Hang Tuah is believed to have been a warrior who lived in Malacca in the 15th century. Despite the limited historical evidence to suggest he ever existed, he is said to have been a great laksamana admiral. As the most illustrious warrior figure in Malay literature, Hang Tuah is said to have been a silat master.
When Hang Tuah was young, he worked as a woodcutter in his parents’ shop. Even from a tender age, his potential as a fighter and his ability to grasp spiritual concepts were very apparent.
When he turned ten, Hang Tuah learned silat–a martial art–with four friends. Their teacher was Adi Putera, a renowned master who lived as a hermit atop a mountain. As part of their training, the group of young boys were taught the arts of self-defence and meditation.
One day, a group of gangsters began terrorising an area near Kampong Bendahara. They were so terrifying that even the region’s top guards grew frightened and ran away. That’s when Hang Tuah came to the rescue. He and his comrades attacked the gang with such power and skill that the gangsters fled the area. The head of the army was so impressed by the young boys that he presented them all to the Sultan.
Hang Tuah quickly became the sultan’s most loyal laksamana. His skills and deeds were legendary. During a visit to Majapahit, Hang Tuah won a brutal dual with a very famous silat master. As a reward, Hang Tuah received the Keris Taming Sari: a magical dagger that imbued the one who wielded it with invulnerability.
Hang Tuah, the story and the historical figure, remains incredibly popular in Malaysia. The tale embodies the values of allegiance and loyalty. Malay culture holds the Hang Tuah legend in extremely high regard. One of the most important themes in the legend stems from a duel that takes place between Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat.
Hang Tuah symbolises absolute loyalty to a ruler while Hang Jebat symbolises the fight for freedom and justice. In life, we sometimes face divided loyalties. Hang Jebat differs from Hang Tuah as he fights against the unjust punishment that Hang Tuah faces when the Sultan accuses him of a crime he did not commit and is sentenced to death.
Ultimately, it is the choices we make that will determine our legacy.