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The Adventures of Mouse Deer
Favorite Folktales of Southeast Asia


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Copyright © 2005 Aaron Shepard. All rights reserved.


Here is a longer, more detailed version of the intro to my early reader.—Aaron

You know about Brer Rabbit from the southern United States. You may also know about Anansi the Spider from West Africa. These animals are called “tricksters,” because they trick other animals in the stories. There are many trickster animals around the world, and stories told about one are often told about others.

Mouse Deer is the favorite trickster of Indonesia and Malaysia, two countries of Southeast Asia. Indonesia lies on a large group of islands about halfway between Vietnam and Australia. Over 200 million people live there—almost as many as in the United States! Its northern neighbor, Malaysia, lies on a peninsula and an island.

But what is a mouse deer? It is an animal about the size of a cat, and it lives in the jungles of Africa, Asia, and many Pacific islands. It has the legs and tail of a deer and the face and body of a mouse—but it is not really a mouse or a deer. Another name for it is chevrotain. In Indonesia it is called kanchil (“KON-chil”), and in Malaysia pelandok (“puh-LON-do”).

The mouse deer eats only plants, but lots of animals eat the mouse deer. To stay alive, it must be quick and smart. That is why the Indonesians and Malaysians have made Mouse Deer their favorite trickster. Any of their boys or girls can tell you tales about him.

Here are some other sources of tales about Mouse Deer. The first two are well suited to young readers.

Kantchil’s Lime Pit, and Other Stories from Indonesia, by Harold Courlander, Harcourt Brace, New York, 1950.

Indonesian Legends & Folk Tales, by Adèle de Leeuw, Thomas Nelson & Sons, New York, 1961.

Fables & Folk-Tales from an Eastern Forest, by Walter Skeat, Cambridge, 1901.

Salam the Mouse-Deer: Wonder Stories of the Malayan Forest, by A. Hillman and Walter Skeat, Macmillan, London, 1938.

A History of Classical Malay Literature, by Sir Richard Winstedt, Oxford, London, 1969.

Favourite Stories from Indonesia, by Marguerite Siek, Heinemann, Kuala Lumpur, 1972.

Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (later renamed Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society), No. 45, June 1906; No. 46, December 1906; and No. 48, June 1907.

A Mouse Deer Bookshelf