Set before the temple spires of Ancient Java, a royal couple is bewitched with a horrible curse. Their son, and heir to his father’s throne, is born with a monstrous deformity—he’s a human with the face and body of a pig.
This is the premise of “Hikayat Raja Babi”, or the Malay Tale of the Pig King—a piece of fiction originally written 245 years ago in 1775 by Javanese merchant Usup Abdul Kadir.
For a great length of time, the original Jawi manuscript was kept hidden in The British Library, where it sat forgotten in their voluminous archives. Fast forward to almost three centuries later in 2015, the ancient parchment was rediscovered by Malaysian indie publisher Buku Fixi, who wasted no time in translating the script into romanised characters.
Today, the tale has been rewritten into a children’s book by Malaysian author Heidi Shamsuddin.
The narrative is an inspiring one, for Raja Babi is said to be a man who possesses robust strength, a sharp wit, and a kind heart. It is a riveting study of the David vs Goliath archetype—born with a crippling defect, the young prince lets nothing get in his way as he battles countless adventures to prove his mettle, in a quest to win the love of his life’s heart.
The book was however met with mixed reactions—while it received overwhelming response on its crowdfunding campaign, some criticised the author’s artistic choice and even accused her of “whitewashing a Malay tale”.
What do you think?
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