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Thursday, May 20, 2010

a ghost tiger for a pet

In 1900 Walter William Skeat recorded the following Malay folklore about a princess with a special sort of fabulous pet.

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There are many stories about ghost tigers (rimau kramat), which are generally supposed to have one foot a little smaller than the others (kaki tengkis). During my stay in the Langat district I was shown on more than one occasion the spoor of a ghost tiger. This happened once near Sepang village, on a wet and clayey bridle-track, where the unnatural smallness of one of the feet was very conspicuous. Such tigers are considered invulnerable, but harmless to man, and are looked upon generally as the guardian spirits of some sacred spot. . .

By far the most celebrated of these ghost tigers, however, were the guardians of the shrine at the foot of Jugra Hill, which were formerly the pets of the Princess of Malacca (Tuan Putri Gunong Ledang).

Local report says that this princess left her country when it was taken by the Portuguese, and established herself on Jugra Hill, a solitary hill on the southern portion of the Selangor coast, which is marked on old charts as the "False Parcelar" hill.

The legend which connects the name of this princess with Jugra Hill was thus told by Mr. G. C. Bellamy (formerly of the Selangor Civil Service).

" Bukit Jugra (Jugra Hill) in its isolated position, and conspicuous as it is from the sea, could scarcely escape being an object of veneration to the uneducated Malay mind. The jungle which clothes its summit and sides is supposed to be full of hantus (demons or ghosts), and often when talking to Malays in my bungalow in the evening have our discussions been interrupted by the cries of the langswayer (a female birth-demon) in the neighbouring jungle, or the mutterings of the bajang (a familiar spirit) as he sat on the roof-tree. But the ' Putri' (Princess) of Gunong Ledang holds the premier position amongst the fabulous denizens of the jungle on the hill, and it is strange that places so far apart as Mount Ophir and Bukit Jugra should be associated with one another in traditionary lore. The story runs that this estimable lady, having disposed of her husband by pricking him to death with needles, decided thenceforth to live free from the restrictions of married life.

She was thus able to visit distant lands, taking with her a cat of fabulous dimensions as her sole attendant. This cat appears to have been a most amiable and accommodating creature, for on arriving at Jugra he carried the Princess on his back to the top of the hill. Here the lady remained for some time, and during her stay constructed a bathing-place for herself. Even to this day she pays periodical visits to Jugra Hill, and although she herself is invisible to mortal eye, her faithful attendant, in the shape of a handsome tiger, is often to be met with as he prowls about the place at night. He has never been known to injure any one, and is reverently spoken of as a rimau kramat (ghost tiger)."

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Malay Magic: being an introduction to the folklore and popular religion of the Malay Peninsula (London and New York: The Macmillan Company, 1900), pp. 163-64.

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