The Wise Burung Pingai; a Malay folktale 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.


Awang Alak Betatar was going to be King.  Despite that, one of his brothers, Pateh Berbai, noticed that he was looking rather forlorn for someone who was about the rule a country.

‘I’m single’, Awang Alak Betatar said simply, and continued to mope.

‘Tell me, brother, is it your wish to be married?’ asked Pateh Berbai.

‘No kidding,’ he replied.

Pateh Berbai had never seen his brother this way before, and suggested that he marry the princess of Johor.  The word is that the princess is very beautiful.  There was one hurdle to overcome, though.  The Sultan of Johor wouldn’t approve.  Yet, Pateh insisted that it needed to be done and he recruited his closest friends, including legendary strong man, Awang Semaun, to help.

They set sail.  When they arrived, they saw that indeed the princess was beautiful and hatched a plan to kidnap her, which succeeded.  The Sultan of Johor was not slow to notice and sent off his best men to look for her.  At the time, it was unclear how the princess could be tracked down, but the group, led by two of the Sultan’s trusted advisors, had the foresight to bring along the princess’ beloved and loyal pet, the Burung Pingai.  Off they went to Brunei.  En route, their boat capsized!  Thankfully, the men were able to swim to shore where, miraculously, they spotted the bird.

With no other plan and driven by faith, the advisors followed the Princess’ pet.  Wherever it landed, they set up camp.  This went on for days, and days turned to weeks.  Finally, the bird took them close to the palace, and once they set camp, it flew off into one of the rooms.  Again, the advisors were fortunate and they spotted the princess from afar.  She was ecstatic to be reunited with her pet.

Dressed as women, the advisors snuck into the palace to get her out of captivity.  To their surprise she refused.  She was married now, to none other than the King.  They protested, but she assured them that Awang Alak Betatar has converted to Islam, and they were rightfully man and wife.

The advisors sent news to Johor.  In response, the Sultan sent boats with a request for the newly wed to get married according to the Johor culture and traditions.  The new Sultan and the Princess of Johor returned to Brunei, and to commemorate the loyal bird, the village at which the bird first landed was named in its honour.


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