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40 Trees, 1 Arrow

How two brothers outwitted a king and his giant serpent.


Published: 23 Mar 2020

Time taken : >15mins

Some of the most popular stories told in wayang kulit Kelantan are about the adventures of the two loyal brothers, Seri Rama and Laksamana. In this tale, find out how the pair worked together to defeat a giant serpent and outsmart a very cunning king. After that, try out the quiz on wayang kulit Kelantan! Traditionally, many stories told in wayang kulit Kelantan are about the adventures of Seri Rama, which are based on the Hindu epic, the Ramayana.

There once lived a princess by the name of Siti Dewi.

The daughter of Tok Mah Siko and Puteri Mandu Daki, she was admired for her intelligence, grace and beauty. Everyone from princes to ogres wanted to marry her.

Faced with the problem of choosing a suitable suitor for her, Tok Mah Siko came up with a brilliant idea of an archery competition that would test both brains and brawn. The first person who could successfully shoot through 40 tree trunks with one arrow would become Siti Dewi’s husband.

News of the competition spread far and wide. It reached the ears of Sirat Maharaja. Upon hearing the news, he ordered his four sons—Seri Rama, Laksamana, Bardan and Cardan—to set off for Wad Tujuh Kedi Beremas.

Before they departed, he told them that there were two ways to get to their destination. They could either take the long but safe way and reach Siti Dewi’s hometown in 30 days or take a riskier and more dangerous path that would bring them to their destination in just one day.

Without hesitation, the brothers chose the shorter route.

Once they reached their chosen path, the four of them saw what was before them. To their horror, they had to battle a monstrous cricket, a fearsome ogre, and a giant rhinoceros!

The three obstacles proved too much for Bardan and Cardan. The two of them gave up and turned back in defeat. However, Laksamana and Seri Rama stood by each other and fought bravely! After a long battle, they defeated the three beasts.

While Laksamana had no intention to win the archery competition, he was a loyal brother and promised to accompany Seri Rama to Siti Dewi’s hometown. With that, Seri Rama and Laksamana made their way to Wad Tujuh Kedi Beremas.

When they arrived, they saw the place filled with suitors from all over the land. Nobody had succeeded in winning the archery competition so far.

Seri Rama and Laksamana pushed their way through the crowd and requested for an audience with Tok Mah Siko.

“Your highness, I am Seri Rama, and this is my brother, Laksamana. I am here to enter the archery competition.”

Tok Mah Siko looked at Seri Rama from head to toe and gave a loud laugh.

“What? You? You are too scrawny. Your arms are like twigs. You wouldn’t even be able to lift the arrow, much less shoot through 40 tree trunks at one go!"

Seri Rama felt discouraged but Laksamana was angry at the king for doubting his brother. He took his brother aside and said to him, “After facing the obstacles in the forest, this competition is a breeze. Don’t give up, brother. You can do this.” 

Feeling encouraged, Seri Rama picked up the bow. It was heavy, but he gathered all his strength, picked up the bow, pulled the arrow and let it fly through the air!

Whoosh! The arrow pierced through one…two…three…all the way through to the seventh trunk. And it stopped. He had failed!

He tried again and again but failed every single time. Seri Rama felt disappointed. He wanted to give up.

Laksamana, ever the observant one, whispered in his brother's ear, “Brother, something isn't right. Let me go find out what trickery Tok Mah Siko is up to.”

Upon further investigation, Laksamana discovered that Tok Mah Siko had planted the palm trees on the back of a serpent. Each time someone releases an arrow, the serpent would slither its body ever so slightly so that no arrow would be able to go through all 40 tree trunks in a straight line. 

Laksamana returned to his brother and told him what he had discovered. He shared with his brother his plan to outwit Tok Mah Siko. Laksamana would straighten the beast’s body by pulling at its tail and then raise his hands three times to signal to his brother. Upon seeing the signal, Seri Rama should release his arrow. Seri Rama agreed to his brother’s plan.

Laksamana rushed to the tail of the serpent. With all his might, he pulled the serpent's tail and raised his hands three times. And with that, Seri Rama let his arrow loose! 

Whoosh! The arrow pierced through every single tree trunk! All 40 of them! The crowd cheered!

Tok Mah Siko was flabbergasted. He did not think anyone would win the competition. He could not go back on his word and had to fulfil his promise to marry off his daughter to the victor.

And that was how Seri Rama and Laksamana stood by each other and worked together to outsmart Tok Mah Siko and defeat the serpent. That day was the beginning of the many thrilling adventures the pair continued to have, facing countless obstacles bravely as brothers.

Now that you know one of the many stories told in wayang kulit Kelantan, find out more about this shadowy art form with a quiz!