Kancil Folktales

FINAL Si Kancil Title Pic

The ‘kancil’ folktales are the most popular of traditional Indonesian folklore. The stories have been around for hundreds of years, told orally from one generation to the next.

The folktales are based around the adventures of Si Kancil, a clever kancil – or mouse deer {a very small deer found in Asia and Africa}. Inspite of his small size, Si Kancil uses his brains to outwit all of the bigger and stronger animals of the jungle. He always seems to be in trouble, but – from outwitting crocodiles to tricking tigers – he always finds a way to escape and win the day!

When I was teaching, I would always find a way of integrating Si Kancil folktales into my Indonesian Language curriculum, whether it was a focus on Indonesian animals or perhaps a cultural workshop on an Indonesian Cultural Day. For whatever reason, I would find a way of introducing my students to the adventures of Si Kancil because I LOVE them and because I KNOW students love them too! So, today, I thought I’d share with you some ideas and resources to integrate Si Kancil into your Indonesian Language Program.

In the past, I have shared many Kancil tales with my students, story telling is a favourite activity of mine and I know that Primary school students particularly love being drawn into a good story. My students have also been heavily involved in re-dramatising the Kancil folktales, taking on different roles and using appropriate props, they re-tell the story in a step-by-step re-enactment or drama role-play. And probably the most popular of all activities would be creating shadow puppets of the various characters {animals} in the Kancil folktales so that students can create their own Si Kancil shadow puppet story/play. For young primary students, I would suggest using the animal templates that I am sharing with you today {Yes, there are PDF freebies for you today!}, however for older students, I would generally ask them to design and create their own animal shadow puppet designs. And if they are struggling {I know some students are not the artistic type! We all can’t be!} then they can always use these templates as a guide.

Although there are many, many different folktales based on the adventures of Si Kancil, for today, I have chosen the story; ‘Mouse Deer Becomes King’. It is one of my fav stories so let’s get into it!


Mouse Deer was running through the forest. It had rained the day before, and the air was clear and bright, the forest so fresh and green that Mouse Deer ran and ran – not for anything or from anything – but just for the running.

Finally he stopped, and to his great astonishment, found himself in a part of the forest unknown to him – in fact, it was not even forest – he had actually run past the edge of the forest and had stopped at this strange place, far, far from home. But what a pleasant place it was! As Mouse Deer waited for his runaway breath to come back, he looked about him. He was surrounded by tall green grass, waving gently as a soft breeze blew through it; and the sun shone through it too, turning it yellow-green and further away, pure gold. Then Mouse Deer realised that it was not grass at all – it was ‘paddy’ and he was in a rice paddy field, and all at once he had found his bearings. He looked to the east, where he could see two hills, and beyond the hills was the deep forest.

Mouse Deer started off for home. But as he began to climb the first hill, he heard a sound that he had never heard in the forest before. He stopped for a moment to listen, to try and work out what it could be. The wind? … No. An animal? … Mouse Deer was familiar with every animal sound, but this was alien to him. He cocked his ears and listened carefully. Why, it was the sound of crying! And not one creature crying, but many! Whatever could it be?

Mouse Deer climbed further, and the sobbing grew louder. Then, from the top of the hill, Mouse Deer looked down upon the most amazing sight – a whole herd of goats sobbing their hearts out! Mouse Deer did not know what to do. Small animal though he was, he could pit his wits against the strength of any animal in the forest. But a crying herd of goats! This was a different situation, indeed, and one that did not call for cunning. These creatures were in trouble and obviously needed help!

Without a moment’s hesitation Mouse Deer descended the hill and approached a large goat who was obviously the leader of the herd.

“Excuse me, Sir,” said Mouse Deer, “but as I was coming up your hill, I heard you crying, and my own heart became sad at the sound. Can you tell me what the matter is, so that I can perhaps help you in your trouble?”

The Chief of Goats wiped away a tear that had just fallen on his already wet beard, and began to speak: “Oh, Mouse Deer,” he bleated, “A terrible thing has befallen us! Every morning for several days now three or four of our kids have disappeared. If this continues, our herd will diminish and there will be none of our family left in the forest. We do not even know who our enemy is and we are helpless.” The Chief of Goats sobbed, and his whole herd, who had been silent as long as he had been talking to Mouse Deer, started to cry again.

Mouse Deer felt genuinely moved by Goat’s sad tale. “Wait!” he said. “I shall be back in a moment, before you can even dry your tears!” and he scurried away.

He ran until he came to the second hill, which he swiftly climbed. From the top he looked down upon what he had half-expected and half-feared to see – a herd of tigers! What he had not counted on was the number of them – there were hundreds, and their large bodies close together formed an enormous carpet of yellow and black stripes. It made Mouse Deer feel dizzy. His small body stiffened, but, as always, only for a moment. He had made up his mind, and fear was not to enter into his decision.

Even more quickly than he had come, he retraced his steps, and returned to the Goats.

“Sir,” announced Mouse Deer, addressing the Chief of Goats. “I have found what I set out to discover. It is the Tigers who are stealing your young ones.”

The effect Mouse Deer’s statement had on the Goats was startling indeed. Some of the nanny goats fainted, and a few of the herd tried to run away. But the Chief of Goats now showed surprising control of himself. Holding his head high and throwing back his horns, he calmed down his restless herd, and asked their attention.

“We have been in a situation that we have found to be hopeless. We have been desperate – and now Mouse Deer has come to us, and promised to help us. Give him your full attention!”

The Goats gathered closer to each other and to their Chief, to listen to what Mouse Deer would have to say. Perhaps they wondered how the little animal before them could ever help them against a herd of vicious tigers, but since their Chief seemed to have full confidence in Mouse Deer they followed suit.

Mouse Deer drew himself up to his full height. He began his speech to the Goats.

“My friends,” he addressed them, “Have faith in me, and we will solve this problem. If the Tigers continue to be so cruel as to steal your kids, you will want revenge, and there will always be hatred between you. I will make it possible for the Tigers and the goats to live together in the forest in peace. But you must follow my instructions carefully. These are my orders. At five o’clock tomorrow morning all of you must eat those red berries you see growing over there” – he pointed to the bushes – “and as you eat, be sure to let the juice run down and dry on your mouths and beards so that they will be as red as blood. At dawn you will see two or three tigers coming over the hill and the moment you catch sight of them you are all to open your red mouths and scream as loudly as you can: ‘A-ha! Where are the rest of you? Three tigers are not enough for us. We want more. We want more tigers!’ … Do you understand?”

The Chief of Goats nodded and his followers all did the same.

“Don’t forget!” shouted Mouse Deer, and he leaped out of sight.

He climbed up the second hill again and then down the other side, to the Tigers. Their stripes still made him dizzy, and to tell the truth, he was not entirely sure of his small self as he approached the great beasts. But he walked straight into their midst.

What the Tigers saw when their eyes fell upon Mouse Deer was a small, pitiful animal, his big dark eyes looking up at all of them and then filling with tears.

“What’s this?” asked the Chief of Tigers in surprise. “Whatever has happened to Mouse Deer?”

“Oh, Tiger, Your Lordship,” sobbed Mouse Deer, “I could never have imagined anything so terrible happening – but it is true, it is true!”

“What is it? What is it then?” asked the Chief of Tigers, curious and impatient.

“A few nights ago I had a dream,” said Mouse Deer, “A voice said to me, ‘Starting tomorrow, Mouse Deer, the whole world is going to change. Everything will be topsy-turvy, upside-down. The strong will become weak; the weak will become strong. The animals who were always preyed upon will now seize those who formerly devoured them.’ When I awoke from my dream I was frightened, but then I laughed it off, because I thought such a thing impossible. Then I thought again, and I realised that with Allah (God) nothing is impossible. And this morning I saw thousands of goats gathering, and when I asked what the reason for this was, I was told that the Goats are preparing to attack the Tigers!”

“Impossible!” exclaimed Tiger, throwing back his head proudly.

“No, Tiger, Your Lordship, it is true. Mind my words,” replied Mouse Deer, “If you do not believe me, tomorrow morning, just at sunrise, send two or three scouts to the top of the hill. That is the time when the Goats get together after hunting the wild animals who always hunted them down, like … tigers. Send your scouts at dawn tomorrow. I am warning you!”

“Tomorrow at dawn I shall send my scouts. Thank you, Mouse Deer,” said Tiger. Tiger had never spoken so politely and humbly before.

The next morning Mouse Deer arose before dawn. It was still very dark but far ahead of him he could see a large expanse of white. That would be the Goats eating the berries!

Then, in the light of the rising sun, he saw three tigers looking down on the herds of Goats, who by this time had turned from the bushes, now facing the hill of the Tigers, their mouths and beards as red as blood.

As soon as they saw the three Tigers they began to shout: “A-ha, where are the rest of you? Three tigers are not enough for us. We want more. We want more tigers!” And with their red mouths open and their horns pointed forward, they ran towards the three tigers. The three tigers roared as loudly as they were able to, thinking to frighten the Goats, but the Chief of Goats led his herd forward, as though they were about to charge. The three tigers fled in terror, and back in the midst of their herd, breathlessly told what had happened to them:

“The Goats had just returned from the kill – their mouths and beards were still red with fresh blood, and when they saw us, they came at us, all together!”

The leader of the Tigers was shaken by this report. His otherwise proud and fearless face now showed his fright and confusion.

Just then Mouse Deer appeared.

“Oh, Mouse Deer,” cried Tiger “What you said is true. It has indeed come to pass that the Goats, once our prey, are now out to devour us! What shall we do now?”

“Never mind,” said Mouse Deer “Have no fear. I shall make peace. Wait here until you hear me call you. That will be the sign to you to come to the field.”

Mouse Deer went to the Goats. “Now the time has come,” he said to the Chief of Goats. “You and the leader of the Tigers are to meet now.” Mouse Deer drew a line across the middle of the field. He stood on the line and called out in a loud strong voice: “Will the Chief of Tigers and the Chief of Goats come here, please, to this line? Here, please!”

The Chief of Goats and his herd came up to Mouse Deer’s line. The Chief of Tigers came up to the other side of the line, followed by all the Tigers.

“Now,” said Mouse Deer. “The Chief of Tigers and the Chief of Goats will shake hands as a pledge that from this day forward the Tigers will leave the Goats in peace and the Goats will likewise nevermore live in enmity with the Tigers.”

The Chief of Goats and the Chief of Tigers each advanced one step, lifted their right paws and shook them, whereupon ensued a bleating and a roaring and a shouting and a cheering such as never had been heard in the forest before.

Then together the Chief of Goats and the Chief of Tigers approached Mouse Deer, bowed low before him, and said, “From this moment on we acknowledge Mouse Deer as our King. Mouse Deer has made peace between us, and we will carry out all his orders faithfully.”

“Hurray! Hurray!” the Goats and Tigers shouted. “Long live Mouse Deer! Long live the King!”

“Thank you, thank you,” said Mouse Deer, sounding very much like a new king. “And I herewith appoint you both my ministers. But now go home, all of you, and tell all the forest animals that I am their King!”

And so, from that day on, because he had made peace between the Goats and the Tigers, Mouse Deer was King of the Forest.

Si Kancil templates image

Once you have read the story to your students then it’s time to get creative and ask students to design/create their own shadow puppets in which they will be able to use to re-tell the story of Si Kancil Becomes King, or another Kancil tale, if this one doesn’t take your fancy.

Using the templates provided or asking older students to design their own animal puppets, it’s very simple! Paste the template design onto card {I always use manilla folders for this type of art work, as they are stable and cheap and one manilla folder can be used for several students! Money saver!} Once the template is pasted onto the manilla folder, let it dry and then students can cut it out and colour it in if chosen {not essential}. I generally use fairy floss sticks {purchased from an Art Supply shop} – as they are flat and firm and can be easily taped to the back of the puppet template.

Here’s three puppet templates for your use: Si Kancil, Kambing and Harimau. Click on the links {at the bottom of this post} for a PDF of each template below. Have fun!


Si Kancil Template image









Kambing Template Image

Harimau Template Image

Si Kancil Template

Kambing Template

Harimau Template


  1. Sue says

    Terima kasih banyak Bu Julie!! Your templates will be used to inspire my students when we do Indonesian folktales combining shadow puppets with masked performance.

    • indospired says

      Sama-sama Bu Sue! So glad that you will be able to use my kancil templates to inspire your students through a study of Indonesian folktales. I’d love to see your student’s designs…I bet they will be awesome! Oh, I have some great mask templates too…you’ve just reminded me I must do a post on Indonesian masks too. Thanks again Bu! 🙂

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