Borneo: People with tails?!!

The map above was created in the 1300s based on the coordinates given in Ptolemy’s Geographica, the most systematic account of the whole world known to man in the 2nd century. Ptolemy was a Roman citizen living in Egypt, a scientist who wrote on astronomy, geography and astrology. I looked up the map and tried to find Borneo (circled in red).

Instead of the dog-shaped island we have come to know and love, it’s actually a group of 3 islands. On the left, where Peninsular Malaysia should be, is called Aureus Chersonesus (Golden Peninsula). Oddly, Sumatra and Jawa is missing. The map was made based on accounts of sailors and explorers, so understandably it ain’t accurate.


Now, if you see the group of 3 islands on the right (supposed to be Borneo), there’s a note written in red. It reads,

“Islands of the Satyrs. Those who inhabit these islands are said to have tails, such as the ones they paint of satyrs.”

It is assumed that the 3 islands are actually at the area near the mouth of the Kapuas river, where it branches off so to the foreigner, it might look like 3 islands instead.

Anyway, I haven’t met an tailed people before in Borneo. By the way a satyr is a Greek mythological creature that has a human body with horns like a goat, but below the waist is like a goat, tails, hooves and all.

There are rumours of their existence. No more nowadays as people stop believing in such things. But the people of Kaltim calls them orang boentoet, the Ibans of Lundu orang tungkin panjai (Otto Steinmeyer), so maybe it is real.

Or maybe someone saw a Dayak wearing a chawat, the tail end of it looking like an actual tail. That or we just enjoy telling tall tales to foreigners. You know, like how we live on trees, and ride turtles to KL.

Although the satyrs are (in Greek mythology) followers of Dionysus, god of wine and ecstacy. Tuak anyone?

2 comments

  1. one i know where deep inside the jungle of borneo 2 years ago. he lived with a punan tribe for 3 weeks. they told him they had seen a tailed man only 1 week earlier he arrived and the punan people tried to speak with the tailed man but he did not speak back to them.

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