Two years ago, I saw a circulation in Facebook – an excerpt from a Malay blogger claiming that the character Jack Sparrow in the famous Hollywood franchise of “Pirates of Caribbean” was actually a Malay and the character was not an original Disney’s but as the matter of fact was based on an old novel called “The Black Pearl of Peihoo : A Tale of The Malay Seas”. As I am a self-confessed literature and history aficionados, I was intrigued by these revelations – not the idea that Sparrow was an alleged Malay but the fact that the origination of the character was actually based on a novel. I kept an ambition to purchase this book but the hunting process was put on halt due to circumstances – until this year.
Some of the hard-cover editions.
My printed version from the PDF. I am such an old-school. I need to hold my book and I can’t stand reading through electronic gadgets! Haha!
I saw the hard-cover version, an original publication from the pre-Malayan Independence days at Kinokuniya KLCC which was displayed in a glass shelf. I saw the price and it was tagged as RM400! Oh, my! I was so keen to buy the book and I have that fetish on old books/parchments as well – but being rational, I didn’t like to waste my RM400 on the book! So, I’ve been lamenting my unpleasantness in social media and so happened that my sister saw that. She spontaneously searched a PDF version of the book for me and sent that to me! It took me around 2 months to finish the book (of which I’ve diligently printed from the PDF version because I am so an old-school person who likes to hold his reading materials rather than browsing through electronic gadgets; but not when it comes to doing my PhD Research, no? Hahaha!).
There are 35 chapters consisted in the book and was written by Stanley Portal Hyatt in 1914. According to Wikipedia, he was an English explorer hailed from an affluent family but decided to leave the wealth to have adventures in the new uncharted Promised Lands. I found that his writing in “The Black Pearl of Peihoo” was undeniably saturated with racism and White Men’s Burden sentiment (as the matter of fact, I’ve written entries pertaining this issue; REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/the-eengggglish-wwwhiihite-meeens-buurden-experience-from-london-to-leeds-a-malaysian-sister-traumatic-encounter-with-a-white-trash/ for my own sister’s racist experience; and many more). These are evident through the interactions portrayed by the main character (Jack Wayne) – in the dialogues as well as their inner perception towards the coloured people, as per paragraph on page 179:-
“Colombo is like kaleidoscope – all the nations of the earth pass in review before you there, the rich people of the nations, not, as in Mauritius and Borneo, the mere scum.”
Besides that, it was bewildering to read how uncouth and proud these Caucasians could be; on their white skin-colour and that EVERY NON-WHITE GLOBAL CITIZEN IS TO BE PERCEIVED AS BENEATH THEM :-
- P. Van der Humm, the antagonist of the story is portrayed as “hideous dwarf” and a mixed parentage of Dutch, Javanese, Filipino, Dyak;
- Manoel Da Silva, a crook is portrayed as “half-breed with ugly expression” – a mixed parentage of English and Portuguese;
- Ah Lung – the protagonist’s cook and loyal bodyguard – BUT STILL is labeled as beneath the Caucasian masters as he is of “yellow-skinned”. This reminds me of the Yellow Fever in the US years ago!;
- Mahomed – a Malay who is portrayed as “stupid native savage” who finally was bitten by a poisonous snake;
- The Palapogs, Raja Sayed, Timbota, The African villagers – all of them are described as being “uncivilized savages”.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that Jack Wayne (main character)’s rival named Sebag Tolhurst is described as an accomplice to Van der Humm – but still is portrayed as “cultured English among the savages”. I am not an anti-Semitic person but if I am not mistaken, Sebag is a Jewish name, no? I recalled reading the book “Jerusalem : The Biography” and the name of the author is Sebag Montefiore. Seemed like if you are of an ethnic that posses fair skin complexion, nearing the Caucasians’, then you would not be the subject of Portal’s racism description (although this is definitely contradicting the Aryan & Nazism propaganda in the Hitler’s days!).
Coincidental? Or plagiarism? Haha!
And to correlate the novel with “The Pirates of Caribbean” – I have found a few familiar characters in the novel that are similar to the films such as :-
- Jack Wayne (Jack Sparrow?);
- Captain Davy Jones;
- One of the chapters entitled – “Dead Men Tell No Tales” (the latest film franchise was entitled the same!);
- Black Pearl of Peihoo (but the film named the ship as Black Pearl).
Was it coincidental? Or was it a plagiarism? Or was it a mutual copyright trading? But Disney has never publicly acknowledge the connection, if there was any. What mentioned was merely that the film franchise was based on a Disneyland’s theme park. Any hint on this Portal’s writing is simply a non-existence – until our Malay bloggers unearth the treasure!
Overall, I can say that I am quite disgusted by Portal’s racism view. Nevertheless, one good point that I obtain from this novel although as provocative as it is – I managed to fathom the psychological view and mindsets of these racist colonists as I am a post-Independence baby. Racism is such an obsolete ideology but the existence cannot be denied. It exists in every crevice of our society as much as we want to sugarcoat that with diplomatic wordings. Nevertheless, what we should do is to curb it from becoming a lethal widespread epidemic or at least be sensitive towards others by not acknowledging it bluntly.
As this is the second colonial book I’ve read (The 1st one was “Almayer’s Folly” by Joseph Conrad; REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/a-tragic-estuary-of-race-raucous-a-caucasian-fathers-love-to-a-half-malay-daughter-almayers-folly-by-joseph-conrad/), I can vouch that my horizon on the society is enriched, even more. Book is such a passport to broaden your horizon, no? I know that not all white people share the same ultra-racism sentiment. And I admit that even amongst the coloured people, there are some racism blossoming that contradicting each other (as per among the Caucasian people, as well). But history as it is. And we should learn from it, as to make the world a better place.