Friday, 17 October 2014

The Barong and Kris Dance - Elizabeth Kay

It’s easy to forget how storytelling in our own culture tends to obey particular sets of rules, which we take for granted. There’s usually a cause and effect story arc, and on the whole good triumphs over evil. Characters are explained for the benefit of those in the audience/readership who may not have the same background, and you’re left with a sense of completion, which is the culmination of a plot with a beginning, a middle and a conventional ending. That’s not the way it is everywhere, though!
            I’ve recently returned from a holiday in Indonesia, part of which was spent on Bali. We were told we were going to see some traditional dancing, but this turned out to be a sort of play with an authentic gamelan band.
Sadly, the Balinese youth of today are more interested in rock music, and it’s reckoned that this event will die out in five years as the performers become too elderly to continue. I reproduce below the handout sheet exactly as it was given out. I asked the guide to explain the plot, but he said that good versus evil simply carries on from one generation to the next, and there is never a winner. I had to look up a lot of the characters once I got home. Make of the plot what you will…


The Barong play represents the eternal fight between good and evil spirit. Barong (a mythological animal) represents a good spirit and Rangda (a mythological monster) represents an evil one.

Followed by his friend the monkey, the tiger comes up. Three masked dancers appear, representing men making palm wine in the forest, whose child is killed by the Barong. The three men get angry and attack the Barong which is helped by the monkey. During the fight the nose of one of the men is bitten off.

Two girl dancers appear, representing the servants of the Rangda, looking for the servants of Dewi Kunti who are on their way to meet their Patih (Prime Minister).


The servants of Dewi Kunti come. One of the servants of the Rangda changes into a witch enters both servants to make them angry. They meet their Patih and go together to Dewi Kunti.

Dewi Kunti and her son, Sadewa, come up. Dewi Kunti has promised the Rangda to sacrifice Sadewa. A witch appears and enters Dewi Kunti. She becomes angry and orders the Patih to bring Sadewa into the forest. The Patih is also entered by a witch so he does not have pity on Sadewa. Sadewa is then taken into a forest and tied up on a tree.

Unknown by Rangda, Siwa, God appears and gives Sadewa immortality. The Rangda appears, ready to kill Sadewa and eats him up but Sadewa is still alive. She then surrenders and asks him to redeem herself. Sadewa agrees and kills the Rangda. The Rangda goes into Heaven.

                        FIFTH ACT
One of the servants of the Rangda called Kalika comes up before Saedwa and asks him to redeem herself too. Sadewa repuses. Kalika gets angry, and change herself into a boar and fights Sadewa. The boar can be defeated. She then changes herself into a bird but defeated again. At last she changes herself into a Rangda, Sadewa cannot kill her. In such circumstances Sadewa ditates and then he changes himself into a Barong. Still the Rangda seem too powerful and the fight is unended. Followers of the Barong appear and help him fight the Rangda.

The Wikipedia entry may help… 

The other part of the holiday (honeymoon, actually!) was Komodo dragons and snorkeling...

Spot the cuttlefish...  master of disguise...(It's amazing what a prescription face mask can do - I can see underwater!)


Chris Longmuir said...

Lot of anger in that play!

Lydia Bennet said...

cuttlefish are totes adorbs! love snorkelling. glad you had such amazing experiences. a honeymoon to remember! and material for books too.

Reb MacRath said...

Fine post. I'll take my next honeymoon, if one is in the cards, with no komodo dragon, though. Frightening-looking creatures!

Bob Newman said...

I was totally baffled by the Balinese plot. "A beginning, a middle and end - but not necessarily in that order", as someone said.

JO said...

Do hope the Balinese plot survives, even if only in tourist form! I remember being comparably baffled by a play in India. It's wonderful to remind ourselves that there are so many different ways of telling stories

madwippitt said...

Cor! Prescription masks! I suppose it's obvious, but it never occurred to me. What a good idea :-)