Myths, responsibility, and artistic license.

In the story of Red Hill, the young hero, Hang Nadim is executed on top of a hill- his blood flows and soaks the hill red, hence the name ‘Bukit Merah’.

Before Hang Nadim’s ingenious suggestion of employing banana tree stumps to curb errant swordfish from killing people on the shore, the King used his palace guards as a buffer, amongst other things. Way to go, Tuanku!

Instead of rewarding Hang Nadim, the King decides to execute him instead. Too clever, this boy is! What if he takes my throne? I must be rid of him.

And that was what he did.

Is the story violent? Perhaps.

But is the story one of violence? I don’t think so-

Yes, people die in this story, they died unnecessary deaths. But that does not automatically make the Red Hill story unsuitable for children!

Three things:-

  1. Should we protect children from the realities of life? Afterall, isn’t it true that people die, some rulers are tyrants, and just because someone is older or in a position of power, this does not mean they are clever or wise.
  2. Instead of focusing on deaths and on the tyranny of the King, we can ask the child- If you were the King (or Queen), what would you have done? There are many themes one can explore from this story, not all of them are bleak.
  3. Do I (as a storyteller) have a responsibility to tell the story as is?
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