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Raja Bersiong ~ Fanged Prince Part 1



The Fanged King: Part 1 2010/06/22 By Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi nurbaiyah@nst.com.my

 

It begins very much like any other folklore, but the story of Raja Besiong, the tyrant king who drinks human blood, is entwined in myth and fact. Told in one of the oldest Kedah historical writings, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, many believe Raja Besiong once ruled the region. SITI NURBAIYAH NADZMI retraces the facts and fiction of the Fanged King.


The bustling town of Baling earns its name from Raja Bersiong’s act of throwing his canine teeth. Others believe that the name originates from Siamese words of ‘ban ling’ which means Monkey Village. Baling holds its place in modern Malaysia history as the meeting place for Tunku Abdul Rahman and Chin Peng to end the communist reign of terror in 1955.

 Tok Wan relating the story of Raja Besiong as how it was told to him by a traditional storyteller, from his house in Kampung Carok Kapas Kuala Pegang, Baling.


In the olden days Siong was a village but now it is a sub-district in Baling. The fangs at the entrance of Mukim Siong symbolised the place where the Raja Besiong's canine teeth fell after he extracted it and forcefully threw it from Baling.
 
 According to local history, the town of Weng (pronounced as wing), is the sound made by the fangs as it whizz past Baling to Kampung Siong
 Kampung Bukit Sebelah gets its name when Raja Bersiong throws his fangs from the town of Baling with all his might and the fangs slice off the hill slopes.
 
 Kuala Pegang remains a sleepy hollow with its people still believe that it is part of the Raja Bersiong route when he was banished from the palace.

A LONG, long time ago, there lived a prince whose father was a great ruler of Kedah. He was handsome, strong and a skilled hunter.


Sadly, the prince did not take after his parents' fair and kind traits. He was a spoilt and haughty youth, and a rogue even after he became king.

One day, the prince complained to his ministers of a nagging toothache in his upper jaw. A few days later, a pair of long pointed teeth emerged. Since then he was known as Raja Besiong, the Fanged King.

Raja Besiong was a cruel and merciless ruler. Those caught committing crimes, however minor, were severely punished.


One day, a cook cut her finger while preparing Raja Besiong’s favourite spinach broth, and her blood dripped into the dish. She didn’t have time to prepare another pot, so the tainted dish was served to the king.

Raja Besiong immediately tasted the difference. In fact, he found it exceptionally delicious. He finished the broth to its last drop and summoned the cook. He unsheathed his keris and held it to the terrified woman’s neck, forcing her to explain the alien ingredient added to the broth. She told him about the cut on her finger and how the blood had accidentally dripped into the pot.

He spared her, but from that day on ordered a criminal to be executed every day so that he could have blood for his broth.


Raja Besiong’s ministers begged him to stop these killings, but he refused to listen and challenged them to dethrone him. War broke out, and the kingdom was in chaos. Outnumbered, the king fled.

In exile, Raja Besiong repented his bloodthirsty habit, but it was too late. He was captured, and his fangs were forcefully extracted and flung out to sea. 

They fell near Tanjung Dawai and became an island. A prison was built there to hold the king, who night after night wailed in pain and asked to be forgiven. No one took pity on him.

Raja Besiong’s grief moved the island to float closer to the land he once ruled, and in time it merged with the mainland to become Bukit Penjara.

Raja Besiong was left in the prison to suffer but it is not known how he died.




 Seen from Tanjung Dawai, Bukit Penjara peaks at about 200 metres above sea level. It is said to be the prison of Raja Besiong

Quite extraordinary, but the story of Raja Besiong, as how the Kedahans would refer him, has many versions.


AHMAD Abdul Rahman or Tok Wan, bare-chested with his threadbare Pagoda singlet slung over his shoulder, grinned toothlessly. 

“Raja Besiong?” said the 85-year-old man, in his melodious Pattani Malay accent. “It is a long story… but it’s wrong!”

We were at his house in Kampung Carok Kapas, Kuala Pegang, about 40km from Baling, Kedah, and Tok Wan would tell us the story of Raja Besiong as it had once been told to him by two storytellers from Selama, Perak. 

Making himself comfortable, Tok Wan picked up the story from the time when the Fanged King had ignored the pleas of his queen and senior ministers, and had had to flee the revolt of his ministers against his murderous addiction to blood.

Raja Besiong (the storytellers had told Tok Wan) had retreated from his palace in Kota Aur through Kupang and Baling. Finally routed near Sik, he fled alone to Pattani. 

There he sought refuge at a farmer’s house, and ended up getting his daughter pregnant. (“They don’t like this part,” chuckled Tok Wan. “It defames the kings.”)

The farmer, Tok Golok, had returned from his orchard to find his daughter crying. “Don’t cry,” the farmer said to his daughter. “Tell me what happened. What did he do?”

“He did like what mum and dad do,” said the girl.

A handsome child was born of that union, and news spread that a king in exile was living over the Pattani border.

The queen and her loyal ministers sent troops to capture the king. “They found him at Tok Golok’s orchard,” said Tok Wan, “and they put him in a lidded cauldron and paraded him back to Bukit Penjara (near Pantai Merdeka) in the most degrading way.”

They imprisoned him in the same secret underground chamber where his victims were killed for their blood.

Tok Wan’s version of the story ended much better for Raja Besiong’s son with the farmer’s daughter. 

While the fugitive king was being hunted captured, and thrown in prison, in Ayutthaya in Siam a royal soothsayer had told the court that Raja Besiong had sired an heir.

“The Tok Nujum Siam asked for the White Elephant to be bathed in preparation to invest the prince regent from his humble abode to the Kota Aur in Kedah.”

So while the father had been borne home in a curry cauldron, the son was hailed on a sacred albino elephant as Kedah’s next king, and his mother was invited by the queen to live in the palace. 

And all but Raja Besiong seemed to live happily ever after.

Did he die in the secret chamber? Tok Wan shook his head. “He disappeared.”



This is the first of a four-part series.

NST pictures by Syaharim Abidin and Shahrizal Md Noor


Source: The Fanged King: Part 1


Tags: fanged king, fanged prince, king, raja bersiong
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