Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I is for Indian Almonds and Idepeluochel Bats (A to Z Challenge 2019: Fruit Folktales)

It is not exactly easy to find a fruit that starts with I (I wonder why), but I managed to track one down: The Indian almond (Terminalia catappa), known by various names such as "sea almond" or "tropical almond" has edible fruit, and it figures into some stories of south and east Asia, as well as Oceania.

A legend from Babeldaob (the largest island of the Republic of Palau) says there once lived a giant bat in the Idepeluochel jungle. This monster had "unappeasable appetite" for sweetmeats - especially two kinds, one made from Indian almonds, and one made from grated coconut. As far as monsters go, this doesn't sound so bad, right?

Wrong. One day, the bat found out that there were plenty of almond and coconut sweets on the island of Angaur (another island of Palau, far to the south), in the bai, or meeting house. The bat flew over, and in its search for its favorite food, it thrashed its giant wings, destroyed buildings, collapsed the bai, and took off with the sweets.

The people of Angaur, of course, could not let this go. They rebuilt the bai, this time with spears sticking out of it, and then placed more almond and coconut sweets in it. Like clockwork, the giant bat appeared once again - but this time, it got impaled on the spears.

Image and story from this book

The best part of this story? We know it from a source none other than a bai itself. In Palau, legends and tales were illustrated on the beams of the meeting houses (like early examples of comic strips), and the giant bat appears on one of them. You can see it in the Airai Meeting House (Bai ra Irrai) on Babeldaob, which is on the US National Register of Historic Places.
I wrote about Palau legends and tales in my "Following folktales around the world" blog series here.

(By the way, the Palau Flying Fox is a near endangered species, you can read about conservation efforts here)

Have you ever been to Palau? Would you want to go?
Have you ever tried Indian almonds?


  1. I’ve never been to Palau, no, but I am fond of Indian sweets. Would I fly into a meeting house for almond bharfi or carrot halva? Probably not, when I can just buy them at my local Indian supplies store or cafe! 😂

    I Is For Imaginary Plants

  2. No to both. I did once see a giant bird, like a teradactyle once while taking a train from Chicago to Seattle. Others saw it too. Later I looked in the news but found nothing. It was huge.

  3. I haven't been to Palau. And I had no idea almonds had an 'Indian' variant. I always learn something new at this blog.

  4. Haven't been to Palau. Closest I've come near it is on my TV screen when the stupid version of The Mysterious Island starring Dwayne Johnson was playing.

    Another little gem, Zalka. Enjoyed reading it.

  5. Haven't even heard of this place, well-written informative post

  6. How cool! I had no idea about this fruit!

  7. I havent heard of Palau. it is nice to red folktales of far-off lands. I soak almonds in water for a few hours, peel the skin and eat it.

  8. In French we have only one fruit strating with i: icaque, which is coco plumin English ;)

  9. Poor bat. I hate the idea of those wings all tattered. I wonder if the tale is based on a bat getting in a house. I know Americans panic and batter bats that get inside. Bats are good! Not if they are big enough to destroy buildings!
    I saw a frigate bird in Puerto Rico, flying, and it looked just like a pterodactyl! Or, at least the way I imagine a pterodactyl would have looked.

  10. Hmmm... there may be a lesson here for little kids who can't resist sweets.

  11. Poor bat! Great tale :-)

    Ronel visiting from the A-Z Challenge with Music and Writing: Imagine