Child of the Jungle by Sabine Kuegler

Child of the Jungle: the true story of a girl caught between two worlds

I love biographies. Some I go and find intentionally. and then there are the one’s that find me.

I came across this memoir randomly at the library while looking for a good beach book. This is a real life story of a german woman(who is about my age) who grew up with her brother, sister, and her linguist-missionary parents in a jungle in West Papua, Indonesia.  She was five years old when her father made contact with a recently discovered Stone Age people  called the  Fayu, who had never before seen a white person. Due to their warring nature and superstitions, the clans had almost become extinct.

The Fayu had only two reasons for death. One was due to an arrow wound. The other was caused by a curse of which there were thousands. If it was thought that you had cursed someone, then the offended party was/were? able to legally exact revenge by killing you or a member of your family. This was a people who lived in constant fear, hatred, and aggression. They had no hope of discovering peace on their own and were lost in a viscous cycle of death and revenge…..until 1980 when a white man asked a chief for permission to bring his family into the jungle to serve and learn the lost language of the Fayu.

This is a very interesting read. It’s elementary in its writing…Kuegler is more of a brick layer with words and less of weaver.  But, this book is filled with stories that will amaze and inspire you. But it will also break your heart. You need to also be forwarned that its pretty graphic(there’s a picture of a woman nursing a baby and a dingo…at the same time. jus sayin’) in places as only jungle, VERY superstitious prehistoric tribal living can be. But the underlying mission is about sharing peace, love, and forgiveness. And for a little girl who loved the adventures only a jungle could provide…..she taught about the joys of childhood. Concepts that the Fayu had no words for, because there was no need.

a little snipet…this is a story of when the young son of Chief Baou was caught trying to steal meat off the white man’s fire.

“In no time at all, everyone knew about the attempted theft. We could hear Chief Baou’s angry yells from over three hundred yards away. According to the Fayu custom, Papa now had the right to kill Isori out of revenge. Chief Baou was afraid for his son, already imagining him as dead. Our family sat around the kitchen table trying to decide how to handle it. Finally Mama said, “Klaus, you know in the Bible it says that when someone takes something from you unjustly, repay them with kindness and give them something extra in addition. Why don’t you just take him this nice piece of crocodile meat and tell him that we’re not angry.”

We all nodded in appreciation of this idea. A Fayu came and told us that Isori was hiding in the jungle, panicked and terrified about what Papa or  his own father would do to him. Papa took the meat and went to find him. I followed along behind. We wandered up the small path that led to Chief Baou’s hut. The whole family was sitting there; our arrival increased their agitation. Papa asked Chief Baou where his son was, explaining that he wanted to talk to him. I looked at the chief’s face; never had i seen this powerful man so forlorn.

Chief Baou called for his son, who stepped out of the brush, shaking with fear. Papa slowly approached Isori and did the unthinkable. He took the boy in his arms and told Isori that he wasn’t angry and to prove it had brought him this nice piece of meat as a gift. Isori took the meat with great confusion and promptly disappeared back into the jungle.

In this moment, Chief Baou looked at Papa with tears in his eyes. Nobody said a word. Here was a man known for his brutality. He had never given or received mercy or forgiveness. What the white man did was completely unimaginable to him. It was this gesture that paved the way for Chief Baou to become a peacemaker.”


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