Mate River


Batam is an island in Riau Islands, Indonesia. There is one river named Sungai Jodoh or Mate River in Batam. Local people say that there is a folktale why the river was named the Mate River. Read the story so that you can learn English in a fun way. Happy reading!

Once upon a time, there was an orphan girl named Mah Bongsu. She lived in a hut. She worked for a rich merchant as a housekeeper. She started to work in the morning and went home in the evening.

The merchant’s name was Buntal and his wife was Mak Piah. They had a daughter, her name was Mayang.

Bongsu and Mayang were the same age. However they were not friends. Mayang was rude. She often treated Bongsu badly. She thought that Bongsu was like a slave that she could ask anything she liked.

Bongsu never complained. She was always grateful for her life. She never thought that her life was miserable. She always did her job happily.

It was an ordinary morning. Bongsu went to the river to wash the clothes. She brought all the dirty clothes in a basket.

All the dirty clothes were clean. Bongsu was ready to get back to the merchant’s house. She stood up and carried the basket. Suddenly she saw something shining moving. She approached it. Suddenly she screamed, “Snake!”

Yes, there was a big snake lying near the riverside. Bongsu was so scared, she wanted to run away. Before she did that, she heard the snake talked asking for help. Yes! The snake was able to talk!

“Help me…. Please help me,” said the snake so weakly.

Bongsu got even more scared. She was speechless and she could not move her legs. She had never seen a snake talking like humans.

The snake kept on asking for help. “Please help me…. Please…”

Bongsu felt really sorry. She could not stand listening to the snake asking for help. She tried to approach the snake.

“How can I help you?” asked Bongsu.

“I’m bleeding. I cannot stop the blood,” said the snake.

“All right, I will help you.”

Bongsu carried the snake and brought it to her hut. She took care of the wound carefully. She knew some traditional medication from her mother.

Days passed by and the wound was slowly healed. Then the skin exfoliated.

The snake talked, “Bongsu, burn the dead skin”

“Why?” asked Bongsu.

“Just burn it, and see what happens,” said the snake.

Bongsu burned the dead snake. Amazingly, the skin turned into gold! Bongsu was so surprised.

“Is it real gold?” asked Bongsu. She could not believe what she saw.

“Yes, it is. It’s my gift for you. Use the gold wisely,” said the snake.

Bongsu sold some of the gold. She used the money to build her house. She gave some of the money to other poor families. She quit working for the rich merchant. She had her own rice field. She employed some people to work for her.

Mak Piah was jealous. She did not like to see Bongsu was richer than she was. She really wanted to know how she could get the wealth.

Mak Piah and Mayang secretly came to Bongsu’s house. They peeped through the window. They saw Bongsu collected the dead skin and burned it. They were surprised when they saw the skin turned into gold.

“Aha! Now I know her secret!” said Mak Piah to Mayang. She continued, “Tomorrow you go the river and find a wounded snake. Remember, the snake has to be bleeding!” said Mak Piah eagerly.

On the following day, Mayang went to the river. She was looking for a wounded snake. It was almost dark and she was not able to find a single snake yet. She was afraid to go home. Her mother would be furious if she did not bring her a wounded snake.

Then from a distance, she saw a big snake. She was so happy. But when she looked at the snake carefully, the snake was fine. It was not wounded.

“What should I do? Hmm… my mother is asking me a wounded snake. So, I will make the snake wound!”

Mayang used a sharp stick and hit the snake. The snake was angry! It attacked back. The snake bit Mayang. She was screaming in pain! Mayang ran away and went home.

Meanwhile, Bongsu had totally healed the snake. There was no more wound.

“Thank you very much, Bongsu. Now it’s time for me to go home. Would you please accompany me to the river?” asked the snake.

Bongsu happily accompanied the snake to the river. However deep down inside, she was sad. The snake had been living with her in her house for couple days. They had become best friends. They talked about many things. Bongsu would miss the snake very much.

Bongsu and the snake arrived at the riverside.

“Bongsu, I don’t want to say goodbye. In fact, I don’t want to lose you.”

Bongsu was so touched. The snake had the same feeling with her.

“Bongsu, I know this sounds crazy. But… will you marry me?” asked the snake.

“What?!” Bongsu was surprised. She never thought that a snake would propose her.

Bongsu was so confused. She wanted to say no but she did not want to lose the snake. But if she said yes, what people would say? Her husband was a snake?

Bongsu thought deeply. Then she made a decision. “I’m happy to be with you and I don’t care what people will say. Yes, I will marry you.”


“Yes, I will marry you.”

The snake was so happy. He said, “Finally, the curse is gone.”

After he said that, the snake was covered by smoke. Slowly the snake turned into a handsome man.

“Who are you?” asked Bongsu surprisingly.

“I’m a prince. A witch cursed me into a snake. I will change back as a human if a woman is willing to marry me,” explained the man.

Bongsu was extremely happy. He was so handsome and she fell in love with him.

Later Bongsu and the prince got married. They lived happily ever after.

Since then, the river where Bongsu and the snake met was named Sungai Jodoh, which means the Mate River.

Okay, now let’s answer the questions:
1. Who was Mak Piah?
2. How did Bongsu meet the snake?
3. Where did Bongsu treat the snake?
4. There is a sentence: the skin exfoliated. What does exfoliated means?
5. What is the moral lesson of the story?

Posted by Story Teller


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