For decades, Langkawi has been well endowed with popular tales and stories, probably more so than any other islands in this part of the world.
And while all these stories are, well, myths, there is one which is known to hover between myth and fact the story of Mahsuri, a beautiful fair maiden who died a tragic death after she was allegedly accused of adultery.
What we do know as fact is that the story goes back nearly 200 years, to the time of the powerful Sultanates of the Malay Archipelago when Mahsuri was considered to be the most beautiful woman in all of Langkawi. She was also the wife of Mat Deris, the son of a powerful chieftain.
As was required of Mat Deris, he had to go to war against an invading Siamese army, leaving Mahsuri behind to fend for herself. Despite Mahsuri’s deep love for her husband, her close friendship with another man led to accusations that she was an unfaithful wife.
Following the old Islamic punishment for adultery, Mahsuri was tied to a tree (or pole) and stabbed to death. Vehemently protesting her innocence as she was tied up, Mahsuri begged for mercy, but the villagers gave her no quarter. It is here that the myths begin.
Legend says that the swords and machetes used by the executors could not injure her. Every spear they threw at her fell harmlessly at her feet. The villagers were baffled but remained convinced that Mahsuri was guilty of wrong-doing.
It is said that there was thunder and lightning as Mahsuri was finally fatally stabbed while white blood flowed from her wound, signifying her innocence. With her dying breath, Mahsuri cursed Langkawi to have seven generations of bad luck.
The locals of Langkawi believe the legend to be true, citing the Siamese invasion of 1821 and decades of failed crops that followed Mahsuri’s death. In fact, as per her words, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th Century, after seven generations had supposedly come to pass, that Langkawi began to prosper as a tourist destination.