Book Review : Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed by Daphne Lee

MALAYSIAN TALES: Retold & Remixed
MALAYSIAN TALES: Retold & Remixed by

Product Details
  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • Publisher: ZI Publications Sdn. Bhd.; First edition (June 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9675266201
  • ISBN-13: 978-9675266201
  • Available on: Amazon / Abe Books / Silver Fish
Fables and fairytales. Myths and legends. They are an integral part of our heritage; of the legacy of our forefathers. Handed down from generation to generation. Passed on by word of mouth. Lamplight stories that quietly and cleverly skirt that fine line between childish fantasy and profoundly penetrating philosophy. This stunning new collection features 16 classic tales as reimagined and retold by some of Malaysia s brightest raconteurs. They spin stories that are steeped as much in mythology and magic as they are in metaphysics. Fictions that delve deep into the power of history and fable, that open our eyes to their importance, that are a testament to the enduring nature of our oral tradition. These are tales so immersive, so enticing, so welcoming, that you ll never want to click your heels and wish for home.

As this book consists of 16 individual stories, I will review them one by one.

A Little Warm Death by Karina Bahrin is a retelling of the legend of Puteri Sa'adong. When I looked at the title, I expected something that is related to murder or crime, but the story turned out to be something else, which was rather bland. 1 star.

The concept of Batu Belah by Zed Adam Idris is new and exciting, but I got confused by the identities of the protagonists. I thought Kenanga is a girl and Tanjung is a boy. But then, the author used the word 'she' when referring to Tanjung. Then, I realized that both the protagonists are girls, and lovers! So does that makes them lesbians? The story was quite refreshing, but the ending of the novel left me feeling bewildered once more. 2 stars.

Bawang Puteh, Bawang Merah by Fazlyn Abdul Malek
preserves the charm of the traditional story of the same title while adding some clever twists to the story. In Fazlyn's version of Bawang Puteh, Bawang Merah, the half-sisters are good-natured and kind, but their mothers are always at each other's throats. A series of unfortunate events disrupts their once peaceful lives, but the sisters refuse to give in to their "fates". The story ends without a conclusion, leaving readers to ponder to fate of the sisters. Will they finally live happily ever after? 5 stars.

Don't F*ck with Mother Earth by Jeremy Chin
was quite an enjoyable story. It circles around two heavenly princesses, Sania and Sejia who offered themselves to come down to Earth to save the ecosystem. However, they made a huge mistake and had to pay a huge price for their mistakes. 4 stars.

Endless Night by Daphne Lee is told from the point of view of Puteri Gunung Ledang, who is much yearned by the Sultan of Melaka. The Sultan is so obsessive of her that he is willing to fulfill her wanton requests: build her a bridge of gold and silver, collect a few jars of tears and even offer a bowl of his newborn son's blood, but all these do not matter even the least to her.
3 stars.

Mahsuri by Preeta Samarasan
tells us of a Malay woman who is betrayed by her husband but has to bear the blame of adultery instead. A guy called Dharma liked her, but he never cross the boundaries between them. Her drug junkie brother killed her when he went to her house to demand for money, but he accused his sister of adultery instead. Such was her life, sad and tragic. 3 stars.

Raja Bersiong by Amir Muhammad is written in the form of a proposal to remake the film of the same title in a musical. This proposal is quite funny and witty, and I really liked it.
4 stars.

The plot of Si Tanggang
by Preeta Samarasan follows the tale of Si Tanggang, an unfilial son who denies his parents after he prospers. In the end, his heartbroken mother curses him, and the Gods change him and his whole crew to stone. This story, narrated by Tanggang's mother herself, reveals her regret and sadness for cursing her son, as deep inside she still loves him. 4 stars.

Su and Her Natural Love of Swimming by Ann Lee is a quirky story which tells us about the unusual relationship between Su and Bubbles. Not really my cup of tea, sorry.
2 stars.

The Boy who Saved Singapura by Kee Thuan Chye
is a tragic tale about a boy who saved the country from swordfish invasion but paid for his life because of having more brains that the bendahara (prime minister in old Malay) . It also revels the heartless character of the sultan who finds it interesting that his people are killed by the todak (swordfish). The moral of this story is, don't be too eager to show off your brains, lest you lose your neck. 5 stars.

Hang Li Po plays a great part in The Gift by Janet Tay. Being sent to Malacca as a tribute / peace offering, Butterfly dreams of flying free in this new country. She is given a new name, Hang Li Po, meaning "The Beautiful Treasure of China", and she yearns to be happy in her new permanent resident. 3 stars.

The Last Voyage by O Thiam Chin chronicles the life of
Admiral Zheng He. We know about his public life as an admiral who spends most of his life at sea, but we know next to nothing about his private life. Did he yearn for love like normal people? Did he think big of his achievements? Did he feel tired after those long voyages? This story challenges the boundaries of fact and fiction. 3 stars.

The Legend of Din Ketolok Rehman Rashid was told by an old Malay gentleman to the author himself. While being exaggerated at times, this story still holds the charm of an ancient tale.
3 stars.

The Proper Care of Princesse by
Karina Bahrin is inspired by the legend of Puteri Sa'adong. Infused with mystical elements, this story is about a princess who never take her responsibility lightly. 3 stars.

The White Tiger of Temasek by Ho Lee-Ling is about a white tiger who wants to replace the Singha - a mythical lion to rule the whole region. It is also a tale about how Singapore got its name. 4 stars.

In Trick or Tree? by M. SHANmughalingam, the mouse deer and the crocodile work together to save the jungle. And as opposed by tradition, the two are also lovers. Eek! Trick or Tree? is a fun, witty and enjoyable story.
4 stars.

Overall Rating: 3.685

Note: Thanks to Lori Lee from ZI Publications for sending me a copy of this book for review!

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