Vampire myths are common both in the East and the West and while the normal perception is that the vampire originated from Transylvania there are many other myths around the world that incorporate the vampire element.
For long periods in its contemporary history Kedah was under Siamese rule and on one particular occasion it came under the influence of a particularly intimidating monarch. At birth he was given the name Raja Ong Maha Perita Daria but he was more commonly known as Raja Bersiong. According to legend, despite the vice like grip he had on his kingdom, Raja Bersiong lived in constant fear and the threat of being assassinated perpetually loomed over him like a dark cloud.
He was so afraid that even when he went to sleep, he had guards posted around his bed. He devised outlandish methods to counter any threats on his life including leaving all culinary matters in the hands of two cooks. Only they prepared his food and no one else touched any of the ingredients that went into his meals. The cooks had been in his service for years and showed unwavering loyalty to their king. Once his meals were prepared he had his guards taste the food to make sure that it wasn’t poisoned.
Now Raja Bersiong loved to hunt especially with his two dogs and he was constantly out hunting with his guards. The king also loved spicy food and the dish he savored most was curried venison mixed and mashed with a blend of wild aromatic spices.
During one of his hunting trips, his party was hit by a large thunderstorm and the king sought refuge in a nearby cave, while the rest of his retinue continued with the hunt, pelted by large raindrops that fell incessantly from the sky.
The tropical storm lasted for almost five hours and at the end of it, the king was famished. Fortunately the hunt was successful and despite the torrential downpour, his escorts had returned with at least six kills of modest proportions.
As soon as the rain had stopped the king jumped on his horse and ordered his men back to the palace. The party rode back at breakneck speed and once they had returned the carcasses were ferried to the kitchen and handed to the two cooks to be skinned, cut and churned into a meal.
The cooks hurried to prepare the meal and while readying his favorite curry, brazed with deer meat, under a smoldering fire, one of the cooks who was in the habit of day dreaming, accidentally cut his finger with a cooking knife and droplets of blood fell into the curry.
The cook panicked. To prepare a similar meal would take him at least another hour and the king was hungry. If the meal was delayed the irate king might have him beheaded and in desperation he continued as if nothing had happened.
The aromatic scent of rice and curry soon drifted through the corridors of the palace and the king who was unable to contain his hunger any longer, the thunderous rumble in his belly grew stronger by the minute, ordered that the meal be served.
His aides rushed to prepare the dining table, set with the finest porcelain and silver and Raja Bersiong started eating as soon as the food was presented, ravenously devouring his meal. Midway through his meal, the king noticed that there was a difference in the taste and whatever the cooks had added, had increased the flavor manifold.
Curiosity got the better of him and he summoned the cooks as soon as he’d finished eating. The cooks were brought into the throne room and the king seated on his throne that rested on an elevated platform, glared down at them and ordered that they reveal the new ingredient that they had added to their meal.
The cooks trembled with fear and the errant cook, almost fainting from terror, spoke up and revealed the truth, hoping that the king would forgive him. The king, realizing that it was the drops of blood that had made the difference ordered that from then on drops of blood be added to all his meals.
He looked around and ordered the guard closest to him to go down to the dungeon below and behead a prisoner. He then instructed the guard to gather the blood that oozed from the dismembered body in a container and bring it to him.
The guard instantly obeyed and from that day on-wards, Raja Bersiong continued to feed on blood. His requirements increased daily and soon all the prisoners in the dungeon were beheaded until none remained. By that time, the king had developed an insatiable craving for blood and he could not exist without it.
In order to satisfy his craving for the elixir, the king ordered that his guards kidnap young children prompting his subjects to live in constant fear.
Soon the facial contours of Raja Bersiong began to change and his features became increasingly distorted. On his upper jaw, on either side of his mouth, two canine cuspids began to take shape and grew to feature prominently on his face.
The errant cook who had perpetuated the change saddened by the transformation that he had unwittingly initiated secretly plotted to kill the king. He discreetly slipped some powder, a deadly mix of poison, which he kept hidden in the hollow of a horn, into the king’s food and served it to the unsuspecting Raja Bersiong.
However on that particular day, the guards were unable to find any children and the kingdom appeared to be deserted during their customary rounds. The king who had accompanied the guards, together with his two dogs, returned to the palace, hungry and empty handed and ordered that his meal be served.
The meal was brought before him but before he could eat it, one of his dogs, stricken by hunger, leapt forward and knocked the bowls containing his favorite curry off the table. The angry king ordered that the dogs be taken out of the dining quarters but not before one of the dogs had guzzled down a sizable portion of the meal.
Within minutes of consuming the poisoned food, the dog, sank to ground, sagged and sapped and soon died. The king ordered that the guards inspect the remains of the animal and it soon came to the light that the dog had been poisoned.
Raja Bersiong, angered by the death of one of his favorite dogs, ordered that both the cooks be arrested. The cooks were interrogated but none of them admitted to the crime and the angry king had them both tortured. On the thirteenth day following their arrest, the errant cook, unable to hold out any longer confessed to the crime. The king had the guilty cook beheaded and had his body disemboweled. He then ordered the remaining cook to assume his duties and functions.
The king’s cruelty did not cease and his subjects became increasingly angry and disenchanted. In the midst of the chaos a group of local fishermen assembled and plotted to overthrow the king but their plan was discovered and they were quickly arrested and beheaded.
Among those in the group was the brother of a prominent minister who was saddened by the plight that had befallen the kingdom. He discreetly organized the ruling elite to overthrow the king.
The court dignitaries banded together and soon formed a large contingent, much bigger than the king’s standing army and they headed in battle formation towards the palace. The king ordered his guards to stand and repel the attack but they deserted within seconds of the rebellion becoming known.
Raja Bersiong, his rule no longer intact, fled to the nearby jungle and was never heard from again. Ironically no one attempted to stop his escape or capture him and according to the myth he continues to exist in the depths of the unyielding jungle.
Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward