Malaysia, being a country rich in tradition is a treasure trove filled with unique tales that are strongly interwoven with the culture of today. The island of Borneo is home to a number of such legends and myths. To this day, most remain unsolved mysteries that some regard as the imaginings of lonely villagers of the past, while others spend most of their lives separating the facts from fiction. One of these enigmatic stories found itself strongly fascinating modern day Malaysians, even managing to make a significant mark in the entertainment industry. In the depths of the north-western jungles of Johor, lies the mountain that gave birth to this legend: Mount Ophir or better known as Gunung Ledang.
According to legend, on the peak of Mount Ophir lived a princess. The origins of the whispers remain unknown, but some villagers had claimed to have seen a woman’s figure amidst the fog, meditating upon the highest peak at dawn. She was rumored to have unrivaled beauty and to be skilled in an ancient form of combat, making her the protector of her mountain.
Many brushed away the rumors as childish stories, but they intrigued the Sultan of Malacca. Out of plain curiosity, he made his men investigate the rumors; if they were to find the princess, she was to be his queen. Sultan Mahmud Shah put his best men to the task and remained impatiently at his palace.
Nothing could have prepared them for the perilous journey up Mount Ophir. The then uncharted forest was home to wild animals and poisonous plants and the trail was laden with dangers both obvious and unexpected. However, the men continued on bound by their unwavering loyalty to their sultan.
Some sources say that when these men reached the peak, they found a white cabin. Within, instead of a princess was an elderly woman who announced herself as the guardian of the princess. When the men delivered the Sultan’s proposal the old woman simply stated that they would have to satisfy a few impossible conditions before the princess could accept. The princess’s conditions included: a bridge of gold and a bridge of silver between her mountain and Malacca; seven large clay jars of virgin’s tears and seven of betel nut juice; seven trays filled with hearts of fleas and seven with the hearts of mosquitoes; and finally, a bowl of the blood of the Sultan’s young son.
Sultan Mahmud, determined to win the heart of the princess, demanded his men carry out the impossible. According to one version, the Sultan succeeded in finishing all the tasks, except for the last one, which he had to carry out himself. When his young son was asleep, the Sultan approached him with a dagger. As he raised the blade to murder the child there was a blinding flash of light and a young woman appeared, forcing the dagger out of his hand. Shocked at the sight of the otherworldly being, the Sultan fell to his knees. The princess glared at him, saying that she had set such conditions because she had, in fact, rejected his proposal. She would not marry a man willing to hurt his own kin simply for his own satisfaction.
A different story says that the princess fell in love with the Sultan’s most loyal servant, who had gone all the way up and fought the perils of the jungle to reach her. She believed him a true warrior and a much worthy man as compared to the cowardly Sultan. Despite the feeling being mutual, the servant could not betray his sultan and thus broke the princess’s heart. It is said that he never stopped climbing that mountain, and she remained at the peak just to be able to meet. It was only when the man passed, did the princess disappear. It is also said that the princess was married to another legend, a fearful warrior named Nakhoda Ragam. She never loved again because she forever mourned his unfortunate death.
But to this day, people still scale Mount Ophir in search of the exquisite walkways and some even make an effort to climb at the break of dawn, to see for themselves the truth behind the legend of Gunung Ledang.
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