The Beautiful Princess — Storytelling for Bullying Prevention

August 16, 2011 at 4:52 pm 2 comments

Over 13,000 small islands in southeast Asia comprise the 4th largest country in the world –  Indonesia. If you travel to a place called Senuro Village on one of those islands, you may find the grave of Princess Senuro. This is her story.

Long, long ago a young woman of great kindness– Princess Pinang Masak – lived on the island of Sumatera. She was also beautiful, so beautiful that people throughout the island talked of her radiant face, exquisite eyes, enchanting hair, and delicate hands. She was unique among all the women of Sumatera but the people spoke not of her kindness, only her great beauty.  Everyone throughout the island heard of the beautiful Princess Pinang Masak. Many young men arrived at her door, asking her to be their bride. She had, so far, said no to them all.

Sumatera was ruled by a powerful man known as the Sultan of Sumatera. When word came to his palace that there was a princess  more gorgeous than any other on the far side of the island, the sultan decided, “She shall be my wife! Soldiers, bring the princess to me at once!”

Fortunately, word reached the princess that the sultan was sending soldiers. “No,” she cried. “No. I’ll not be forced to be the wife of one blinded by beauty. I’ll not be loved for that.” Princess Pinang Masak thought of how she could escape the soldiers … and she came up with a plan.
The princess collected dark, purple blooms from the banana tree and boiled them in a vat of water. As the water boiled it turned a deep maroon color. When the water cooled, the princess bathed in the dark liquid. She poured the water over her arms and neck, her shoulders and legs. She scrubbed her skin until it hurt. She held her breath and pushed her face beneath the water. She scoured her cheeks until they were raw. The princess did not stop until her skin looked streaked and dirty. Then she found dried grass and sticks and bugs and tangled her hair with them. After that she put on the filthy, ragged clothes of the village beggar. Her beauty had been ruined.

The princess waited for the sultan’s soldiers to arrive. When they marched into the village they did not find a beautiful princess. Everywhere they asked, “Where is Princess Pinang Masak? By order of the sultan, tell us where we can find the princess!”
The villagers all pointed to the hideous-looking princess. She smiled at the soldiers. Even her teeth had turned purple and red from the dye and the soldiers turned away in disgust. “There must be some mistake,” they cried. “The sultan will never marry her.” But they did not dare to disobey the sultan and so they forced the princess to his palace.

The Sultan of Sumatera stood at the palace gates in his finest robes and waited for his new bride to arrive. He saw the dust of the soldier’s horses far off in the distance and commanded his servants, “Prepare the wedding table! Set out the finest plates. Order the cooks to spare no expense in preparing our kingdom’s most magnificent delicacies. Hurry! My beautiful bride arrives!”
But when the soldiers stopped before the sultan, his look of anticipation turned quickly to revulsion. “Who is this disgusting creature? Where is the beautiful Princess Pinang Masak?”
The princess bowed before the sultan, then smiled her purple-toothed smile. “It is me, sir. I have come to be your wife.” She smiled again.
(sultan) “Take her out of my sight! Her ugliness sickens me.”
So the princess was sent back to her own village. In time, the dye that had streaked her skin faded; she combed her hair and put on her best clothing. Her beauty returned. And her loveliness was once again talked about throughout the island of Sumatera.

The sultan heard his servants talking, “Have you seen her? Have you seen the Princess Pinang Masak? They say there has never been a woman more beautiful.”
(sultan) “Something is not right. I saw the princess. She was ugly. How is it that I keep hearing of her beauty?”
The sultan sent a spy to discover the truth. The spy traveled to the princess’ village. One day he saw the most gorgeous young woman he had ever seen.
“Who is that?” he asked the beggar in the street. “She is unbelievably beautiful.”
“Oh, that is Princess Pinang Masak.”
The spy hurried back to inform the sultan. “You have been tricked. There is none more beautiful than the princess.”
“Bring her to me now!” The sultan sent an army of soldiers to arrest the princess.

Fortunately, the princess learned that the soldiers were coming back. She knew she could not fool the sultan again. She went down to the water and found a boat. Struggling to row against the crashing waves, the princess escaped into the night. For hours she rowed without resting. By dawn she had traveled to a small island far away from Sumatera. She entered a cove hidden behind tall trees. The branches of the trees hung so low they formed a curtain. It was there the princess hid.
She did not struggle to find food in her new home. There was fresh water, fruit in the trees, and fish to catch. She built a shelter from the trees. The princess used the branches to weave baskets and she fashioned utensils from the rocks along the shore. The villagers who had been watching from afar admired the resourceful princess, came out of their hiding places, and befriended her. When they heard the princess’ story, the villagers promised to keep her secret. They called her Princess Senuro.
Princess Senuro worked hard alongside the people of her new village. In time the villagers spoke not of her beauty, but her great kindness. And no one from Sumatera ever learned where she had gone.

(Adapted from: Princess Pinang Masak, found in Five Minute Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald and Princess Pinang Masak, found in Indonesian Folktales by Murti Bunanta.)


Entry filed under: Bullying Prevention, Teaching Artist. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Karen  |  August 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Another great job Sue! Thank you for sharing it with us.


  • 2. Roberta J. Smith  |  March 7, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you, Sue, this is my first time visiting all your sites. I’m writing a research paper on bullying and its prevention. I’d like to use some of your resources and and of course give you credit for all that I use. I discovered Dan Olweus as well. It seems you are making quite an impact in the schools you visit and this is very exciting. Thank you so much for all you are doing! Your story above was very poignant (sp?) indeed. Bullying is a worldwide problem as I have also discovered. Again, thank you.



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