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Fairytales from Malaysia

Book: The Singing Top retold and edited by Margaret Read MacDonald

Ages: 6+

Relationship to country: Margaret Read MacDonald collected fairytales and stories from around Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore to retell these stories in the English language

Book in a nutshell: Enjoy fairytales from all over Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei


This book is a little different from some of the other books. The author didn't write the stories. She listened to the stories and collected them and wrote them up in English for English speaking people to enjoy. There are many stories in this book from Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. I read many of the stories and will share a few of them here. 

From Malaysia, we read stories about kancil the mouse-deer. We looked at pictures of mouse deer, and they are a REAL ANIMAL from Southeast Asia. They really do look like a combination of a mouse and a deer. You should Google it. Kancil the mouse deer is a trickster animal that is very clever. In one of the stories, I was upset because he accidentally trampled on some otters. In that story, there was a big confusion with all of the forest animals because the kancil thought the woodpecker was making war drum sounds, and the woodpecker thought the turtles were wearing armor, and the turtles thought the fish were grouped up in armies. You can see how it would get confusing because woodpeckers are always pecking, and turtles are always wearing their shells, and fish are always swimming in schools.

We also read some stories from Singapore and Brunei. One of the stories was about two sisters, one was nice and one was not very nice. They were always getting bitten by mosquitoes while they tried to work on their farm. The nice sister asked to go visit the King of Mosquitoes, and even though King of Mosquitoes was very ugly and kind of gross, she was still kind to him. The King of Mosquitoes gave her gold and diamonds. The mean sister was jealous and also went to visit the King of Mosquitoes, but she was not nice to him at all. She demanded a gift like her sister. He gave her a box full of poisonous snakes.

From Singapore, we read a fairytale about a princess and her cat. She goes swimming in the river, and she puts her beautiful rings on her cat's tail to keep them safe while she is swimming. So that the rings don't fall off, she ties a knot in the cat's tail. I did not like that part because I thought it would hurt the cat. Pirates come and steal everything from the princess except for the rings on the cat's tail. After she takes the rings off, the cat's tail is still bent forever. We looked at pictures of cats in Singapore and saw that many cats even today have bent tails.