Hikayat Hang Tuah by Noor Suraya (JS Adiwarna, 2012)
Monday, 11th June, 2012 § 7 Comments
A few posts back (this one to be specific) I sort of complained that there weren’t any serious efforts to introduce Malay legends to Malay and Malaysian kids through books targeted for that particular age group. Well, Noor Suraya (she wrote Jaja & Din among other novels) has done just that. She has taken the monumental challenge of presenting the controversial and arguably Malaysia’s most well known classical story, Hikayat Hang Tuah (The Epic of Hang Tuah) in a format suitable for younger readers.
Telling the Hang Tuah story for the kids isn’t new but this time it caught my attention for one simple reason: the book is a thick hardcover. Yes, that’s a big deal for some of us. A hardcover book gives an aura of professionalism and it gives the perception that the publisher made an effort to present this book in the best possible way. In Malaysia this is usually reserved for ‘serious’ books and certainly not a book for children. It shows that publisher JS Adiwarna respected the stories and realised the status those stories have in the Malay psyche when they agreed to bound this version of Hikayat Hang Tuah between two hardcovers and for that they deserve some respect in return.
Coming in at 376 pages, some parents might think this is a hefty tome for their kids to read. My response to that is, “Just because you’re illiterate don’t think your children are as well” (wow, somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed today). But seriously, this piece of Malay cultural history has been cleverly adapted by Noor Suraya with her deft use of contemporary prose while keeping some elements of classical Malay so as not to make the hikayat sound too modern. This fusion hopefully should keep the interest of the reader while not confusing them. The book is also interspersed with many illustrations by Zaid Fadli which helps to maintain any young reader’s interest. No, it’s not a graphic novel*. It’s a prose novel with pictures here and there.
Although this edition is aimed at younger readers, it could also be of interest to the grown up whose knowledge of the Hang Tuah legend is limited to P. Ramlee’s movie adaptation. Reading the grown up version (the one edited by Kassim Ahmad, see photo below) is recommended but if you can’t be bothered then Noor Suraya’s version isn’t too shabby either. The language used may be modern but it does not patronise its reader.
My 9 year old daughter and I love this book and I hope there will be more modern adaptations of classic Malay legends for young readers in the future. The back page of this book has a promo for Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa (not by Noor Suraya though) in the same style; illustrated and in hardcover. Looking forward to that especially when I recently realised that many young Malays today thought ‘Merong Mahawangsa’ was just a movie. Sometimes you just need to bang your head on a wall just to get rid of the stupid virus.
*there’s a thought, Hikayat Hang Tuah: The Graphic Novel. Somebody should get on to that.