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Raja Bersiong ~ Fanged Prince Part 2




The Fanged King: Part 2 2010/06/22 By Siti Nurbaiyah Nadzmi nurbaiyah@nst.com.my

MANY believe Raja Besiong did not die. Some say he befriended demons who took him away. Some say he repented and became a holy spirit in the forests of Gunung Jerai. Some believe he wailed night after night, repenting his sins but never resting in peace. They say his spirit haunts his prison, now called Bukit Penjara.


Fisherman Ishak Mat, 40, was sceptical about the whole epic. "I've never heard anyone wailing from the top of the hill".

 At the foot of Bukit Penjara, about 80km from Tok Wan’s house, fisherman Ishak Mat, 40, was sceptical about the whole epic. "I've never heard anyone wailing from the top of the hill".


He had been born in Kampung Bukit Penjara (which the Post Office also recognises as Kampung Bakar Arang and Kampung Pantai Merdeka) and lived there all his life, in a house at the foot of Bukit Penjara.


“I climbed the hill when I was a kid, maybe 25 years ago,” Ishak said. “There were three deep wells, which people said were the prison of Raja Besiong, but I think they looked more like a chamber for many prisoners. They wouldn’t build three wells for just one person, right?”

From the top of the hill, Ishak said, one could see the mouth of the Sungai Merbok, the entrance to the ancient Kedah entrepot, the Bujang valley. But there was no track up to those wells any more, and no one had been up there for a long time.

Over the centuries, the story of Raja Besiong became interwoven with threads drawn from Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, the oral tradition of Tok Selampit, and folklore.


Thus, while Tok Wan says that “Baling” is derived from the Siamese “Ban Ling”, which means “Monkey Village”, others insist it was named after the route of the king took into exile.

Hashim Yahya, 81, a blind fisherman from Kampung Pulau Sayak, believes Raja Besiong is a Kedah ruler."I don’t care what other clever people think".


Pak Ngah, or Hashim Yahya, 81, a blind fisherman from Kampung Pulau Sayak, relates that Raja Besiong had fled from from Kota Aur in Kota Kuala Muda to Pantai Merdeka, where he put a curse on the beach such that “no king of sovereignty shall set foot on this land”, before proceeding to the hinterland of Bujang Valley towards Pattani.


“Raja Besiong is not a myth,” said Pak Ngah. “He was a Kedah sovereign, but his demonic behaviour, probably influenced by jinn, caused the people to turn against him.”


Pak Ngah said it was an accepted norm in the olden days for people to associate themselves with supernatural powers as a form of status. To Pak Ngah, the story of Raja Besiong, hardly known now among the younger generation, was an important piece of folklore.

“It is about sovereignty and justice,” he said, “a grim reminder of an unjust king. I don’t think he was a myth. He was a Kedah ruler. I don’t care what other clever people think.”

On his escape from the palace, the king stopped to rest at Kuala Ketil, and brooded gloomily over what he had done. He tried to pull out his fangs but couldn’t. He tried again in Kuala Pegang and Pulai, but it was only in Baling that Raja Bersiong succeeded.

He flung away the fangs with all his might, and they zinged through the air across what now is called Kampung Weng Dalam and Kampung Weng Luar. (The “Weng” is pronounced as wing so as to mimic that sound, apparently.)

 
 
 Datuk Dr Wan Shamsuddin Yusof, chairman of the Kedah History Association, said from the historical point of view Raja Besiong never existed



People’s imaginations were fired by the stories of Tok Selampit, the traditional story tellers who travelled from town to town telling stories by adding and editing parts to keep the audience engrossed.

Tok Selampit stories, Wan Shamsuddin said, could not be termed as historical facts. 

“My first posting as a teacher in 1948 in Sekolah Kuala Kupang, Baling brought to me one of the last surviving Tok Selampit, by the name of Mak Mah, or Halimah.

“She told me the tale of Raja Besiong and how these places were named after the route he took when he was banished from his palace.”

Wan Shamsuddin said the Tok Selampit version of Raja Bersiong had become a fantastic concoction of myth and folklore, far removed from any shred of truth. 

“We can’t find an original version of Tok Selampit story anymore. What’s left is a mixture of folklore and what the people want to believe.” Wan Shamsuddin shook his head. “Let the story rest. Raja Besiong is not real. He is the figment of people’s imagination.”

But such a great tale can never be buried. In 1968, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj inspired Malay movie stalwart Jamil Sulong to film the the folklore. "Raja Bersiong" became Shaw Brothers’ most ambitious project to date, costing RM750,000 in technicolour.

In 2008, the Petronas Performing Arts group opened the year with an elaborate dance drama on the Fanged King. Earlier this year, TV3 in its “Lagenda” slot screened Siong, a series loosely based on the lore.

But above all, Raja Besiong is immortalised in the classical writing of Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa. The entire third chapter of the book is dedicated to the Fanged King or his real name, Raja Ong Maha Perita Deria.



This is the second of a four-part series.

NST pictures by Syaharim Abidin and Shahrizal Md Noor


 


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