Malaysian Tales Retold & Remixed by Daphne Lee

Updated: 13 Aug 2012

Time Out says

Rating: 3.5/5, RM33

I certainly love the idea behind this project: the retelling of traditional tales native to Tanah Melayu and Singapura. But with a strong twist. Contemporising them. Although not always in their settings,but always through the modern eyes of our local writers. And positioning these new tales as food for adults (or at least not necessarily for children who are more often than not the audience of such stories from an oral-aural tradition). Introducing this ‘retold and remixed’ collection, Daphne Lee the editor writes, ‘The plan was to present these tales in ways that would make them more relevant to current times and modern sensibilities.’ She then asks, ‘ how would these tales be interpreted in the context of our current social and political climate? What new settings would be created for them? In what ways would plots and characters be deconstructed and reconstructed?’

Many readers may indeed be ignorant of some of these traditional tales, as more than one writer in this anthology acknowledges. But that’s no impediment to enjoying these retold tales, as they are in their own right fresh stories. In fact being cognisant that each finds root in a specific tale can be somewhat frustrating when you don’t know the original. When you don’t know how these tales have been reinterpreted. Or how clever the writer has been adapting his/her chosen or assigned story. Perhaps a brief account of the ‘original’ could be provided, especially for those readers more familiar with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen Stories.

In some stories the idea of gender roles and sexuality has found its way into several stories such as ‘A Little Warm Death‘, ‘Su and Her Natural Love for Swimming’ and ‘The Last Voyage’ (rewriting of the Puteri Sa’adong’s legend, a Sabah-tale called ‘The Girl Who was Kidnapped by an Orang Utan’ and a tale of Admiral Zheng He respectively). The tearing up of our jungles is given voice in ‘Don’t F*ck with Mother Earth (‘The Legend of the Two Princess’) and ‘Trick or Trees’ (‘Sang Kancil Tricking Sang Buaya’). Politics rears its head in ‘Raja Bersiong’, ‘Mahsuri’ and of course, ‘The Boy who Saved Singapura’. My favourite is ‘Si Tanggang’. SH Lim

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