Year published :2014

Pages :182 pp.

Size :20.5 x 25.5 cm., paperback

Rights :Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam

ISBN: 9788776941307

Tuked Rini, Cosmic Traveller: Life and Legend in the Heart of Borneo

by NIAS Press

By Monica Janowski

This innovative and visually engaging study presents a legend from Borneo in which the Kelabit hero Tuked Rini ventures out into the cosmos to do battle in remote spirit-laden places, returning to his wife with the heads of his enemies. Accompanied by audio material and additional resources that will be developed on a companion website, the work uses the legend to explore Kelabit ideas about life and cosmology – ideas of power or life force, the world of women centred on rice-growing and the relationship of men with the wild.  Especially innovative is the way it brings together an orally told legend and a highly visually-oriented exploration of the way of life of the people who tell it. The book will be of interest to academics studying the culture, language and stories of Borneo but will also – with its striking illustrations – appeal to a wider audience.

Visit the associated webpage to find the following materials:

1. Audio recording of the legend of Tuked Rini as recited by Balang Pelaba of Pa’ Dalih in 1986.
2. Transcription of the legend of Tuked Rini as recited by Balang Pelaba of Pa’ Dalih in 1986.
3. Video recording of part of the legend of Tuked Rini – one of the chanted sedarir – as recited by Ribuh Balang in 2009.
4. Video of a journey through the Kelabit Highlands, paying visits to sites associated with Tuked Rini and other ancestors.
5. An interactive visit to the Kelabit Highlands, which includes sites associated with Tuked Rini.
6. Forest photo gallery of the Kelabit Highlands


  • Visually powerful study of Borneo with many photographs and eleven paintings.
  • Breaks new ground by linking an oral story to the way of life of those who tell it.

About the Author

Monica Janowski has long researched, published on and worked with the people of the Kelabit Highlands of northern Borneo. As an anthropologist, she has been particularly interested in issues concerning the environment, food and cosmology. At the same time, she has shown an ability to communicate research findings to a wider audience (including as co-producor of nine radio series with the BBC). However, perhaps her most lasting contribution will be her work with the Kelabit to preserve their cultural legacy and pass it on to future generations.

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