The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, by John Mandeville

Chapter XXI

Of the Palace of the King of the Isle of Java. Of the Trees that Bear Meal, Honey, Wine, and Venom; AND OF OTHER MARVELS And Customs Used in the Isles Marching Thereabout

BESIDE that isle that I have spoken of, there is another isle that is clept Sumobor. That is a great isle, and the king thereof is right mighty. The folk of that isle make them always to be marked in the visage with an hot iron, both men and women, for great noblesse, for to be known from other folk; for they hold themselves most noble and most worthy of all the world. And they have war always with the folk that go all naked.

And fast beside is another isle, that is clept Betemga, that is a good isle and a plenteous. And many other isles be thereabout, where there be many of diverse folk, of the which it were too long to speak of all.

But fast beside that isle, for to pass by sea, is a great isle and a great country that men clepe Java. And it is nigh two thousand mile in circuit. And the king of that country is a full great lord and a rich and a mighty, and hath under him seven other kings of seven other isles about him. This isle is full well inhabited, and full well manned. There grow all manner of spicery, more plenteously than in any other country, as of ginger, cloves-gilofre, canell, seedwall, nutmegs and maces. And wit well, that the nutmeg beareth the maces; for right as the nut of the hazel hath an husk without, that the nut is closed in till it be ripe and that after falleth out, right so it is of the nutmeg and of the maces. Many other spices and many other goods grow in that isle. For of all things is there plenty, save only of wine. But there is gold and silver, great plenty.

And the king of that country hath a palace full noble and full marvellous, and more rich than any in the world. For all the degrees to go up into halls and chambers be, one of gold, another of silver. And also, the pavements of halls and chambers be all square, of gold one, and another of silver. And all the walls within be covered with gold and silver in fine plates, and in those plates be stories and battles of knights enleved, and the crowns and the circles about their heads be made of precious stones and rich pearls and great. And the halls and the chambers of the palace be all covered within with gold and silver, so that no man would trow the riches of that palace but he had seen it. And wit well, that the king of that isle is so mighty, that he hath many times overcome the great Chan of Cathay in battle, that is the most great emperor that is under the firmament either beyond the sea or on this half. For they have had often-time war between them, because that the great Chan would constrain him to hold his land of him; but that other at all times defendeth him well against him.

After that isle, in going by sea, men find another isle, good and great, that men clepe Pathen, that is a great kingdom full of fair cities and full of towns. In that land grow trees that bear meal, whereof men make good bread and white and of good savour; and it seemeth as it were of wheat, but it is not allinges of such savour. And there be other trees that bear honey good and sweet, and other trees that bear venom, against the which there is no medicine but [one]; and that is to take their proper leaves and stamp them and temper them with water and then drink it, and else he shall die; for triacle will not avail, ne none other medicine. Of this venom the Jews had let seek of one of their friends for to empoison all Christianity, as I have heard them say in their confession before their dying: but thanked be Almighty God! they failed of their purpose; but always they make great mortality of people. And other trees there be also that bear wine of noble sentiment. And if you like to hear how the meal cometh out of the trees I shall say you. Men hew the trees with an hatchet, all about the foot of the tree, till that the bark be parted in many parts, and then cometh out thereof a thick liquor, the which they receive in vessels, and dry it at the heat of the sun; and then they have it to a mill to grind and it becometh fair meal and white. And the honey and the wine and the venom be drawn out of other trees in the same manner, and put in vessels for to keep.

In that isle is a dead sea, that is a lake that hath no ground; and if anything fall into that lake it shall never come up again. In that lake grow reeds, that be canes, that they clepe Thaby, that be thirty fathoms long; and of these canes men make fair houses. And there be other canes that be not so long, that grow near the land and have so long roots that endure well a four quarters of a furlong or more; and at the knots of those roots men find precious stones that have great virtues. And he that beareth any of them upon him, iron ne steel may not hurt him, ne draw no blood upon him; and therefore, they that have those stones upon them fight full hardily both on sea and land, for men may not harm [them] on no part. And therefore, they that know the manner, and shall fight with them, they shoot to them arrows and quarrels without iron or steel, and so they hurt them and slay them. And also of those canes they make houses and ships and other things, as we have here, making houses and ships of oak or of any other trees. And deem no man that I say it but for a trifle, for I have seen of the canes with mine own eyes, full many times, lying upon the river of that lake, of the which twenty of our fellows ne might not lift up ne bear one to the earth.

After this isle men go by sea to another isle that is clept Calonak. And it is a fair land and a plenteous of goods. And the king of that country hath as many wives as he will. For he maketh search all the country to get him the fairest maidens that may be found, and maketh them to be brought before him. And he taketh one one night, and another another night, and so forth continually suing; so that he hath a thousand wives or more. And he lieth never but one night with one of them, and another night with another; but if that one happen to be more lusty to his pleasance than another. And therefore the king getteth full many children, some-time an hundred, some-time a two-hundred, and some-time more. And he hath also into a 14,000 elephants or more that he maketh for to be brought up amongst his villains by all his towns. For in case that he had any war against any other king about him, then [he] maketh certain men of arms for to go up into the castles of tree made for the war, that craftily be set upon the elephants’ backs, for to fight against their enemies. And so do other kings there-about. For the manner of war is not there as it is here or in other countries, ne the ordinance of war neither. And men clepe the elephants WARKES.

And in that isle there is a great marvel, more to speak of than in any other part of the world. For all manner of fishes, that be there in the sea about them, come once in the year — each manner of diverse fishes, one manner of kind after other. And they cast themselves to the sea bank of that isle so great plenty and multitude, that no man may unnethe see but fish. And there they abide three days. And every man of the country taketh of them as many as him liketh. And after, that manner of fish after the third day departeth and goeth into the sea. And after them come another multitude of fish of another kind and do in the same manner as the first did, other three days. And after them another, till all the diverse manner of fishes have been there, and that men have taken of them that them liketh. And no man knoweth the cause wherefore it may be. But they of the country say that it is for to do reverence to their king, that is the most worthy king that is in the world as they say; because that he fulfilleth the commandment that God bade to Adam and Eve, when God said, CRESCITE ET MULTIPLICAMINI ET REPLETE TERRAM. And for because that he multiplieth so the world with children, therefore God sendeth him so the fishes of diverse kinds of all that be in the sea, to take at his will for him and all his people. And therefore all the fishes of the sea come to make him homage as the most noble and excellent king of the world, and that is best beloved with God, as they say. I know not the reason, why it is, but God knoweth; but this, me-seemeth, is the most marvel I saw. For this marvel is against kind and not with kind, that the fishes that have freedom to environ all the coasts of the sea at their own list, come of their own will to proffer them to the death, without constraining of man. And therefore, I am siker that this may not be, without a great token.

There be also in that country a kind of snails that be so great, that many persons may lodge them in their shells, as men would do in a little house. And other snails there be that be full great but not so huge as the other. And of these snails, and of great white worms that have black heads that be as great as a man’s thigh, and some less as great worms that men find there in woods, men make viand royal for the king and for other great lords. And if a man that is married die in that country, men bury his wife with him all quick; for men say there, that it is reason that she make him company in that other world as she did in this.

From that country men go by the sea ocean by an isle that is clept Caffolos. Men of that country when their friends be sick they hang them upon trees, and say that it is better that birds, that be angels of God, eat them, than the foul worms of the earth.

From that isle men go to another isle, where the folk be of full cursed kind. For they nourish great dogs and teach them to strangle their friends when they be sick. For they will not that they die of kindly death. For they say, that they should suffer too great pain if they abide to die by themselves, as nature would. And, when they be thus enstrangled, they eat their flesh instead of venison.

Afterward men go by many isles by sea unto an isle that men clepe Milke. And there is a full cursed people. For they delight in nothing more than for to fight and to slay men. And they drink gladliest man’s blood, the which they clepe Dieu. And the more men that a man may slay, the more worship he hath amongst them. And if two persons be at debate and, peradventure, be accorded by their friends or by some of their alliance, it behoveth that every of them that shall be accorded drink of other’s blood: and else the accord ne the alliance is nought worth: ne it shall not be no reproof to him to break the alliance and the accord, but if every of them drink of others’ blood.

And from that isle men go by sea, from isle to isle, unto an isle that is clept Tracoda, where the folk of that country be as beasts, and unreasonable, and dwell in caves that they make in the earth; for they have no wit to make them houses. And when they see any man passing through their countries they hide them in their caves. And they eat flesh of serpents, and they eat but little. And they speak nought, but they hiss as serpents do. And they set no price by no avoir ne riches, but only of a precious stone, that is amongst them, that is of sixty colours. And for the name of the isle, they clepe it Tracodon. And they love more that stone than anything else; and yet they know not the virtue thereof, but they covet it and love it only for the beauty.

After that isle men go by the sea ocean, by many isles, unto an isle that is clept Nacumera, that is a great isle and good and fair. And it is in compass about, more than a thousand mile. And all the men and women of that isle have hounds’ heads, and they be clept Cynocephales. And they be full reasonable and of good understanding, save that they worship an ox for their God. And also every one of them beareth an ox of gold or of silver in his forehead, in token that they love well their God. And they go all naked save a little clout, that they cover with their knees and their members. They be great folk and well-fighting. And they have a great targe that covereth all the body, and a spear in their hand to fight with. And if they take any man in battle, anon they eat him.

The king of that isle is full rich and full mighty and right devout after his law. And he hath about his neck 300 pearls orient, good and great and knotted, as paternosters here of amber. And in manner as we say our PATER NOSTER and our AVE MARIA, counting the PATER NOSTERS, right so this king saith every day devoutly 300 prayers to his God, or that he eat. And he beareth also about his neck a ruby orient, noble and fine, that is a foot of length and five fingers large. And, when they choose their king, they take him that ruby to bear in his hand; and so they lead him, riding all about the city. And from thence-fromward they be all obeissant to him. And that ruby he shall bear always about his neck, for if he had not that ruby upon him men would not hold him for king. The great Chan of Cathay hath greatly coveted that ruby, but he might never have it for war, ne for no manner of goods. This king is so rightful and of equity in his dooms, that men may go sikerly throughout all his country and bear with them what them list; that no man shall be hardy to rob them, and if he were, the king would justified anon.

From this land men go to another isle that is clept Silha. And it is well a 800 miles about. In that land is full much waste, for it is full of serpents, of dragons and of cockodrills, that no man dare dwell there. These cockodrills be serpents, yellow and rayed above, and have four feet and short thighs, and great nails as claws or talons. And there be some that have five fathoms in length, and some of six and of eight and of ten. And when they go by places that be gravelly, it seemeth as though men had drawn a great tree through the gravelly place. And there be also many wild beasts, and namely of elephants.

In that isle is a great mountain. And in mid place of the mount is a great lake in a full fair plain; and there is great plenty of water. And they of the country say, that Adam and Eve wept upon that mount an hundred year, when they were driven out of Paradise, and that water, they say, is of their tears; for so much water they wept, that made the foresaid lake. And in the bottom of that lake men find many precious stones and great pearls. In that lake grow many reeds and great canes; and there within be many cocodrills and serpents and great water-leeches. And the king of that country, once every year, giveth leave to poor men to go into the lake to gather them precious stones and pearls, by way of alms, for the love of God that made Adam. And all the year men find enough. And for the vermin that is within, they anoint their arms and their thighs and legs with an ointment made of a thing that is clept lemons, that is a manner of fruit like small pease; and then have they no dread of no cockodrills, ne of none other venomous vermin. This water runneth, flowing and ebbing, by a side of the mountain, and in that river men find precious stones and pearls, great plenty. And men of that isle say commonly, that the serpents and the wild beasts of that country will not do no harm ne touch with evil no strange man that entereth into that country, but only to men that be born of the same country.

In that country and others thereabout there be wild geese that have two heads. And there be lions, all white and as great as oxen, and many other diverse beasts and fowls also that be not seen amongst us.

And wit well, that in that country and in other isles thereabout, the sea is so high, that it seemeth as though it hung at the clouds, and that it would cover all the world. And that is great marvel that it might be so, save only the will of God, that the air sustaineth it. And therefore saith David in the Psalter, MIRABILES ELATIONES MARIS.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10