Concerning Hikayat Hang Tuah

The nucleus of the story of Hikayat Hang Tuah was born during the Malaccan period in the 15th century, but its cytoplasm contains elements from Sejarah Melayu and the Johore Sultanate in mid 17th century. The final form of Hikayat Hang Tuah as we now know it was last edited probably in 1710s, 250 years away from the Malaccan period, 300 years away from now.

Some web sources suggest that Hang Tuah was actually a Chinese, and recently a friend of mine raised the same question to me. I personally do not think Mr. Hang is a Chinese, although it is very inviting to think of "Hang" as a word of chinese origin, like what I postulated in the case of Hang Li Po. In fact, my family name was spelt as "Hang" instead of "Ang" during the time of my grandfather's father when he followed his boss Tan Kah Kee (陈嘉庚) to Nanyang.

Now back to Hang Tuah, he is definitely a pseudo-character, probably loosely modelled after a real person - Laksamana Abdul Jamil. Abdul Jamil was once the most powerful man in the Johore Sultanate. A lot of the story narrated in Hikayat Hang Tuah was actually modelled after the real events which took place between 1650 - 1680.

Our local expert on the Hikayat Hang Tuah is Kassim Ahmad. Kassim studied in University of Malaya, Singapore and graduated in 1959. His B. A. final year paper, supervised by J. C. Bottoms, was a research on the characterization in Hikayat Hang Tuah. This research work was later chosen to be published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 1966. Between 1963 to 1966, Kassim was a lecturer in the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London.


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