Stories are the bricks and mortar with which societies and nations are built. But in Malaysia, most people seem to have forgotten our stories, our roots, having surrendered our culture to Disney and other western superficies.

Did the Sleeping Beauty story originate from Malaysia? Bidasari and the Djinn is our version of the tale that is retold by our great traditionalist, Ninot Aziz. We think the Syair Bidasari predates the earliest European versions; it’s not an imitation, it’s much older.

Bidasari and the Djinn became the first book in our proposed series to reclaim our heritage. (Ninot Aziz has many more; she estimates 400! But for our Project shortlisted 24 books and are starting with the 4 below. We’re looking for sponsorship to do the whole lot.)

The Silverfish Hikayat Project aims to reclaim what’s ours and promote it, first and foremost, among our own people. (We have since learnt that the Bidasari tale is very popular in the Phillipines.)

The second book in our list (which we want to release before the New Year) is the retelling of Bentala Naga: a Makyong Tale.

An interesting question often raised is Was ATLANTIS in SUNDALAND? (Google it.)

Historical evidence shows that before the flooding sea swallowed up much of the land, Sunda was part of the Asian mainland, a continent that stretched to the islands at the edge of the great ocean in the south, beyond present day Java.

Stephen Oppenheimer says in Eden in the East: The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia (1999): ONCE upon a time there was a landmass shaped like a crocodile foot. Its name was Sundaland and it dwarfed the neighbouring Indian subcontinent. Here, in the birthplace of the Neolithic Revolution 10,000 years ago, rice was first grown, bronze first smelted.

Between 14,000 and 7,000 years ago, geologists believe cataclysmic floods left large parts of the Sunda continent under the sea.

Many argue that Egypt and Mesopotamia were not the cradles of civilisation, as once thought, but Sundaland of which Funan, Champa, Srivijaya, Majapahit and Melaka were some archipelago kingdoms among hundreds. When their land disappeared, the locals became seafarers, spreading their genes and stories worldwide. Many also believe that this deluge was the source of the Atlantis myth and the Biblical Great Flood. The remaining Sunda archipelago became, at one point in history, the largest maritime civilisation in the world.

But our interest in this story is the probable trauma emerging from the event that defined the psyche of the people of the region. (One customer told us that stories of submerged cities exist in almost all communities in the Sunda continent.)

Such an under-water kingdom features in Chapter 1 of the Sejarah Melayu:

“Raja Suran (which many historians think was King Rajendra Chola from South India) … he ordered a chest of glass, with a lock inside, and fixed to a gold chain. Then, shutting himself up in the chest caused it to be let down into the sea to see the wonders of God Almighty’s creation. At last the chest reached the land denominated as Zeya …” And from Zeya emerged the progeny of the Malay race at Si Guntang Mahameru in Sumatra before they migrated to the peninsula.

This tale is fanciful and is often dismissed as ‘mythos’. Regardless, this feels like a Malay creationist story and worthy of a book.

The third book in the series being planned is on Puteri Saadong, the Warrior Queen of Kelantan, who with withstood a full Siamese invasion, was captured by the Siamese King. She poisoned her conqueror with venom-laced sharp fingernails during a dance sequence with him and saved Kelantan. She is also credited for promoting the performing arts, especially Makyong, in her kingdom, Negeri Serendah Sekebun Bunga.

The fourth book, Seri Gemun of Chini, explores the legendary tale of the Naga of Lake Chini. Historians believe that the lake is the site of an ancient Khmer city. The Jakuns, on the other hand, believe that the lake is guarded by a dragon-like beast known as Naga Seri Gemun.


Specifications for all titles

Genre: Rich graphic novels
Size: 200 mm-w by 250 mm-h
Interior: Rich BW text and original artwork on 157 gm Matt Art
Cover: BW glossy cover on 260 gm Art Card with 50mm folds, front and back
Binding: Perfect bound with saddle stitch.
Pages: 72 to 96


International translation and reprint rights available for all territories. Please write to: publisher@silverfishbooks.com

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