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Sang Kancil and the Abandoned Well

A story of how the cunning mousedeer found himself in a tight spot


Published: 3 Jun 2022

Time taken : >15mins

Perhaps the most legendary trickster of all time, Sang Kancil the mousedeer, is known for his cunning wit, intelligence and quick thinking. Stories of Sang Kancil have been shared with many children in Malaysia, Singapore as well as Indonesia. This story is just one of the many predicaments the mousedeer has found himself in. Is the mousedeer clever or dishonest? You decide!

Growl! Sang Kancil’s stomach rumbled as he continued searching for food in the jungle where he lived. There was a lot of food to eat but the picky mousedeer only wanted the best. He looked around for the sweetest shoots and new leaves, scoffing at whatever he found. Nothing was good enough for him.

As Sang Kancil was sniffing around, a troop of monkeys swinging and sitting up atop in the trees saw Sang Kancil. The mischievous monkeys saw an opportunity to play a trick on Sang Kancil, something which they never tire of. 

“Kanciiiiiiil....Oh, Sang Kancil! Over here, Sang Kancil! What are you looking for?” one of them hollered.

“Ugh! Don’t bother me. I am looking for food. I doubt you monkeys know much and can help me. Be gone!" the mousedeer snapped.

"Oh, Sang Kancil, we know that you are the smartest creature in all of the jungle. We may not be as clever as you, but we know these jungles well. You've been here for hours. What have you got to lose?” another monkey replied. 

Hesitant at first, Sang Kancil finally relented, “Fine, if you must know, I am looking for delicious shoots and young leaves for breakfast. There’s none here on the ground.”

“That’s because you are looking in the wrong place! They can only be found high up in the tree. In OUR tree. Come up here, Sang Kancil!” 

“Yes, clever one. Climb up here!” another monkey screeched.

“Climb! Climb! Climb!” the monkeys chanted. 

“Use your legs, Sang Kancil! Push!”

“Let’s see how smart you are!”

“Climb! Climb! Climb!”

It was then that Sang Kancil realised that the monkeys were playing a trick on him. After all, how can a mousedeer climb a tree? And the monkeys knew it. The monkeys continued taunting him!

“Climb! Climb! Climb! Climb!” 

Red-faced, Sang Kancil scampered away as fast as he could, muttering to himself. Even in the distance, he could hear their taunts. In his rage, the mousedeer did not see where he was going until it was too late. Just ahead of him was an abandoned well that was out of sight and surrounded by tall grass.

Before he knew it, his hind hit the bottom of the well with a thud.

He had fallen into the abandoned well, cold and alone, and there was no way out!  

Then an idea struck him! He started singing out loud, hoping to get another creature’s attention.  

And attention was what he got. Over the edge of the well, Sang Kancil heard a deep guttural growl. He knew immediately who it was. It was Sang Harimau the tiger. 

Sang Harimau peered down into the well. Ah…he could recognise that scent anywhere. His growl turned into a sneer. This was the moment he had been waiting for—his arch enemy was trapped! He could finally make a meal out of the crafty mousedeer. 

“Well, well, well! Someone is in a good mood. Enjoy it while it lasts. Sing away, Sang Kancil, ”Sang Harimau scoffed while looking at his enemy.

Sang Kancil knew what the tiger meant. He had to think fast before he becomes Sang Harimau’s breakfast, lunch and dinner! He looked left and right, and all around, and finally up towards the sky. A smile spread on his face.

A warning...?

“Of course, I am happy Sang Harimau. I am glad I have found a hiding place to protect myself."

“Protect? Save your breath Sang Kancil. I am not falling for another one of your tricks again.”

“That suits me just fine, Sang Harimau. But don’t tell me I did not warn you. You better find yourself a good hiding spot to protect yourself, and you better do it quick! The sky is about to fall on our heads soon.” With that, Sang Kancil continued singing. 

The tiger laughed because it was such a ridiculous idea! Why would the sky fall on them? It had never happened before. The little trickster must be up to one of his ploys again. 

But just then, lightning flashed across the darkening sky, and a thunderous boom jolted Sang Harimau from his thoughts. The ground he was standing on shook beneath him.

Maybe, this little trickster is telling the truth, Sang Harimau thought to himself. The seed of doubt had already been planted inside his head.

A tight squeeze

The mousedeer smiled to himself because he could see the look of uncertainty on Sang Harimau’s face. Sang Kancil continued singing again. At that very moment, another bolt of thunder and lightning cracked across the sky. The tiger started to pace up and down. After what seemed like an eternity, the tiger spoke up, his voice trembling, “Sang Kancil, please... I beg you. Let me join you in the well. Please let me take shelter in the well with you.” Without waiting for Sang Kancil to give him permission to share the well, Sang Harimau jumped into the well and cowered in the corner. 

The mousedeer smiled and continued singing, even louder this time. 

This attracted Sang Gajah’s attention. Kancil was overjoyed to see his friend the elephant but he kept calm and continued singing.

Curious, Sang Gajah asked Sang Kancil and Sang Harimau what they were doing inside the well. 

Again, Sang Kancil told Sang Gajah the same story he had told the tiger. As luck would have it, the moment Sang Kancil finished telling Sang Gajah the story, a flash of lightning tore through the sky and the thunder crackled, shocking Sang Gajah. Gigantic as he was, the elephant was still afraid of the sky falling on him. He pleaded with Sang Harimau and Sang Kancil to let him in. The mousedeer allowed him to jump into the well with them. Without wasting a second, the elephant threw himself into the abandoned well.

The well was getting tighter with the three of them, but the mousedeer continued singing.

His singing attracted even more animals. Again, with every new animal that he attracted, he told them the same story. Every single time, the sound of the thunder grew even louder and lightning flashed even brighter. The sky became even more ominous, turning the morning sky dark. This sent more animals into a panic, and they all begged to be let into the well.

It was a tight squeeze and everyone was so uncomfortable except for the Mousedeer. He was so tiny that he was able to squeeze through the small spaces and still breathe. But, that was not his plan!

His plan was to get out of the well and get as far away from Sang Harimau as possible. He continued singing at the top of his lungs. This angered the elephant and he told the mousedeer to stop singing and attracting even more animals to the well—it could not fit anymore animals.

Not wanting to anger his friend the elephant any further, the mousedeer assured him he would stop. However, while the mousedeer stopped singing, he had to think of another way to get himself out.

He slipped between the animals and started tickling the tiger.

The tiger squirmed around in the space made it even tighter for everyone. Sang Kancil continued tickling him making the tiger squirm even more. Unable to take it anymore, Sang Harimau roared at the mousedeer and told him to stop. The other animals in the well echoed in agreement with the tiger. 

"I am just trying to lighten the mood, Sang Harimau. It is all doom and gloom in this well!" 

Not one to give up on his plans, he then went to the elephant and started tickling the elephant. In between his squirms and bouts of laughter, the elephant begged him to stop.

"Kancil! Please...! It tickles! Stop! If you don't stop...I will throw you out of the well and leave you unprotected. The sky will fall on you! Stop! Please..." begged Sang Gajah, tears of laughter streaming down his face.

This was it! This was his way out. The mousedeer continued tickling the elephant despite Sang Gajah's warning.

Planning an escape

Sang Gajah trumpeted in anger and wrapped his trunk around the mousedeer.

"Sang Gajah, my friend! Don't throw me out of the well! Can't you hear the sky? It is getting louder and will fall on my head!" Sang Kancil cried out loud.

"I warned you Sang Kancil but you did not heed my warning! Now, go and find yourself another hiding place!"

 And with all his might, the elephant lifted the tiny mousedeer high up and hurled the trickster out of the well, as far as he could.

The mousedeer landed a distance away from the well. Yes! He had accomplished his mission. He was out of the well, and most importantly, he was away from the clutches of the tiger! 

With a spring in his step, the mousedeer skipped back to the well, humming and singing.

When he reached the edge of the well, he peered down into it and gave a laugh as he saw the animals wriggling and fidgeting uncomfortably in the well.

"Enjoy your time in the well, everyone! Sang Harimau, you thought you had me, didn't you? But, I outsmarted you, time and time again. You never seem to learn your lesson. By the way, the sky is not about to fall on anyone. It is just a heavy thunderstorm that's about to fall!" Sang Kancil cackled. 

A crash of thunder exploded one more time and big heavy raindrops started falling onto the heads of the animals in the well. It was then that all the animals knew that they have been tricked by the mousedeer. 

Sang Harimau was fuming! He should have known better than to trust the words of his arch enemy. He vowed to get his revenge one day!

How will the other animals get out of the well? Will Sang Harimau ever get his revenge? Create your own stories of Sang Kancil and re-enact it using our activity sheet below.

Illustrations by: Li Chun


Like the story? You can also watch a new rendition of another tale about the cunning Sang Kancil, combining dance, drama and participatory theatre in Ceria! Sang Kanchil dan Buaya (performed in Malay). Available online till 12 June 2022.