Home  »  The Marvellous Adventures of Sir John Maundevile Kt  »  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

Sir John Mandeville. Marvellous Adventures. 1895.

Chapter XVIII

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, 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 plentiful. And many other Isles be thereabout, where there be many divers Folk, of the which it were too long to speak of all.

But fast beside that Isle, to pass by Sea, is a great Isle and a great Country that Men call Java. And it is nigh 2000 Mile in Circuit. And the King of that Country is a full great Lord and a rich and a mighty, and hath under him 7 other Kings of 7 other Isles about him. This Isle is full well inhabited, and full well manned. There groweth all manner of Spicery, more plentifully than in any other Country, as Ginger, Cloves-gilofre, Cinnamon, 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 with the Nutmeg and with the Maces. Many other Spices and many other Goods grow in that Isle. For of all things there is 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 Steps to go up into the Halls and Chambers be, one of Gold, another of Silver. And also, the Pavements of Halls and Chambers be all in Squares, one of Gold, 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 inlaid, and the Crowns and the Ciroles 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 believe 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 call 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 altogether 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 own Leaves and stamp them and temper them with Water and then drink it, and else shall a Man die; for Triacle will not avail, nor any other Medicine. For this Venom the Jews had made one of their Friends seek to em-poison all Christianity, as I have heard them say in their Confession before they die: 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 Scent. And if you like to hear how the Meal cometh out of the Trees I shall tell 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 take 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 to keep.

In that Isle is a dead Sea, that is a Lake that hath no Bottom; and if anything fall into that Lake it shall never come up again. In that Lake grow Reeds, that be Canes, that they call “Thaby,” that be 30 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 they endure well a 4th 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 and Steel may not hurt him nor draw any Blood from him; and therefore, they that have those Stones upon them fight full hardily both on Sea and Land, for Men may not harm them in any Part. And therefore, they that know the Manner, and shall fight with them, they shoot at them Arrows and Crossbow Bolts 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 do here, making Houses and Ships of Oak or of any other Trees. And deem no Man that I say it for Trifling, for I have seen the Canes with mine own Eyes, full many times, lying upon the River of that Lake, of the which 20 of our Fellows might not lift up nor 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 plentiful 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 following; so that he hath a 1000 Wives or more. And he lieth never but one Night with one of them, and another Night with another; unless that one happen to be more lusty to his Pleasure than another. And therefore the King getteth full many Children, some-time an 100, some-time a 200, and some-time more. And he hath also up to 14,000 Elephants or more that he maketh to be brought up amongst his Villains (or Serfs) in all his Towns. For in Case that he had any War against any other King about him, then he maketh certain Men of Arms to go up into the Castles of Tree made for the War, that craftily be set upon the Elephants’ Backs, 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, nor the Ordinance of War neither. And Men call 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 another. And they cast themselves on to the Sea Bank of that Isle in so great Plenty and Multitude, that a Man can scarcely see ought but Fish. And there they abide 3 Days. And every Man of the Country taketh of them as many as he liketh. And after, that Manner of Fish after the 3rd 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, another 3 Days. And after them another, till all the diverse Manner of Fishes have been there, and that Men have taken of them what they like. And no Man knoweth the Cause wherefore it may be. But they of the Country say that it is 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,” (“Increase and multiply, and replenish the Earth.”). And because he multiplies the World so 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 of God, as they say. I know not the Reason, why it is, but God knoweth; but this, me-seemeth, is the most great Marvel that ever I saw. For this Marvel is against Nature and not with Nature, 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 themselves to the Death, without Constraining of Man. And therefore, I am sure that this may not be, unless it be 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 of some less great Worms that Men find there in Woods, Men make Royal Viaunds 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 alive; for Men say there, that it is reasonable 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 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 Nature. For they nourish great Dogs and teach them to strangle their Friends when they be sick. For they will not that they die of a natural Death. For they say, that they should suffer too great Pain if they wait to die by themselves, as Nature would. And, when they be thus strangled, they eat their Flesh instead of Venison.

Afterward Men go by many Isles by Sea unto an Isle that Men call Milke. And there is a full cursed People. For they delight in nothing more than to fight and to slay Men. And they drink gladliest Man’s Blood, the which they call “Dieu.” And the more Men that a Man may slay, the more Worship he hath amongst them. And if 2 Persons be at Debate and, peradventure, make Accord with their Friends or with some of their Alliance, it behoveth that every one of them, that shall be of Accord, shall drink of the other’s Blood: and else neither the Accord nor the Alliance is worth ought; neither shall there be any Blame to him that breaks the Alliance and the Accord, unless every one of them drink of the 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 on any Riches, but only on a precious Stone, that is amongst them, that is of 60 Colours. And from the Name of the Isle, they call 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 1000 Mile. And all the Men and Women of that Isle have Hounds’ Heads, and they be clept Cunocephali. 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 them with to their Knees. 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 orient Pearls, good and great and knotted, as Pater-nosters 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, ere that he eat. And he beareth also about his Neck an orient Ruby, noble and fine, that is a Foot of Length and 5 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-forward 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, nor for any manner of Goods. This King is so rightful and of such Equity in his Judgments, that Men may go securely throughout all his Country and bear with them what they list; so that no Man shall be so hardy as to rob them, and if he were, the King would judge him anon.

From this Land Men go to another Isle that is clept Silha (Ceylon). And it is well an 800 Mile about. In that Land is full much Waste, for it is full of Serpents, of Dragons and of Cockodrills, so that no Man dare dwell there. These Cockodrills be Serpents, yellow and rayed above, and have 4 Feet and short Thighs, and great Nails like Claws or Talons. And there be some that have 5 Fathoms of Length, and some of 6 and of 8 and of 10. 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 especially 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 100 Year, when they were driven out of Paradise, and that Water, they say, is of their Tears; for so much Water they wept, that they made the aforesaid 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 Cockodrills 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 every Year Men find enough. And because of the Vermin that is within, they anoint their Arms and their Thighs and Legs with an Ointment made of a Thing that is clept Limes, that is a manner of Fruit like small Pease; and then have they no Dread of Cockodrills, or of any 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 do no Harm nor touch with Evil any strange Man that entereth into that Country, but only Men that be born of the same Country.

In that Country and others thereabout there be Wild Geese that have 2 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 hangs on the Clouds, and that it would cover all the World. And that is a great Marvel that it might be so, save only that by the Will of God, the Air sustaineth it. And therefore saith David in the Psalter, “Mirabiles Elationes Maris” (“The wonderful Upliftings of the Sea”).