Malacca history and legends go back as far as the late 14th century, starting from its humble beginnings as a coastal village and rise to prominence under the Malaccan Sultanate to cautionary tales of fairies and loyalty to the king. Locals believe the state’s impetus towards the development of what would eventually become Malaysia.
In 1396, a Sumatran prince by the name of Parameswara fled his country out of fear of the attacking Majapahit Empire. Landing in Temasek, he killed the local ruler and established himself over the island that is now known as Singapore. A few years later, he was driven out by a Thai-controlled army and once again, was left scouting for a new piece of land.
Eventually, he moved up the West Coast of Malaysia and founded Malacca. Legend says that he was resting under a tree when he saw a mouse deer kicking his hunting dogs into the river and they attacked it. Declaring the place to be auspicious, he decided to set up shop and named the place after the tree he was resting under Melaka.
In 1414, Parameswara converted to Islam, leading him become Sultan of Malacca. The city was also growing into a prominent trading ground for traders from across Asia, notably India, Arabia and China. As a result, many Chinese migrants settled here during this time, establishing the Peranakan culture for the future. Malacca also established contact with the Chinese empire through the explorer Zheng He to protect their territory from Siamese forces, culminating in the marriage of Sultan Mansur Shah and Hang Li Poh.
A century later, the Portuguese came, saw and conquered Malacca in 1511. This was a milestone for the Western colonists looking to extend their empire to the East Indies. Malacca continued to prosper under Portuguese rule until the Dutch came into the picture. With the help of the Sultan of Johor (descended from a Malaccan Sultan), the Dutch captured the port and ruled over it until 1795, where Malacca was ceded to the British under an exchange programme for Batavia (Jakarta) In Indonesia.
The British East India Company developed Malacca and spread their influence all over Malaysia, enforcing control over the trade industry and employing governors to rule each state. The Company was eventually replaced by direct administration from the Crown Colony. Finally, Malacca, along with the rest of Malaysia received her independence in 1957, paving the way for the future which is today.
The Legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang
Another famous urban legend of Malacca revolves around Puteri Gunung Ledang or Princess of Mount Ledang. Locals believe that the princess was a fairy whom the Sultan desired to marry. She laid down several conditions jars of mosquito hearts and tears of virgins. However, the last condition demanded a cup of his son's blood. That which the sultan could not fulfil (some accounts say he actually considered it but was reprimanded by the Princess) was the last requirement and sadly, gave up his hope of marrying her.
The Legend of Hang Tuah
During the time of Malacca's Sultanate, many legends and stories were created and recorded in the 'Sejarah Melayu', or Annals of Malay History. Chief among the legends is the story of Hang Tuah, a Malay warrior with superior skill and loyalty to the Sultan.
It was said that one day, the Malaccan officials were jealous of Hang Tuah's favour with the Sultan. They cooked up a story that he had slept with the Sultan's favourite consort. Indignant, the Sultan ordered Hang Tuah to be put to death. However, a minister by the name of Tun Perak hid him away instead, believing in his innocence.
One of Hang Tuah's friends, Hang Kasturi, was grieved when he heard the news of his friend's 'demise'. Going amok, he killed officials right, left and centre. There were none who could compete with his fury and even the Sultan ran away from the palace in fear. Eventually, Tun Perak brought Hang Tuah back into the limelight and the Sultan pardoned him, ordering him to execute Hang Kasturi.
Hang Tuah obeyed and despite the pleas from Hang Kasturi, the two fought for a month until Kasturi lost. Hang Kasturi was then renamed as 'Hang Jebat', implying a 'rotten stench' while Hang Tuah received accolades all over.