THE GREAT HERO of the MALAYS.
By WALTER MURRAY GIBSON.
In the year 1873, whilst publishing a small bilingual sheet, the Nuhou, in the English and Hawaiian languages, I was urged by Hawaiian friends to write a story about my experience in Malaysia, and illustrative of Malay manners and customs. I published some incidents of travel in the Island of Sumatra, and as I introduced some fragments of the legendary stories of the Malays, especially in relation to the renowned hero Laksamana, of Malay romance, I was pressed and tempted to expand this subject, drawing on my imagination, as well as on the traditions of the Malays and Javanese to which I had listened, and the result was that the story of “Laksamana” was continued in the Nuhou in the Hawaiian language, in a succession of weekly issues for a space of six months, and yet when the Nuhou had terminated its career, the story like those of Scheheserade [Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights], was left unfinished.
When the editor of the Nuhou, and author of Laksamana, commenced the publication of the Elele Poakolu in 1880, the Hawaiians very generally expressed a wish that the story of Laksamana should be continued; for the memory of the interest that it had awakened in 1873 had not abated in Hawaiian minds, and the author resumed the story in the Elele, publishing a revised edition of the Nuhou series of Laksamana legends.
This is a story based upon legends, designed for the entertainment of young and unsophisticated minds. It is a romance of the mythic age of Malaysia and originating in the poetic invention of Asia. Laksamana, the brother of the demi-god Rama, is a hero of the great Hindoo [Hindu] poem the “Ramayana,” and in a later age appears in the Javanese epic, the “Bratayuda.” The mythic Prince of the Indian epopee gas given the name that is so prominent in Malay story, but there was, according to widespread tradition, an actual Malay hero to whom was given the name of Laksamana, as a title, as certain potentates of Europe are styled Cæsars—deriving their title from the name of the great Roman who founded imperialism. Laksamana has long been a naval title in Malaysia, being the titular designation of an admiral, or commander of a fleet of war prahus.
Laksamana the hero is frequently mentioned in Malay song and story at this day, and he appears sometimes a mythic hero working wonders and sometimes a historic personage and the hero of Malay achievements. There is no written history, or series of stories, recording in any collective form, the myths or the achievements, and the author of this story, designed for the instruction and entertainment of native Hawaiians has had no assistance in the preparation of the romance but the memory of fragmentary legends narrated to him whilst he languished in the Prison of Weltevreden, on the island of Java, and which he arranged into this Hawaiian kaao, or romantic tale, during days of peaceful toil on the island of Lanai.
This story is now presented to the English reading public, through the columns of the Advertiser, not on account of any presumed literary merit, but because it has been thought by many friends of the author that it would be interesting to those desiring the welfare of the Hawaiian People, to know what kind of literature captivated their attention, and at the same time it was thought that the romance of Laksamana, would at least interest the juvenile, if not the more matured readers of the Advertiser.
Walter Murray Gibson.
Haleaniani, April 29, 1882.
[The actual tale starts here…
It was introduced in the Nuhou, on 10/14/1873, pp. 4–5; the translation of the tale is printed from 11/4/1873 to 4/28/1874. In the Nuhou, it actually states that the story was translated from the Malay language.]
(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 4/29/1882, p. 5)