of Mount Raung in Jember. Those mounds, similar to young mountains, become the dwelling place of the owls. If you want to find a replacement for the owl that you are worried about, go to Jember and of course, you need the fish I brought,” Madlatip says to Samson.
Samson’s heart is stirred, and joy flows through his veins. Finally, useful information has come for the survival of his people. Without hesitation, Samson buys all the salted fish brought by Madlatip. “Continue walking east until you reach a country filled with sand. People call it the Arab. After passing through the arid country, take a boat towards the east until you find green-colored islands. When you reach the green-colored islands, it means you are close to Jember.” After giving some directions, Madlatip leaves Samson.
Samson conveys the news of the presence of owls in the Jember area to other Samsons in neighboring villages. They all agree to go together towards the east. Some of them also bring their families and grandchildren. It takes a month of horseback riding until the Samsons arrive in a country filled with deserts. And two weeks of sailing until they reach a place similar to Lungau.
A wide valley surrounded by two giant mountains. The area is full with small mountains, and what makes the Samsons amazed was that there are so many owls on top of those small mountains. Some Samsons decide to return to Lungau with the owls. Some decide to stay, building houses for them to live in until years later, their descendants had taken root and settled in Jember. The previous Samsons who had passed away were buried on top of the small mountains as a sign of gratitude and respect. Today, those small mountains are called HILLOCKS.