Meet Malaysia’s Legendary Princesses

We’re all excited about Beauty and the Beast finally hitting our screens on 30 March, even though we’re more than familiar with the story of Belle and other princesses like her. Like us, you probably grew up with Disney princesses and Grimm’s fairytales. But did you know that Malaysia has its share of fairytales and princesses too?

 

And there’s a whole book about them.

 

This children’s book is lovingly researched and retold by Silverfish Books’ Raman Krishnan. It tells the stories of ten legendary princesses – some mythical, some historical – and features beautiful illustrations from artist Emila Yusof. Sometimes their stories are inspiring legends of bravery and wisdom, and others are darker cautionary tales. 

Puteri Gunung Ledang

One of our most famous princesses is Puteri Gunung Ledang, who you might remember from your secondary school literature textbooks or the 2004 feature film. The celestial princess is known for her list of increasingly impossible demands she set to get out of marrying the Sultan of Perak.

Puteri Ulek

Princess Ulek was one of seven princesses of the sea. When her sisters abducted the soul of a fisherman they fell in love with, she persuaded them to let him go, thus avoiding a war with the humans. The princess’ legacy lives on in the traditional Ulek Mayang dance of Terengganu, still performed alongside an offering of coloured rice to appease sea spirits.

Puteri Santubong and Sejinjang

Princess Santubong and Princess Sejinjang were sisters and princesses of the sky who were sent down to Earth to bring peace to warring villages and teach the villagers their respective trades – fabric weaving and rice threshing. Ironically, the princesses themselves met tragic ends. After fighting for the attentions of a human prince, they were punished and turned into the Santubong and Sejinjang mountains.

Che Wan Siti Wan Kembang

Che Siti Wan Kembang was a real queen who is believed to have ruled Kelantan in the 14th century. Besides her beauty, she was also renowned for her skill in martial arts, horse riding, and languages. But she was most remarkable for remaining unwed throughout her reign, and adopting a female heir instead of birthing her own. According to legend, her fondness for the kijang, or mouse deer, is the reason why it features on Kelantan’s state flag to this very day.

Puteri Saadong

Princess Saadong was the adopted daughter and heir of Queen Che Siti Wan Kembang. The princess was betrothed to her cousinl, Raja Abdullah at the age of 15, but her story doesn’t have a fairytale ending. She was kidnapped by the Siamese and remained a captive of the Siamese king to protect her husband’s life. When she finally returned to her husband, who had promised to wait for her, she found that he had broken his promise and remarried. In a rage, she killed him with her hair pin.

Puteri Hang Li Po

Princess Hang Li Po is another historical figure that most Malaysians are familiar with. The Chinese princess married Sultan Mansur Shah of Malacca in the 15th century, becoming his fifth wife. According to legend, her five hundred attendants assimilated and married people from the local population, giving rise to the Peranakan people of Malaysia.

Other princesses that feature in the book are Princess Walinong Sari, a warrior who never lost a fight, Princess Zaleha, who was protected by the moon, and more.  “They are interesting folk stories that influence the lives of our people every day in big and small ways,” writes Raman in the book’s foreword. 

Legendary Princesses of Malaysia is available for purchase in physical (RM 28) or e-book (RM 16) formats.