The Sang Kancil Story of Malacca

The official emblem of the state of Malacca depicts two normal brown-colored chevrotains (kancil in Malay) on each side of the tree of Malacca. However, if the emblem meant to show the chevrotain as encountered by Parameswara in the Sejarah Melayu, then the color of the animal is probably not correct. (The emblem is explained official portal of the state government.)

If you were to follow the Malay classic carefully, the chevrotain mentioned is white in color. The relatively new logo of the City Council of Malacca (the logo was unveiled when Malacca was declared Historical City on April 13, 2003), however, correctly show the two chevrotains in white.

On the other hand, the familiar kancil story purported to explain the founding of Malacca could be a story modified from a folk-tale from Sri Lanka. This fact was first noted by R. O. Winstedt in 1922. Dr. Winstedt was the pioneer in the systematic study of Malay history. He served one term as the general advisor to the Sultan Ibrahim of Johore (son of Sultan Abu Bakar or the great grandfather of the reigning Sultan Ibrahim Ismail)

I was in the Za'ba Memorial Library few weeks ago looking for materials related to Bukit Cina, Malacca, when I accidentally found this interesting piece of information from an old journal article:

R. O. Winstedt (1922) Two Legends of Malacca, Journal of Straits Branch of Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 85, p. 4.
In it, Dr. Winstedt mentioned that there exists a similar Sinhalese legend of the founding of an Indian city called Kandy, in Sri Lanka. Kandy was city contemporaneous with Malacca, founded some 30-40 years before Malacca. Possibly the story was brought to Malacca by Sinhalese traders and got woven into the fabrics of Malay history.

In the founding story of Kandy, a basket-mender discovered a strange phenomenon where a small hare was chasing after a jackal. He reported this event to a King, and the King thought that the place was a good victorious ground. Eventually, the King built his capital there and named it Kandy.

In the founding story of Malacca in Sejarah Melayu, we were told that when Parameswara was hunting near Bertam River, when a albino chevrotain kicked his hound into the water. He chose the spot where chevrotain were valiant for his new settlement and named it Malacca after a tree against which he was leaning at the time of the incident.

The two stories are so strikingly similar and you can compare the corresponding characters in the two stories in the list below:

The founding legend of Kandy referred by Dr. Winstedt can be found in: Henry Parker (1914) Village Folk-tales of Ceylon, Vol. II, p. 3. The complete page is reproduced below:


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