Fairytale Archive

Puteri Gunung Ledang
Elaine Edley as the fairy princess of Gunung Ledang (Mount Ledang) in the 1961 Cathay Keris film, ‘Puteri Gunung Ledang’.

Some of you might know that I have a special interest in the preservation of Malaysian and South-east Asian folktales, myths, legends and tales based on supernatural beliefs. The two collections I edited and my own short story anthology reflect my interest, and I’ve been thinking for several years about a series of illustrated volumes of local and regional fairytales (I shall use this as an umbrella term for the kinds of stories listed above).

However, it came to me several months ago, that what I should actually aim for is an online archive of stories.

The whole purpose of collecting fairytales is to preserve them. Malaysians are familiar with stories by the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen — thanks partly to Disney — but are vague about our own. I have a horror of these stories eventually disappearing and so an online database makes sense.

These stories should be available free of charge, but perhaps in the future, readers can choose to donate towards the site’s upkeep.

Is this too ambitious? I don’t know, but I also don’t want to overthink it. I think I should just act, take the first steps to set up the site and start uploading stories.

Thinking about the Pontianak

As I mentioned previously, I haven’t been reading much. Did I say I meant books? Because I do actually read fanfiction every night at bedtime.

The main reasons I read fanfiction and not books are: 1) They are easy reads 2) They have predictable conclusions that are not stressful. I guess there are some books that would work too, but it’s easier to just read fanfiction on my phone.

I am starting to get back into reading though. And writing too. I think the break has done me good, and the miniatures especially have given me ideas for my writing.

BL coverIn my collection of short stories, Bright Landscapes, one of the stories (Pontianak) is about a pontianak. Pontianak (according to Malay belief) are spirits of women who have died in childbirth, or while pregnant. Alternatively, they are the spirits of the dead babies/feotuses of these women. The story I wrote explores the reasoning behind the creation of the pontianak as a cautionary tale. The crux of the matter is a woman’s lack of agency in matters of sexual relations and even in pregnancy.

My pontianak does not conform to the traditional idea of this spirit. The story ends in a (hopefully) unexpected way and after I wrote it, I often wondered about the pontianak and what happens to her. Then, when I was working on my dollhouses, I decided that one of the houses I’m refurbishing should be her house and the more I thought about the house, the more ideas I got about her life and how it continues after the point at which the story ends.

I mentioned agency earlier and of course, many women in the 21st century have much more say in what they want and how they behave in matters of sex, marriage and motherhood. Is the pontianak, therefore, still used as a warning against premarital sex? Does she still exist in some communities or has she been quashed by education, compassion, and even feminism?

Pontianak
A still from the 2019 film ‘Revenge of the Pontianak‘.

A Room of One’s Own

I wanted to share some pictures of my miniature builds, but where to start?

I’ve chosen a room box that is a kit from Robotime, the company that specialises in miniature rooms and other crafty wonders. This kit is something called Sam’s Study, but it seems to be a little bookshop. Nevermind. I decided to modify it into a hideaway for my imagined self … if only I could magic myself small enough to fit into this room!

It has an armchair to read in, many books, a telly, a turntable and cats! I also filled a small cabinet with some interesting knick knacks.

I hope you like the room, rechristened Daphne’s Room of Her Own. My imagined self retreats to this space to relax: listen to music, read, watch old films and make collages and zines.

whatsapp-image-2021-06-02-at-14.50.56The picture on the left is of Sam’s Study. The kit has everything you need to reproduce this room. I changed it by (among other things) adding wallpaper, a different floor and only using some of the seven bookcases/cabinets included in the kit. I did not wire the room for light (as it seemed beyond me) and I failed miserably at upholstering the armchair. My chair is just painted red, no fabric involved. Read More »

Four Months Later …

As predicted, the books on my list are mostly unread.

This year, a book discussion group I belong to has been reading Megan Whalen Turner’s excellent Queen’s Thief series. Five books in all and book five (The Return of the Thief) is our read for June. We are then starting on The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. So, lots of rereading for me in 2021, and I’m not complaining. This year has been a strange one, in some ways even stranger than 2020, and rereading these favourite books is comforting and calming.

Actually, apart from the Turners, I have not been reading much at all. In January, I bought myself a secondhand Flisat (Ikea’s dollhouse) and have been deep into miniatures ever since. I’ve loved dollhouses all my life, but for some reason have never thought of getting one for myself. I’m so glad I finally did. Furnishing the house, working on some kits and learning how to make simple miniatures have done wonders for my mental health. In my next post I’ll share some pictures of the stuff I’ve been working on.

Anyway, I’ve been spending so much time on my new hobby that reading has taken a back seat. I still read fanfiction though … I guess I just want to read safe, happy-making stories. Anything new is just too risky.

My 2021 Reading List

I started making my 2021 reading list sometime in the last quarter of 2020. I wrote down the names of books I’d read about or heard about (from friends and in the many book-focused podcasts I listen to). The list got longer and longer and continues to lengthen as I continue to add to it. It now comprises one-hundred-and-fourteen titles and I have started on some of them, and completed two (one audiobook at the end of last year, and one e-book this year). Oh, the list doesn’t include the eleven books that the book club I belong to has scheduled for this year, nor some of the books I am currently reading.

I don’t believe I will read all the books on my list, but it’s a useful list, obviously.┬áMy reading is guided by my moods and so, who knows what I will end up reading.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time since Malaysia’s first lockdown period began, in March 2020, cataloguing my book collection. Last week, I started on my South-east Asian (including Malaysian) books and have found myself thinking that I should spend a year reading only these books. I’ve also thought how lovely it’d be to devote a whole year doing nothing but re-reading. Maybe next year …