Sunday, April 4, 2021

Swordfish vs. Singapore (Following folktales around the world 196. - Singapore)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Myths and Legends of Singapore
Pugalenthi Sr.
VJ Times, 1991.

This small book contains 18 myths and legends, and was written by a Singaporean author. The upside of it is that it is a great collection of authentic local stories, and the downside is that it is a very small volume, and has quite a few editing and translation mistakes. The stories follow each other in mostly chronological order, from the founding of Singapore all the way to the age of pirates. I was delighted to find a book like this for Singapore.


The highlight of the book was definitely the Swordfish attack, probably Singapore's most famous local legend. The story claims a bad king was punished by the gods/spirits, who sent swordfish against his city which jumped out of the water and killed people. Eventually a boy came up with an idea to build a wall... and the swordfish got stuck in the wood, making an easy target for people. Eat your heart out, Sharknado.
I also liked one of the foundation legends of Singapore, in which a king descended into the ocean in a glass orb, married the daughter of the Sea King, had three sons, and lived happily for years until he grew homesick for dry land. When he came back up, he realized he had only been away for ten minutes. It usually goes the opposite way in folklore...
(I also liked the moment when his sons visited dry land, and experienced breathing air for the first time.)


The book was full of unique and interesting stories, I couldn't find many parallels. One that sounded familiar was the magic crown, in which a poor fisherman kept getting gifts from djinn, until he and his wife became too greedy and they were both drowned (it reminded me of some classic golden fish stories). 

Where to next?

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