8 Malay Myths And Folktales You’ll Love To Read About

Malay Myths and Folktales-ling-app-houses

Malay myths and folktales go beyond Malaysia. As the culture has reached many countries in Southeast Asia, Malay legends have taken on the color and flavor of the cultures they found themselves in, leading to a wealth of myths and folklore that people still talk about today.

Malay folklore is steeped in tradition, with various myths and stories passed down for generations. Keep in mind these stories not only entertain children (or people learning Malay) but also serve as a way to teach important moral lessons and preserve the culture’s beautiful heritage.

Of course, we’ll also look at some interesting Malay words that you can use to enhance your learning journey. Let’s get started!

Malaysian Folk Tales And Mythical Stories

The Legend Of Puteri Gunung Ledang – A Prominent Story From Malay Folklore

This is one of the most famous tales in Malay folklore. It tells the story of a breathtaking fairy princess that lived on the top of Mount Ledang. Enthralled by her beauty, she was pursued by the Sultan of Melaka, who wanted to marry her.

However, the fairy princess was a cunning one. She set impossible conditions for the Sultan to take her hand. One of the tasks was to fill a golden bowl with a virgin’s tears, another was about delivering seven trays of betel nuts from seven different states.

The Sultan found her tasks impossible to do and told her so. Then, he realized that the princess was teaching her the value of ruling justly and with compassion. The Sultan realized he must have a happy, united kingdom to win the princess’s hand. This is one of the most fantastical Malaysian legends of all time!

Words To Learn

Betel nutPinang (Pee-nang)
malay-myths-and-folktales - The Sejarah Melayu details the founding of Malaysia.

The Malay Annals – The History Of Malay Culture

The foundation of Malaysian mythology and the premiere literary work of Malay folklore, the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, is a mythological history of the beginnings, tribulations, and fall of the ancient Malay maritime empire, the Malacca sultanate.

It is a massive compilation of manuscripts and texts in the Malay language and the base of Malaysian folklore and mythology. Due to it being a compilation, there are many local tales in this text where Malaysian legends were based, including Puteri Gunung Ledang.

Among its most notable stories is the legend of Badang, a man with superhuman strength who demonstrated his exploits in front of the royal family. Another story is the saga of Hang Tuah and his companions. Hang Tuah was a warrior who lived in Malacca, grew up as a woodcutter, and became Malaysian folklore’s best fighter.

Words To Learn

WoodcutterPenebang kayu(Puh-nuh-bang kah-yu)

The Malay Tiger And The Siamese Cat – Folk Tales For Friendship

While not based on mythical creatures, this folk tale is one of the most famous Malay fairy tales to tell children! It is the story of a tiger and a cat who were best friends but fell out. However, Malaysian mythology never gives us a story that doesn’t have a lesson in it.

The Tiger and the Cat were best friends, creeping around the jungle together. However, the Tiger had a proud and arrogant streak. He saw himself as a better version of the Cat. Over time, the Cat couldn’t take being looked down on anymore and left the Tiger alone in the jungle.

The moral of this story is simple: pride and arrogance can lead to the destruction of friendships. This piece of Malay folklore teaches children the value of humility and getting along at a very early age!

Words To Learn

malay-myths-and-folktales - The kancil, or mousedeer

Sang Kancil – Malaysian Folk Tales About Resourcefulness

Sang Kancil is one of the most prominent mythical creatures in Malaysian mythology. The word kancil means “mouse deer”, a small herbivore living in East Malaysia and other countries. While small, these things are fast and flexible, making for fascinating folk stories!

One of the most prominent stories in Malaysian mythology is about Sang Kancil and some crocodiles. Sang Kancil found himself along a river infested with crocodiles who wanted to eat him. However, he made a deal with the crocodiles. They could eat him if they all formed a row and let him cross the river. The crocodiles agreed, but once Sang Kancil crossed the river, he ran away, much to the chagrin of the crocodiles.

In Malay culture, people value resourcefulness and quick thinking. Sang Kancil’s adventures are taught to children at an early age because, while he may not be a mythical bird that can go everywhere he wants, he is still a very smart and resourceful individual that elders hope their children will emulate.

Words To Learn


The Seven Batu Bersurat – A Warning Against Greed

The story of the Seven Batu Bersurat (inscribed stones) tells of seven magic stones containing ancient writings and secrets from generations past. In Malaysian mythology, it is said that these stones had the power to grant wishes.

However, only some people can pick up the Batu Bersurat and have their deepest desires granted. The stones only give this boon to people who could decipher the inscribed writing. Scores of people tried searching for the stones but were thwarted by powerful spirits that protected the stones from evildoers.

The Malaysian legends stated that only those pure of heart and well-intentioned could ever reach the stones. But, as always, this fairy tale wants people to learn that coveting something for personal gain never ends well!

Words To Learn


The Legend Of Raja Bersiong

Raja Bersiong is the story of a powerful king, who owned a magical sword that could cut through any material. He was seen as a conqueror who led his armies from the front, with the sword helping him conquer many lands.

Eventually, however, Raja Bersiong encountered a powerful sorcerer with his one counter: a shield that could protect the user from any weapon. For the first time in his life, Raja Bersiong found an enemy who could match him blow-for-blow.

A great battle ensued, which Malaysian folklore describes as one of the bloodiest battles in history. Eventually, the king was defeated. But he came out of that battle with a valuable lesson: true strength is not measured in powerful weapons but in wisdom and compassion.

Words To Learn

malay-myths-and-folktales - The naga is a sea serpent that was as powerful as a god.

The Legend Of The Naga – The Pitfalls Of Pride

When it comes to mythical creatures, Malay folklore still has you covered. Ancient seafarers have told tales of the naga for many generations. Novice boatmen would set off to sea, incredibly scared of crossing paths with the naga.

Legends say that the naga is a mighty serpent that lives deep within the ocean. It had the power to control the sea and weather, and locals used to worship it as a god for fear of its terrible power.

Over time, the serpent grew powerful and proud due to human reverence. It started demanding more and more sacrifices from the people. Eventually, a strong and brave wira stepped up and took the naga‘s head, restoring balance to the land. Like many Malay legends, this story warns against the evils of greed and the importance of humility.

Words To Learn


The Legend Of The Orang Bunian – Bringers Of Protection

One of the most unbelievable in Malaysian folklore is the story of the Orang Bunian people. Literally translated, it means “elven people,” and they are one of the few Malaysian legends that come with a grain of truth!

The Orang Bunian are a race of people that were said to live in a parallel world. They were reportedly small, fair-skinned, and knowledgeable- much more than the regular Ahmad. For this reason, the Orang Bunian were both respected and feared.

They were depicted as people who lived in harmony with nature and were said to have a very deep, even natural understanding of the world around them. To this day, smaller people with fair skin are seen as Orang Bunian, and some parts of Malaysia still seek them out to invoke their protection and guidance.

Words To Learn

Learn Malay with Ling App

Learn Malay Words With The Ling App

Did you enjoy our little journey into Malaysian mythology? Great! You might want to start reading more Malay folklore on your own after this. However, if you find texts written in Malay, you might want to learn a few more words — and that’s where the Ling app comes in!

The Ling app is a language learning app developed for people of all learning skill levels: from beginners to native speakers! It offers Malay language lessons, as well as 60 other languages such as Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and even Nepali.

If you want to get started on your Malay learning journey, Ling App is the first and last app you’ll need. Download it now on Android and iOS!

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