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Raja Bersiong

Graphics by Johanna Anuar

A long, long time ago, there lived a prince whose father was a great ruler of Kedah. He was handsome, strong and a skilled hunter.

Sadly, the prince did not take after his parents' fair and kind traits. He was a spoiled and haughty youth, and a rogue even after he became king.

One day, the prince complained to his ministers of a nagging toothache in his upper jaw. A few days later, a pair of long pointed teeth emerged. Since then he was known as Raja Besiong, the Fanged King.

Raja Besiong was a cruel and merciless ruler. Those caught committing crimes, however minor, were severely punished.

One day, a cook cut her finger while preparing Raja Besiong’s favourite spinach broth and her blood dripped into the dish. She didn’t have time to prepare another pot, so the tainted dish was served to the king.

Raja Besiong immediately tasted the difference. In fact, he found it exceptionally delicious. He finished the broth to its last drop and summoned the cook. He unsheathed his keris and held it to the terrified woman’s neck, forcing her to explain the alien ingredient added to the broth. She told him about the cut on her finger and how the blood had accidentally dripped into the pot.

He spared her, but from that day on ordered a criminal to be executed every day so that he could have blood for his broth.

Raja Besiong’s ministers begged him to stop these killings, but he refused to listen and challenged them to dethrone him. War broke out, and the kingdom was in chaos. Outnumbered, the king fled.

In exile, Raja Besiong repented his bloodthirsty habit, but it was too late. He was captured, and his fangs were forcefully extracted and flung out to sea.

They fell near Tanjung Dawai and became an island. A prison was built there to hold the king, who night after night wailed in pain and asked to be forgiven. No one took pity on him.

Raja Besiong’s grief moved the island to float closer to the land he once ruled, and in time it merged with the mainland to become Bukit Penjara.

Raja Besiong was left in the prison to suffer but it is not known how he died. Until today, on quiet nights, fishermen off Bukit Penjara say they can still hear Raja Besiong wailing from the prison.

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