Once upon a time, in a compound just south of Ubud, lived a family of woodcarvers – not at all unusual for this village called Mas, renowned for its production of sandalwood figurative carvings and furniture.
A stone’s throw from rice fields and a running stream, in the shadow of a coconut tree, a group of men worked daily in this compound. They churned out new carvings regularly, typically selling them to shops along the main road in Mas.
One day, a woman was invited to this compound by her friend, who was part of the family and, had himself learned and practiced the craft in the past. Even though she had no intention of purchasing a sculpture, the woman expressed interest in watching the carving process, seeing the men at work.
A number of sculptures were in various stages of completion, among them a sandalwood carving of a woman with a sarong, her arms above her head; and a figure standing tall, lithe and in a pose that suggested movement.
(Most carved, but one of them whiled away his time petting his rooster; it’s not really part of the fairy tale, but a cultural curiosity just about everywhere)
The visiting woman then noticed a carving with an unusual form and color: It was white (hibiscus wood) and in a shape that lent itself best to be rocked back and forth, rather than staying put in one place.
As the carver chiseled away at the rough edges, the woman kept returning her gaze to the figure’s face and form. She approached and rocked the white carving, swept her hand through the womb- and cocoon-like opening (as if it was a winter muff), stared at the closed eyes, the repose, felt kinship.
She was, without a doubt, smitten.
The visitor put in a request with the carver: Please don’t sell it before I’ve had a chance to see the final product. Yes, yes, came the reply. A promise, the querying woman believed… (without consideration, the realization came too late to this woman who once knew the principles of contract).
A few days later, a text message from the friend read: Badung sold the statue. Liar, the woman replied, certain he was joking. Not so, popped up the subsequent message, he sold it to a store for 200,000 Rp. He needed the money.
And just like that, the sleeping beauty got away.