This story first appeared in National Heritage Board'sbook, titled, 'Attack Of The Swordfish And Other Singapore Tales' by Charlotte Lim (Text) and Alicia Tan Yen Ping (Illustration). This bookconsists of six illustrated tales for early Primary school children that are based on Singapore legends or traditions and can be purchasedhere.
There was once a slave named Badang who lived in a place called Saluang. He hated the sweat and toil of working on his master's lands. "I wish I could be strong! Then the work would not be so hard!" Badang would moan.
There were days too when the hopeful slave longed to be free from bondage. Free to go out fishing. It was the one thing he looked forward to doing whenever he had the chance to slip out of the farm.
Under night's secret veil, while the frogs croaked and the owls gawked, he would lay traps along the sea bed to catch fish. Whenever he could sneak out again, he would return to claim his catch and cook it over a fire.
However, one day, Badang discovered only fish bones in his net. He looked around but no one or nothing was in sight. Hungry and disappointed, he decided to lay a trap to catch the culprit.
After placing a freshly caught fish in the net, Badang hid behind some tall grass and waited patiently. He was about to doze off when a rustling sound startled him. To his horror, a hideous creature with fiery red eyes trudged out of the cold damp woods. It began foaming at the mouth as it greedily approached the net.
The lumbering monster had horns on its dreadful head and tusks that stuck out from its upper jaw. It was taller than any man Badang had ever seen. Its grimy beard reached its waist and was as tangled as its long, unkempt hair.
Badang was about to take off but when he saw the creature wolfing down the fish he had caught, he got very mad! He pounced on it with his parang.
"How dare you steal my fish?" shouted Badang, as he grabbed the monster by its beard and held the parang to its throat.
"I'll kill you for this!"
The monster almost choked on the fish. It fell on its knees, begging Badang for mercy. It wailed, "Please don't kill me, kind sir! I'll repay your kindness by granting you anything you ask for! Please let me go!"
Badang looked the monster in the eye and realised it was telling the truth. Perhaps this was his chance to ask for supernatural strength. Badang said, "I want to be the strongest man on earth! Do it or you will die this instant!"
The monster nodded. "I will make you the strongest man alive but first, you have to do something."
"What do I have to do?" Badang asked.
"You have to eat my vomit," disclosed the monster. "Only then will you gain great strength!"
The thought of having to swallow vomit made Badang sick in the stomach but he desperately wanted the power.
When he had fulfilled his task, the monster asked earnestly, "Now will you let me go?"
Badang was a man of honour, so he set the beast free and warned it never to take what did not belong to it.
Back on the farm, Badang eagerly made use of his newfound strength. The other slaves and his master were amazed. Soon, news about his mighty power spread across the kingdom and neighbouring lands.
It was not long before the King of Singapore, Sri Rama Wira Kerma, heard about Badang and summoned him to his court.
"I hear that you have great strength," said the King when Badang was brought before him.
"Yes, Your Majesty," said Badang, bowing respectfully.
"I have a 45-foot boat which has just been completed. It would take at least one thousand men to push it into the sea. Can you do it on your own?" asked the King.
"I will try, Your Majesty," said Badang. With just one amazing touch of his hand, he pushed the boat into the water as if it were a toy.
The King was delighted. "From this day forth, you shall no longer be a slave," he said, "and you shall be the new commander of my army."
When the ruler of Kalinga in India heard about Badang, he wanted to test his strength.
"I will reward you with seven ships of goods if you can beat my strong man in a series of contests, Badang,” the Ruler said. The strong man from Kalinga, not wanting to admit defeat, challenged Badang to a final duel.
"Let's see who can throw that stone the furthest," he said, pointing to the large smooth rock on the top of a hill.
Badang agreed. The Kalinga strong man huffed and puffed. He could only lift the stone up to his knees. Badang, however, picked it up like it was a rubber seed and flung it so far away that it landed at the mouth of the Singapore River.
Soon, stories of Badang's courage and victories were told in every corner of the land. He became the champion of the people. Everywhere he went, he was greeted by cheers and tributes, especially among slaves.
Legend has it that Badang served the King well until his last day and Singapore enjoyed many years of peace and security.
Text by Charlotte Lim and Illustrations by Alicia Tan Yen Ping.