‘The Blood Prince of Langkasuka’ by Tutu Dutta: Why I think we should read this 12th century folklore in 2021

By Sonia Singh

Since the 12th century, The Blood Prince of Langkasuka – also known as ‘Kisah Raja Bersiong’ – has been a well-known tale in Malaysia. Despite this, it never occurred to Tutu Dutta to write a re-telling based on this famous Southeast Asian folklore. 

However, in 2012, she was posted to Zagreb, Croatia and was researching local vampire legends which reminded her about a Malaysian legend called the Fanged King. At that time, the media in Malaysia also reported on ancient historical temples at Bujang Valley being destroyed. 

If you didn’t know already, Bujang Valley is part of the Langkasuka empire and is said to be one of the oldest and richest Southeast Asian historical sites.

These events inspired Dutta to write a short story titled ‘The Blood Prince of Langkasuka’ while residing in Zagreb.

Tutu Dutta was born in India and brought up in Malaysia. She was awarded a scholarship to attend summer school at Sophia University in Tokyo. This marked an awe-inspiring moment for Dutta, where she first fell in love with folklore. Dutta has published several books titled ‘Timeless Tales of Malaysia’, ‘Eight Treasures of The Dragan’, ‘The Jugra Chronicles’, ‘Phoenix Song’ and more.

The Blood Prince of Langkasuka falls under the category of young adult fiction. It is a dark fantasy/folklore coming of age story, featuring a protagonist who is a vampire, wrapped in a murder mystery. It is a Penguin Random House SEA publication and exclusively distributed by Times Reads.

To some, historical folklore based in the 12th century may seem outdated or irrelevant. As a Malaysian and a reader who really enjoyed reading The Blood Prince of Langkasuka, I wholeheartedly disagree. This 12th century tale has so much value to offer in 2021.

Here is why we should read The Blood Prince of Langkasuka in 2021:

  1. It Connects Us With Our Roots

Reading folklore connects us with the culture or place we were brought up in. When reading this folklore, I felt happy and proud to be part of an ancient tale like this. I will not say that I felt entirely connected to the story. 

But with its Malay history, and Hindu mythology elements, I felt some sense of belonging when reading this tale.

Sense of belonging has always been a vital need among people. It is a psychological need we cannot run away from. Even if you’re not from Malaysia, this story is fairly relatable and will connect with the reader in one way or another.

  1. We Shall Not Forget Such Rich History

It is commonly mistaken that mythologies and folklore are entirely made up by people and therefore should not be taken seriously. However, people fail to realise that a decent amount of it is based on real events.

In fact, this folklore is part of one of the richest histories in Southeast Asia. Therefore,  it would be a shame to not know anything about it.

The Malay Peninsular was influenced by many cultures in the distant past, right up to the present time. Not just Bharat (frequently referred to as India in this book), but also ancient China.

Reading folklore connects us with the culture or place we were brought up in […] Sense of belonging has always been a vital need among people. It is a psychological need we cannot run away from.

Sonia Singh

The story is set in the Bujang Valley civilisation that was ruled by the Langkasuka empire. Later on, Langkasuka became part of Srivijaya. Therefore, although this story had various mythical creatures, the majority of it were important historical events which we should not allow to be forgotten throughout the years.

Picture by @be_yourself from Instagram
  1. Folklores Are Tales By People For People

Why do we read myths, legends or folktales? Simple, we resonate with them in one way or another. These stories are spread through word of mouth. 

In this book, we come across a mythical creature called Yakshi. Yakshis are beautiful, powerful creatures associated with nature. They are able to swallow the life force of beings but not kill them. How do we resonate with this mythical creature?

Think about it, most people want to feel beautiful and powerful, don’t we? Mythical or not, these tales and creatures that are created by us resemble us in some way.

From a psychological perspective, folklores are a form of narrative that unravels events and accompanying experiences that are significant, difficult and socially unacceptable. 

This is why people personalize stories, it could be a coping mechanism for some. 

For example, this book had mythical characters such as sea gypsies (also known as ‘orang laut’). 

These sea gypsies could stay underwater for an extended period of time. Maybe this was a myth created by people who were not able to cross oceans or struggled in some way related to sea or water (note: this is just an example).

Personally, as a reader, this Malaysian folklore taught me many lessons that were relevant to the times we are living in. 

One of my favourite quotes from this book was uttered by the blood prince himself: “You can’t expect me to obey my mother all the time, Satra. Remember, I’m supposed to be willful, unruly and downright defiant.”

This made me question, is being rebellious really that bad of a thing to do?

This book did reveal that being rebellious may cause you trouble. However, it may also make one’s life quite memorable and extraordinary. The safe route can often be the boring route. This quote has inspired me to take more risks in life.

It seems to me that trust issues are something we had back then in the 12th century and is something that is constant as times change. People are bound to be insecure and untrusting of others – there is no way to avoid this as it is human nature. 

There is no shame of not trusting someone or something, we are only trying to protect ourselves from pain and suffering.

The power of alliance really spoke out to me when reading this tale. Just like how Langkasuka and Srivijaya joined forces for mutual benefits, we join forces as well, but virtually.

We are united by the power of the internet and social media platforms that connect us and allow us to build communities. In the 12th century, people had to get married to do that (of course, people still do this but there are much simpler ways to form connections now that benefit both parties).

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and loved talking to Dutta about the folklore and myths covered in this tale. Dutta did mention this to me when interviewing her, “Greek Mythology and Norse Mythology have also gained tremendous popularity over the past few years. In fact, stories based on local folklore fail to resonate with people due to a lack of background knowledge”.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dutta. How can we like something without trying to get to know it? If you’re reading this, I highly suggest you pick this book up and immerse yourself in this Southeast Asian folklore. 

About the author

An avid reader that loves pairing her book with a good cup of coffee, Sonia Singh is a mental health advocate who is currently pursuing her masters in counselling. She is also a passionate content creator, writer and digital marketer.