Thursday, 12 May 2011

The Hantu, The Witch and The Sampan

It was hinted that this series of junior readers' books on Dayak lore will be styled according to CS Lewis's Narnia Chronicles.

Sceptical? Don't knock it till you read it. We sometimes are so enamoured of foreign culture, we neglect the possibility that our own backyard might have cultural threads that can be re-woven into something that's just as marketable.

Cover for Miyah and the Forest Demon (left) and an illustration
in the book featuring Miyah's father, the shaman Raseh

Centuries ago in Borneo, a great shaman named Jugra battled a particularly powerful demon. Though unable to destroy it, the shaman somehow imprisoned the demon within the vicinity of what would be his grave.

Fast forward to the 17th century. The Portuguese have been driven out of Malacca, and the Dutch have moved in. At a longhouse in a village called Tapoh, a shaman gives thanks to the spirits for a bountiful harvest, unaware that an uninvited guest has gatecrashed the party. The spirits he channels have no good news for him, either, leaving the assembled with an ominous warning: "Beware the Jugra blood..."

Young Tanjungpura noble Nila pursues Endu Dara, the chieftain's daughter (left),
and Miyah (at the back) and her friend Suru take Miyah's boat for a spin

The next day, the shaman's daughter Miyah, awakens to her 13th birthday, and a visit by dignitaries from not-quite-faraway Tanjungpura. Amidst news of brewing political strife in that region, a young Tanjungpura nobleman proposes to the chieftain's daughter. Miyah is also given a boat, and learns more about her half-Chinese friend Suru.

The Jugra Chronicles
Miyah and The Forest Demon

Story by Tutu Dutta-Yean
Illustrated by Choong Kwee Kim

MPH Group Publishing (2011)
Junior Reader - Legends, Myths & Fables
153 pages
ISBN: 978-967-5997-28-0

RM19.90 | Buy from
But Miyah isn't quite ready for the responsibilities that entail her adulthood. Ditching her task to watch over her younger brother Bongsu, she runs off to play with her friends at the river.

But later, when rain falls from a sunny sky, Miyah fears the worst, and returns to find her brother missing. With the help of her cousin, the young village outcast Rigih, she starts looking for Bongsu.

What happened to Miyah's brother? What's with Rigih's gift for talking to certain animals? And what does Bongsu's disappearance, Miyah's bloodline, and Tapoh's history have to do with the uninvited guest during the harvest celebration - and the evil lurking deep in a shadowy forest, chained to Jugra's mound by the ancient shaman's magic?

The first of what will become The Jugra Chronicles, Miyah and the Forest Demon, should be at all bookstores by now.

Material for this series is by Tutu Dutta-Yean, whose repertoire includes fairy tale collections such as Timeless Tales of Malaysia, Eight Jewels of the Phoenix, Eight Fortunes of the Qilin, and the upcoming Eight Treasures of the Dragon.

Illustrations for this book are by Choong Kwee Kim of such books as Ah Fu The Rickshaw Coolie and The Wildlife Watcher.

The next instalment in The Jugra Chronicles is currently scheduled for release early next year.


  1. Thank you for posting this review of MIYAH AND THE FOREST DEMON, Alan Wong! I had no idea until my FACEBOOK friend, Susan Abraham shared this review with me wall-to-wall. Apart from the Chronicles of Narnia, the Jugra Chronicles also follows the style of Ruth Manley's THE PLUM RAIN SCROLL and PEONY LANTERN.
    Tutu Dutta-Yean

  2. Tutu Dutta-Yean: Actually, I'm just spreading word about the book. It's more of a blurb than a review; I don't think one can or should review books, etc published by one's own company.

    Have a good day and all the best. Can't wait for the next instalment.

  3. Hi Alan,

    I'm a Malaysian writer in Dublin and accidentally found your blog. I think you write extremely well - it's encouraging to see the use of the English Language spread out as gracefully as this...lucid & straightforward, crisp & armed with a pleasing tonee that bears no fear or favour.
    Do continue to keep up your distinctive 'voice' through your thoughts & prose. regards

    Susan Abraham

  4. Susan Abraham: You flatter me, madam. Mine's just a blog.

    But thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and for your kind words and encouragement.

    Have a good weekend, and all the best.

  5. Susan Abraham is quite adept at spreading the English Language gracefully too!
    (And yes, I did realise your write-up was for publicity and not quite a review but thanks anyway!)
    Tutu Dutta

  6. Tutu Dutta-Yean: That's true about Ms Abraham.

    And no problem, doing what I can to help. Went through the manuscript for the next instalment, looks fine. Looking forward to wrapping it up.

    Have a good week.


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