Folklore of North Sumatra: A Tale of the Origin of Lake Toba

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In ancient times there was a farmer named Toba who lived alone in a gentle and fertile valley in the northern part of Sumatra Island. The farmer works the fields and fields for his living needs. Apart from working on his farm, sometimes the man went fishing to the river not far from his house. Every time he went fishing, it was easy for him to catch fish because in the clear river there were lots of fish. The fish he caught was cooked to eat.

One afternoon, after returning from the field, the man went straight to the river to fish. But it had been a long time since he had been fishing that he had not caught a fish. Gosh, what a bad day for me, he thought. This strange incident he had never experienced before. Because he usually catches fish in the river easily. Because it had been too long for any fish to eat the bait, he became annoyed and decided to just stop fishing.

But when he was about to pull the fishing line, suddenly the fishing line was grabbed by a fish which immediately pulled the fishing line far into the middle of the river. His heart that had been irritated turned to joy, because he knew that the fish that had grabbed his fishing rod was a big fish. Boy, I’m going to have a good meal tonight, he muttered. After a while he let the fishing rod be pulled back and forth, he pulled the fishing rod slowly.

When he jerked the fishing line, he saw a large fish hanging and bobbing on the end of the fishing line. He quickly pulled the fish ashore so that it would not escape. Smiling happily, his fishing rod eye escaped from the fish’s mouth. He shouted with joy because tonight he was going to have a delicious meal with the grilled fish from his fishing rod.

At the moment he was releasing the fishing rod, the fish looked at him meaningfully. Then, after he had put the fish in one place, he began to enter the river to bathe. His feelings were very happy because he had never caught such a big fish. He smiled as he imagined how good the fish meat would be when it was grilled.

Toba Marries Princess Fish

He immediately left the river to return home because it was already dusk. He rushed home with the fish he caught. Arriving home, the man immediately brought the large fish he caught into the kitchen. When he was about to light a fire to roast the fish, it turned out that the firewood in his kitchen had run out. He immediately went out to get firewood from under his house.

Then, carrying a few pieces of firewood he climbed back up the house and headed straight for the kitchen. When the man arrived at the kitchen, he was very surprised because the big fish was not there anymore. However, in the place where the fish had been placed, several gold coins were seen. Surprised and surprised by the strange situation, he left the kitchen and entered the room.

When the man opened the door to the room, suddenly his blood was splattered because in the room stood a woman with long hair hanging down. The woman is combing her hair while standing facing the mirror hanging on the wall of the room. A moment later the woman suddenly turned around and looked at the man who stood confused at the mouth of the room door. The man became very enchanted because the face of the woman standing in front of him was extraordinarily beautiful. He had never seen such a beautiful woman even though in the past he had traveled far and wide to various countries.

Because it was already night, the woman asked that the lights be turned on. After the man turned on the light, he invited the woman to accompany him to the kitchen because he wanted to cook rice for them. While waiting for the rice to cook, the woman told her that she was an incarnation of the big fish that the man had gotten while fishing in the river. Then it was explained that some of the gold coins located in the kitchen were incarnations of its scales.

After a few weeks the beautiful woman lived with him, one day the man proposed to her to be his wife. The woman stated that she was willing to accept his proposal on the condition that the man had to swear that in his entire life he would never bring up the origin of his wife who had become from a fish. After the man swore this, they married them happily.

After years later, they were blessed with a son who they named Samosir. The child was spoiled by the mother which resulted in the child having a bad character and being lazy. When he was old enough, his mother told him to deliver rice every day for his father who worked in the fields. However, he often refused to do the task so that his mother forced him to deliver the rice to the fields.

Toba broke his promise

One day, the boy was asked by his mother again to deliver rice to the fields for his father. At first he refused. However, because his mother continued to force him, he went annoyed to deliver the rice. On the way, he ate most of the rice and side dishes. When he arrived at the field, he gave the remaining rice which was only a little left to his father. When he received it, the father was very hungry because the rice arrived so late for delivery.

Therefore, the father became very angry when he saw that the rice that was given to him was leftovers. His anger grew even more when his son admitted that he ate most of the rice. The father’s patience was lost and he beat his son, saying: “A child who cannot be taught. Don’t know how lucky. You really are a daughter of a fish!”

While crying, the boy walked home to meet his mother at home. He told his mother that he was beaten by his father. All the words his father had spoken to him he shared too. Hearing her son’s story, the mother was very sad, especially because her husband had broken her oath with the words she had spoken to her son.

The mother told her child to immediately go up the hill which is located not so far from their house and climb the highest tree that is on the top of the hill. Without asking any more, the child immediately carried out his mother’s orders. He ran to the hill and climbed it. When the mother saw that her child had almost reached the top of the wooden tree she had climbed on the hill, she ran towards the river which was not too far from their house.

When he arrived at the riverbank there was a flash of lightning accompanied by a thunderous sound. A moment later he jumped into the river and suddenly turned into a big fish. At the same time, the river was flooded and rained very heavily. Some time later, the river water had overflowed everywhere and the valley where the river flowed was inundated.

Pak Toba could not save himself, he was drowned by a pool of water. Over time, the puddle grew wider and turned into a very large lake which was later called the people of Lake Toba. The small island in the middle is called Samosir Island.

The mandate of the folklore of the origin of Lake Toba is that when we promise, we must fulfill it. In addition, parents in educating children should not spoil them and must not curse children with dirty words. Hopefully inspired and see you in the next Indonesian folklore article.


Rahimsyah, MB. 2007. Complete collection of archipelago folklore from 33 provinces. Bintang Usaha Jaya, Surabaya.


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