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How would Malaysian ghouls fare in contemporary Malaysian settings?
We all grew up listening to old wives’ tales about local spirits and monsters, either from our elders or through shared whispers among friends. Growing up in Malaysia, we’ve all been advised – whether in jest or in all seriousness – to beware the scent of the frangipani and to jangan pandang belakang. With Ramadhan over, it is believed that all demons and spirits will be set free again to roam amongst us. Here, we take a look at several familiar characters re-imagined in everyday circumstances, leading regular lives just like the rest of us.
Life is hard as an Orang Minyak who’s afraid of boiling oil. You might find it ironic but hey, boiling oil is scary when it sizzles and splashes all over; regardless of whether you’re covered head to toe in grease or not. More modest and straight-laced than the legends give him credit for, this Orang Minyak simply wants to make an honest living selling his famous keropok lekor and curries. Unfortunately, this means that he has to deal with the unpleasant task of frying those delicious snacks. Fortunately, he will never ever run out of oil!
In this age, the dating scene can sometimes be heartbreakingly tough. What more for the Penanggalan with her dangling entrails (lungs, stomach and intestines), long rolling tongue and piercing red eyes that will immediately send any potential suitors running helter skelter. Just as she thought she would never find anyone to love, she chanced upon her future mate while visiting an art gallery. Considering how he looks like, she is quite confident she has finally found the one person that will truly understand her.
Unlike the other ghosts on the list, the Pocong is the least intimidating one of all. In fact, all it does is mostly hop around while being covered entirely in a white shroud tied above its head and at its neck. No sharp fangs or screeching sounds, the Pocong is pretty docile-like and someone we could immediately imagine being friends with. Though, 24-hour coin laundromats are probably the Pocong’s new bestie. Constantly hopping around in a white sheet in this humid weather is bound to elicit some nasty odours and stains. A Pocong’s got to change. Luckily, a quick wash and dry is now conveniently at hand in most areas!
With her long, black hair and the ability to transform into a young and beautiful female form, the Pontianak is one of the most feared of Malaysian ghosts because of her predatory instinct. But forget sucking blood and preying on the opposite sex. This Pontianak is a girl on a mission. All she wants to do is to rock it out on stage with her own band to roaring cheers. She counts Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC as her inspiration. Judging from her determination and ever growing crowd of male fans (those charming good looks sure don’t hurt), we are certain we will be seeing her at the top of the music charts pretty soon!
As expected of a creature with a child-like temperament, the playground is probably one of the Toyol’s favourite haunts. They are usually described to be knee-high in height with greenish coloured skin, sharp teeth, big eyes and pointy ears - similar looking to a goblin or leprechaun. Ever filled with mischief, the Toyol would be a handful for any babysitter. Take your eyes off them and they might just be wreaking havoc all over the very next second. Be careful not to give them anything sugary too, or they will be running circles around you even quicker than you expect!
By Lyn Ong
Photos and illustrations by Lyn Ong
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