Legend – South East Asia

“The Pontianak is a woman who lives in a frangipani tree. She also wears the flowers in her hair, which has a sweet smell. Word has it that she died during child birth. You are given warning of her presence when you smell the sweetness of the frangipani flower. She attacks pregnant women out of jealousy”

This legend to the informant, serves as a warning for pregnant women not to wander around at night. This piece of folklore is not to be told for the purpose of entertainment, as it is believed that the recounting of these stories invokes the spirit in question. The Pontianak is famous all around South East Asia, particularly around Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia, where all countries speak a dialect of Bahasa. The official languages Indonesia and Malaysia (Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu respectively) have very little differences and are grammatically identical.  With Singapore being the tiny dot situated between the two, it shares the folklore of its surrounding countries. Growing up in Singapore, I was warned of this spirit several times, also by my Indonesian nanny. However, I would like to provide the version that I know and relate to from my childhood:

“The Pontianak lives in the frangipani tree. Her story is that her husband left her and she committed suicide. This is why she always attacks men. Therefore if you are a man and you encounter her, you need to throw yourself onto the ground facing down, so that she can’t rip your balls off”.

This version, which I am more familiar with was much more applicable to me, seeing as I am of the male gender and grew up in South East Asia. I was made aware of the possible dismemberment though I never completely accepted the legend and considered it to be true. However, this could be largely a result of the fact that I am not only from Asian but also Western origin and therefore grew up with predominantly western beliefs.

The story of the Pontianak has shown up in many publications and Asian Cinema. Most notably, it can be found in the following:

Moey, Nick. Pontianak: 13 Chilling Tales. 1990. Times Book International