Malay Romances

Malay literature has derived its literary or metrical romances from a host of diverse sources, but principally from the Middle- and Near-East, India, and Java. The variety of stories is significantly large, and the adventures of their heroes infinitely diverse.

Perhaps the most important of the romances is that of the Javanese culture hero Raden Inu Kertapati, popularly known as Panji. A large cycle of stories dealing with him and his beloved, Princess Galuh Chandra Kirana, spread beyond Javanese shows into the other Indonesian islands and also to mainland Southeast Asia, reaching as far as Cambodia through both the written form and through the medium of the shadow play.

Among others, the pre-Islamic story of Alexander the Great, suitably Islamicised, the Arab-Persian romance of Laila and Majnun, the Arab story of Amir Hamzah as well as selected tales from The One Thousand and One Nights, and the Indo-Muslim story of Gul-i-Bakawali, locally known as Bunga Bakawali, found expression in the Malay world in literary form as well as on the floor-boards of local stages, eventually serving as rich source-material for film scripts. These tales reflect the diversity of influence that went into shaping Malay culture and the Malay world view. Time has not altogether succeeded in diminishing the importance of these romances.