I'VE just received a copy of the latest compilation of folktales from this region -- Myths and Legends of Malaysia and Singapore by Ralph Modder and Asishah Ahmed (Horizen Books, 129 pages, ISBN: 978-9810831004)
It's encouraging to see more and more writers and publishers producing such anthologies. I don't believe there can be too many books of folktales. These stories bear infinite tellings and re-tellings, should be reinterpreted, reconstructed and deconstructed, and kept interesting and relevant to each generation. Although their origins are oral, they are too precious a record of our past not to be preserved in more permanent, traceable form.
While it's great that quite a number of these collections are now available, I am disappointed in the way these books have been produced. I have yet to see a local anthology of folktales that satisfies on all counts. At times the writing is weak. Often the stories do not seem to have been edited or proofread. The illustrations too are frequently of inferior quality.
This latest compilation suffers from lack of coherence. Is it a story book? Is it a book of trivia? Is it a record of historical sites? It's a little of every thing, really.