Source: Period accounts
Telögu is a word used in the southern part of the island of Nias to refer to a type of sword of which "the edge is much longer than the spine and transitions sharply into the spine." The northern word for the same weapon is ròsō.1
A telögu from Nias.
Listed at Mandarin Mansion in 2020.
These swords are often called belatu, the general word for "knife" or "sword" in the Nias language, but according to Schröder, who worked on the island as a colonial administrator from 1904 to 1909, this was wrong and the locals referred to different types of knives and swords with different names entirely.2
For other subtypes, see the glossary article: belatu.
The hilts are often icononographic but the subject of the carvings has been subject to debate.3 Stylistically, the main head emerging from the pommel is clearly strongly related to the makara, a mythical sea creatre often seen in Indian iconography. Some relate it to the làsara, a stylized crocodile, but these are generally not depicted with teeth. Schröder believes the tusks are a reference to the strength of an elephant. Other theories include that they represent wild boar. Schröder dismisses this idea based on the fact that boar were frequently hunted by the Nias, and therefore would look strange on a warrior's sword pommel. But there is often a great mutual respect between the hunter and hunted, and the wild boar is known to attack fiercely when provoked. This has made the boar a symbol of courage in Japanese samurai culture, and with this in mind the Nias depiction of a boar's head on a pommel isn't that strange after-all.
On top of the main head there is usually a smaller figure, almost humanoid, that is often thought to represent a monkey. These are called bekhu.
Notes to introduction
1. Engelbertus Eliza Willem Gerards Schröder; Nias. Ethnographische, geographische en historische aanteekeningen en studiën. Brill, Leiden. 1917. Page 235.
2. Ibid. Pages 235-236.
3. Ibid. Pages 107 and 237.