Thursday, April 22, 2010
Review Thursday: Myths And Legends Of Malaysia And Singapore
Compiled & Edited by Ralph Modder & Aeishah Ahmed
Paperback: 129 pages
Publisher: Horizon Books 2009
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.