Some Ibans in Sarawak believed that the giant crocodile Bujang Senang was actually a human who was cursed to become a crocodile.
According to the legend, Bujang Senang used to be an Iban warrior named Simalungun. It was said the Simalungun practiced ‘mengayau’ (cutting off and collecting the enemies’ heads), and those who stood before him had no chance of defeating him in battle. Simalungun, realizing that his wife had been kidnapped by his enemies, went to confront them at the Batang Lupar river.
As the story goes, his enemies released his wife, but before Simalungun can get to her they impaled her with a javelin, killing her on the spot. This caused Simalungun to fly into a rage, and a terrible battle ensued. However, his enemies soon noticed their weapons worked on Simalungun as soon as he stepped into the river.
It didn’t take long for them to come to the conclusion that Simalungun’s taboo was to never stand in a river, and despite Simalungun’s rage, he was soon defeated. Both his and his wife’s corpses was left to sink in the river, but for unknown reasons the deities residing in the river cursed Simalungun’s body to become a giant crocodile, identified with a white stripe on its back. Ever since then, the crocodile, called ‘Bujang Senang’, had terrorized the descendants of his killers living near Batang Lupar.