Thursday, April 22, 2010

Review Thursday: Myths And Legends Of Malaysia And Singapore

Myths And Legends Of Malaysia And Singapore
Compiled & Edited by Ralph Modder & Aeishah Ahmed
Paperback: 129 pages
Publisher: Horizon Books 2009
ISBN: 9789810831004
Price: SGD 15.00 (w/o GST) and RM35

I got hooked on myths and legends in kindergarten when our teacher, Mrs Schaap, read us Tales of Odysseus, a kiddy version of Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey. Having collected stories from all over the world ever since, I was delighted when Steve handed me this little book.

Malaysia and Singapore have some really good tales, but they tend to be relatively unknown abroad. It always amazes me that very few people outside the region have heard of the clever mousedeer, Sang Kancil, the trickster of Sarawakian tales. He should be a classic like the fox of European folk tales.

Anyhow, this selection of myths and legends of Sarawak, Sabah, West Malaysia and Singapore contains some great stories.  I have 3 favourites in this collection, but I can’t decide which I like best: the gloriously bloody Assassination of Sultan Mahmud Shah, the classic Ungrateful Crocodile or the tragic tale of Mashuri, the innocent princess who was accused of adultery and killed.

The one thing that’s a little disconcerting about this book is that there are abrupt changes of style. Some like Mashuri are told in the classic style of Scheherazade. I find these stories fantastic. Others like Melaka’s Magic Well and The Gawai Rice Festival summarise various legends in an academic style much like you might read on touristy backgrounder brochures. These bits don’t grip me.

All in all it’s an interesting little book. If you don’t know anything about legends from this part of the world, it’s worth a read.

7 comments:

Neri said...

did they really spell it mashuri? i think it's mahsuri? but thanks for reviewing this book, i'll be on the lookout for it! i die for greek myths and legends but a little ashamed to admit that i'm not as crazy for the local legends. tsk..

Pam said...

We read something similar in our homeschool one year when we read folk tales and myths. We found a series that involved different cultures around the world. IT was really interesting. My son and I are reading Tales from Homer right now.

Au and Target said...

I checked, Terri: it's Mashuri. Is this not right? It's consistently written this way.

Au and Target said...

Terri, I meant NERI!

A Bookaholic said...

Hmmm I used to spell it as Mahsuri during my school days...I remember reading the word as 'Mahsuri' too. Probably this is the new spelling?

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

What an accessible and engaging review, Ellen! Love it!

Re: Mahsuri. We've always spelled and pronounced it MAHSURI, never "Mashuri". "Mashuri" sounds Japanese!

As for Singapore folktales, I've made up my own! Please check out the final two photos and captions here:
http://covertoperations78.blogspot.com/2010/01/asia-for-animals-achieving-long-term.html

photojoy said...

It's such an exciting moment to read Myths and Legends which are new to me. Thank you for sharing this post.