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Too-too-moo and the Giant
A Tale of Indonesia

Told by Aaron Shepard


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Copyright © 1997, 1999, 2011 by Aaron Shepard. May not be published or posted without permission.

PREVIEW: A village girl must feed a giant every day, or he’ll eat her instead.

GENRE: Folktales
CULTURE: Indonesian, Javanese
THEME: Courage, heroines
 
AGES: 5–9
LENGTH: 1000 words

Once on the island of Java there was a little girl named Too-too-moo. She lived with her Mama in a one-room house in a forest. They were poor but they were happy.

Or they would have been happy, if not for a terrible giant who came every day.

Each morning, when Too-too-moo woke up, she fastened her hair in a knot with her long hairpin. Then she hurried into the woods to help Mama gather firewood and herbs to sell at the village market.

When that was done, Mama cooked a small pot of plain rice and shared it with Too-too-moo for breakfast. She also cooked a huge pot of sweet porridge. She made it from tasty rice flour, fragrant coconut milk, and lots of sugar.

But not even the tiniest bit of the porridge was for Too-too-moo and her Mama. It was all for the giant. Mama knew, if the giant came and did not find a full pot of porridge, he would eat Too-too-moo instead!

Then Mama left for the market, while Too-too-moo did the housework. She shook out their sleeping mat, swept the floor, and washed their few dishes. Then she went outside to play.

Soon she heard the giant’s terrible footsteps.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Too-too-moo ran into the house, picked up the covered pot of porridge, placed it outside on the doorstep, and shut and locked the door. Then she crouched and trembled in a corner.

The giant stamped up to the house. With one huge finger, he knocked on the door—Tock, tock, tock. Then he called,

“Too-too-moo!
Where are you?

And Too-too-moo answered, “In the house.”

“And where is your Mama?

“At the market.”

“And where is my PORRIDGE?”

“In the pot!”

The giant took off the cover, picked up the pot, and swallowed the porridge in one big gulp. Then he threw down the pot and stamped back through the forest.

This happened every day.

When Mama returned in the evening, she brought food that she had bought with the money earned at the market. But since they had to feed the giant, there was never enough for themselves.

One day, Mama did not sell as much as usual. When she came home, she had only enough food for the giant. She and Too-too-moo had to go hungry.

The next day was the same. And so was the day after that.

Too-too-moo and her Mama were starving.

On the fourth morning, Too-too-moo got up, fastened her hair with her long hairpin, and helped Mama gather firewood and herbs. Then Mama cooked the porridge for the giant and left for the market.

The sweet smell of the porridge filled the little house. Too-too-moo was so hungry, she couldn’t stand it.

“I’ll eat just one spoonful,” she said to herself. “The giant will never know.”

Too-too-moo uncovered the pot and ate one spoonful. But she was too hungry to stop! Before she knew what she was doing, a quarter of the porridge was gone.

Then she heard the giant’s terrible footsteps.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Too-too-moo quickly covered the pot, placed it outside on the doorstep, and shut and locked the door. Then she crouched and trembled in a corner.

The giant stamped up to the house. With one huge finger, he knocked on the door—Tock, tock, tock. Then he called,

“Too-too-moo!
Where are you?

And Too-too-moo answered, “In the house.”

“And where is your Mama?

“At the market.”

“And where is my PORRIDGE?”

“In the pot!”

The giant took off the cover, picked up the pot, stopped, and looked.

“This pot is not full!” bellowed the giant. He threw it down and called again,

“Too-too-moo!
Where are YOU?”

Too-too-moo did not answer.

With one blow of his fist, the giant knocked down the door. He reached in his long arm and felt all around till he found Too-too-moo. Then he pulled her from the house, tossed her in his mouth, and swallowed her in one big gulp.

Too-too-moo tumbled into the giant’s stomach. “Please let me out!” she shouted.

But the giant didn’t listen as he turned and stamped back through the forest.

Too-too-moo cried and shook with fear. Then all of a sudden, she remembered her long hairpin.

Quickly she pulled it from her hair. With both hands and all her strength, Too-too-moo stuck it into the giant.

“YOW!” howled the giant.

Too-too-moo stuck him again.

“OUCH! YOW!” The giant danced about, but there was nothing he could do. “TOO-TOO-MOO, STOP!”

But Too-too-moo did not stop. She stuck the giant again and again.

The bellowing giant raced through the woods. Mad with pain, he did not look where he was going. He tripped on a root and cracked his head on a rock.

The giant was dead!

But Too-too-moo was still trapped inside.

At that moment, Mama was on her way home. She had been lucky that day, and had quickly sold all she had carried to market. So she had bought rice and fish and vegetables, and even roasted peanuts as a special treat for Too-too-moo.

But when she reached the house, she saw the porridge thrown down and the door knocked in. She called,

“Too-too-moo!
Where are you?

There was no answer.

Mama grabbed a big cooking knife and ran along the trail of the giant’s footsteps, calling,

“Too-too-moo!
Where are YOU?”

Still no answer.

Then she came to where the giant lay dead. But her daughter was nowhere to be seen, so she called one last time,

“TOO-TOO-MOO!
WHERE ARE YOU?”

And Too-too-moo answered, “IN THE GIANT!”

With both hands and all her strength, Mama slit open the giant’s side.

And out climbed—

Too-too-moo!

From that time on, Too-too-moo and her Mama were happy. There was no more giant to bother them. They always had enough to eat. And they had sweet porridge for breakfast, every single day.


About the Story

This tale comes from Java, the main island of the country of Indonesia. Indonesia itself lies entirely on islands, stretching across the Pacific Ocean between southeast Asia and Australia. Over 200 million people live there, and each major island has its own distinctive culture.

The culture of Java is an eclectic one, and this story echoes motifs from many lands. Japan has the tale of “The Inch Boy,” a Tom Thumb character who jumps into an ogre’s stomach and defeats him with his sewing-needle sword. Africa has many stories of mothers who rescue children from the belly of an elephant or giant caterpillar. In Western culture, Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are cut out of the stomach of the wolf. “Too-too-moo” blends these elements with a distinctive Javanese flavor.

To my knowledge, this is the first time the tale has been published outside of Asia. It is here retold chiefly from “Tu-tu-mu and the Giant,” in Favourite Stories from Indonesia, by Marguerite Siek, Heinemann Educational Books, Kuala Lumpur, 1972.