Nakhoda Ragam and Princess Laila Mencanai; a Malay folk tale re-imagined

This story is published here to point to their existence and add another version to the few already in circulation.  It is re-imagined and rewritten folklore, first shared during the launch of Bookish Charms: A Folk Tale Collection; a for-charity collaboration between Heartwrite Co. and Enya Bijoux.  For their creativity, twists and deficits, we ask your kind indulgence.


It is said that the fifth Sultan of Brunei was also known as Nakhoda Ragam. He was a respected king, loved by all of his citizens.  The Sultan was passionate about many things, one of which was voyaging through the Malay world.  He was cheerful, calm, and frequently humming and whistling happily.

On the night the Sultan met his future queen, he was said to have been sailing towards Gunung Ledang, to propose to the heavenly being residing there, a princess of unmatched beauty, when life revealed its real plan.

They were out on the wide sea when the ship’s crew saw a white shiny bubble rising from the water.  When it appeared in full, the bubble stopped its ascent and simply floated above the surface.  Nakhoda Ragam ordered his men to bring the bubble on board.  As you could imagine, the crew’s first thought was this may be trouble, and they were unwilling to touch it for long.  Once on board, the bubble rolled around the deck.  Suddenly there was a huge explosion.  The ship rocked and the crew, fearing for their lives, ran around in fits of panic.  Only Nakhoda Ragam was calm among the ruckus, and he was the first to see a beautiful woman appear.

She introduced herself as Princess Laila Mencanai.

By this time, the Sultan had all forgotten about Gunung Ledang.  He was smitten.  The marriage between Nakhoda Ragam and Princess Laila Mencanai was officiated right then aboard the ship, and they changed course to return to Brunei.  At nights, the royal couple would sing together above deck.

They were a few days away from Brunei when the Sultan found Princess Laila Mencanai sewing in their room.  As he got closer, the princess told him to stay away, for she was sewing with a magic needle.  The Sultan was puzzled but laughed, thinking it was just a game.  Unfortunately, it was a deadly one.  As the Sultan approached, the magic needle flew at him, pricking him only slightly though it was enough to kill.

The princess, shocked and bereaved, locked herself in the room, not knowing what to do. Scared that the ship crew might find out that their beloved king had passed away, whenever they would knock on the door, the princess would swiftly reply that they were resting and should not be disturbed.

The ship crew began to get suspicious.  A foul smell was emanating from the royal room, so one night, one of the men peeked in. News of the death created a state of emergency aboard the ship.

Princess Laila Mencanai heard the commotion and fights breaking outside.  She thought they would surely punish her, only to realise that they were fighting over who had the right to her hand in marriage, now she was a widow.  ‘Humans!’ she thought, disgusted and disappointed.  Seeing her husband, however, made her weep.  Not all humans were terrible, she thought and thenafter decided to join him.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s