Top 10 Creatures From MALAYSIAN MYTHOLOGY
We’ve had so many requests for an Archive covering Malay folklore that we just had to see what all the fuss was about. While the southeast Asian Malays passed down incredible fables, epics, and bardic tales across generations, it was the more nefarious or fantastical stories we couldn’t help but latch onto. The following ten creatures, demons, and ghosts stalked Malay mythology and, if we’re any good at our jobs, the worst of them should soon be haunting your dreams.
Also known as “oily man,” Orang Minyak is a hideous creature with a love for abducting women and skin that’s been covered in grease to make him appear as black as his soul and make him pretty difficult to catch. During the Christmas season in 2012, Malaysian families started complaining about a rash of Orang Minyak sightings, leading some to believe that, instead of being solely linked to Malay lore, the Orang Minyak is a living, breathing beast… you know, like Bigfoot.
Sporting a green gown, fiery red eyes, and sharpened fingernails, the Langsuyar is the manifestation of a woman that died while birthing a stillborn baby. After 40 days, she is said to rise from her grave and seek out infants to suck blood from. She isn’t known to sink her teeth into a child’s soft flesh, however, instead using a hole in the back of her neck to draw the blood. To avoid a woman coming back as a Langsuyar, the mythos says to bury her with glass beads in her mouth, an egg in each armpit, and needles stuck into the palms of her hands.
Vampires pop up in world mythologies all the time and the Penanggalan is the Malaysian answer to the fanged, humanoid blood-suckers. According to the legend behind these gruesome beings, the Penanggal is a vision of true horror, depicted as a women’s head floating about with her stomach and entrails hanging below her. Maybe the best origin story of the Penanggal links back to the story of a woman who had been taking a bath and was so startled by a man who had entered without warning that she jerked her head up too quick, severing it from her body, taking her organs and entrails with it.
This Malay oddity is not one you’ll want to cross, lest you want to be changed into a creature of her choosing on a whim. Found in the Langkawi archipelago, Gedembai has been described in a variety of ways, including as a ghost and a normal human being of giant-sized proportions. Regardless of her physical description, Gedembai’s most trait is her ability to transform anyone into anything that she wished. From animals to inanimate objects, if Gedembai wanted you to be it, there was no escaping her wish.
An earth spirit of Malay lore, Jembalang Tanah was an impish demonic entity that wasn’t shy about spreading misfortune in the form of natural disasters. Though known for its more destructive properties, Jembalang Tanah needed to be provoked to wreak havoc, specifically attacking those that disturb the earth. In order to avoid this spirits wrath, villagers would present it with offerings whenever they sought to break ground.
Often taking the form of a still-born infant, the toyol tends to live as a servant to an individual that took a still-born fetus to a Malay witch doctor, or bomoh. The unsettling being will do one’s bidding, though it comes at the cost of the owner’s blood or sometimes even cash. These demonic children aren’t hesitant when it comes to performing the most mischievous of deeds and are useful for anything from robberies to cold blooded murder. Afraid there’s a toyol on your trail? Engage mouse traps in your home or request the services of a powerful bomoh to thwart the mini-beast.
It’s not easy getting old – just ask Hantu Kum-Kum. This aging spirit was believed to have once been a stunning beauty who obsessed over her own looks. Even in her old age, Kum Kum is believed to retain her beauty – but how she does so may have you locking your doors at night. According to Malay lore, Hantu Kum Kum wanders the streets in order to find a young virgin from which to feed in order to retain her youth and beauty.
Stroll through the forests of Malay and you may start to hear unusual noises with no apparent source. If you can hear it but can’t see it, you may be next on the menu for the Orang Bunian, or Whistle People. While these invisible people may not devour their prey, they are known to pull them from the mortal world to a land no man can venture to. Described as an invisible group of people, the Orang Bunian are thought to have their own social system and caste, but at the end of the day, they’re just another terror stalking the woods of Malaysia.
Also known as Bajang Tinggi, or “tall demon,” Hantu Tinggi appears to Malays as a bamboo tree in the forest. The unusual demon’s appearance is said to be so high that it reaches the sun, though villagers can only see its waist. Anyone that makes eye contact with Hantu Tinggi can go blind or, in some versions, be choked to death. The only way to avoid the wrath of the Malay tree demon is to keep your eyes averted from its own.
A Bao A Qu
In Malay mythos, pilgrims attempt to reach the top of the Tower of Victory in Chitor in hopes of obtaining enlightenment. Blocking their path, however, is A Bao A Qu, a shape-shifting tentacled creature that’s a force to be reckoned with. With each level of the tower, A Bao A Qu grows stronger, sucking the life force from pilgrims. Like the boss on the last level in a video game, the color-changing shape-shifter is believed to be at its strongest and has never been surpassed.