5 of the Most Popular Singaporean Myths and Folktales

14 Mar

Being one of the most urbanized countries in Asia, Singapore is not only economically rich but it is also endowed with rich myths and legends popularized by locals. This includes the myth of how the name “Singapora” initially came about, which roughly translates to the “City of Lion”.

The Legend of Singapura
The King of Sumatra (Indonesia), named Sang Nila Utama, was said to have discovered the island state about 1297 A.D. Enthralled by its white sandy beaches, he decided to stay for a while only to bump into a beastly lion. He considered it as a promising symbol of the nation, thus naming the island city as The City of Lion or Singapora. Sang Nila Utama was also said to have ruled the city-state until his death.

The Legend of the Merlion
This popular tale recounts the occurrence of a tsunami in the island. The villagers prayed night and day, asking God to spare their lives, and their pleas were answered by the almighty almost immediately. A huge beastly creature appeared the day after (said to take the form of a Merlion), and its appearance made the seas subside into a calm and tranquil disposition.

Pulau Ubin
This fable is quite famous for explaining the formation of Palau Ubin, an island off the mainland coast of Singapore. A pig, frog, and an elephant once conduced a race from the mainland all the way to the shores of Johor. Should they fail in the challenge, they will be transformed into a rock. All of the three animals didn’t succeed in doing the race, hence they turned into giant rocks which is said to compose the island of Palau Ubin.

Badang and the Singapore Stone
This folklore is about Badang, a fisherman, who desired to be the strongest person on earth and was granted this particular wish. At some point, strong Badang got into a fight with Bijaya, another strong man from India. He threw a rock into the Singapore River during their battle — and that said rock remains in existence and can be found at the Singapore history museum.

Radin Mas
The Singapore neighborhood of Radin Mas is named after Radin Mas Ayu, a Javanese princess of the royal court. In Javanese, her name means “Princess of Golden Beauty.” Together with her father, they both fled to Singapore to avoid persecution from the hands of the Sultan (which is also her uncle). It was the area in Radin Mas which she first lived in. Unfortunately, she was later killed by a lusty king. A shrine commemorating Radin Mas Ayu stands at Mount Faber.

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