Most cultures often have many folklores cultivated from a rich local history that soon became embedded within their community as cautionary tales and moral lessons. In Malaysia, we have plenty of stories of myths and legends from bygone days to instill good values in our people, or perhaps these stories exist to provide a glorified meaning behind tragedy. In the legend of Mahsuri in Langkawi, a tale of unjust punishment and its repercussions sparks an unforgettable lesson.
In the late 18th century, Mahsuri, who was the most beautiful woman in Langkawi, was accused of having an affair with a young traveler named Deraman while her husband, Wan Darus, was away to fight against the Siamese army. This rumor was largely instigated by Wan Mahora, the village chief’s wife who was jealous of Mahsuri’s beauty. Despite pleading her innocence, the townspeople tied Mahsuri to a tree and left her under the scorching sun for many days before deciding to execute her for her adultery. She was stabbed multiple times, but no blood was ever drawn. Resigned to her fate, Mahsuri defeatedly told the villagers to kill her with her family’s keris.
Finally, with a stab using the keris, white blood flowed from the wound, confounding the villagers and signifying Mahsuri’s innocence. With her dying breath, Mahsuri cursed the island of Langkawi to seven generations of bad luck for their injustice. Not long after Mahsuri’s death, the island was then seized by Siamese colonisers and experienced periods of droughts and unyielding crops.
The tragic story of Mahsuri’s unrelenting anguish prompted the people to consider the truth of their accusations before ruling a brutal punishment, as well as igniting controversy around superstitions and curses. Now, Mahsuri’s tomb is a popular tourist destination and Langkawi is finally prospering after seven generations of a cursed fate.
~ Lisa Maisara ~
2. Naga Seri Gumum
This folklore is about a legendary giant serpent called Nāga commonly described as taking the form of an Asian dragon, inhabiting the Chini Lake of Pahang, Malaysia. The story starts off with the Jakun tribe clearing an area of the forest for agricultural purposes. An old woman leaning on a walking stick materialized out of nowhere to reprimand them as they had not sought the permission of the spirits. The people apologized profusely and at long last she conceded but had decided to stake her claim over the field. Thus, she impaled her walking stick on the ground, warning the tribe that it should never be removed.
Shortly after, a dog barked endlessly at a large rotting log by the edge of the clearing. One of the tribesmen threw a stone at it. Blood spurted out. Horrified, the rest of them followed his example and more blood gushed out flowing across the field. Instantaneously, a flash of forked lightning leaped from the sky followed by tumultuous roars of thunder. As the skies darken, a heavy downpour was unleashed from the heavens and everyone ran for cover. In the midst of the turmoil, the walking stick was knocked off the ground and out sprung a fountain of water. Over the years, the water flowed and flowed, creating the Chini Lake. Eventually, the tribe realized that the rotting log was a Nāga called “Seri Gumum”.
To this very day, there are occasional sighting reports of a creature residing in the Chini lake. Thinking about it, isn’t it similar to having your own Nessie in your backyard?
~ Natalie Leh ~
3. Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang (Sarawak)
As this tale was verbally passed down by the elders in Sarawak, East Malaysia, there are multiple versions of it. Here’s a famous version of the two princesses whose lives were lost to the green-eyed monster.
A pair of cousins, Princess Santubong and Princess Sejinjang, was sent down from heaven to restore harmony between two villages. Princess Santubong was in charge of Kampung Pasir Kuning while Princess Sejinjang was entrusted to govern Kampung Pasir Putih. They were also tasked to take care of the mountains in Sarawak. Before making their descent to Sarawak, they were told that doom would follow if they ever fought each other.
Both of the villages soon thrived under their rule. Both of the princesses had distinctive talents, Puteri Santubong was known for her exceptional sewing skills while Puteri Sejinjang had a knack for agriculture. Therefore, both villages received many visitors including a handsome prince, Putera Serapi, who caught the eyes of the princesses. While Putera Serapi loved visiting both villages, he was particularly attracted to Kampung Pasir Kuning’s exquisite textile. This made Puteri Sejinjang green with envy. This marks the beginning of their downfall.
Can you guess what happens next?
Blinded by the prince’s beauty, both princesses forgot about their promise and declared war on each other. As a result, they were cursed by the King of heavens. Princess Santubong was turned into Mount Santubong while Puteri Sejinjang became an island, Pulau Kera. Putera Serapi was also cursed into Mount Serapi. The King made sure to place him far away from the two princesses.
~ Brianna ~
4. Puteri Gunung Ledang
Puteri Gunung Ledang is a famous story that is known among Malaysians. This story got its name from a celestial princess who lived in Mount Ledang which is currently known as Tangkak in Johor, Malaysia. The ruler of Malacca at that time, Sultan Mahmud had just lost his wife and was looking for a new queen. Eventually, his heart was captured by the ethereal princess, resulting in him attempting to do preposterous tasks requested by Puteri Gunung Ledang herself. Such tasks include a golden and silver path for her way back and forth from Melaka to the mountain, seven trays filled with the heart of germs and mosquitoes. However, the king had not been able to complete the last task which was to fill a bowl with the blood of his young son. In the end, the both of them did not wed and continued on their separate paths. Some even theorized that the reason behind the ridiculous requests was because Puteri Gunung Ledang herself had just lost her husband and she wasn’t ready to move onto someone new. Talk about loyalty, right?
~ Nur Alia ~
Puteri Santubong and Puteri Sejinjang: https://www.borneotalk.com/a-tale-of-two-princesses/