Characterisation in Hikayat Hang Tuah
HANG TUAH is the central figure. He is the hero whose character and achievements embody the grand scheme of this Malaysian epic. Yet he is by no means the greatest creation by the ‘author’. There is too much officialness in his heroism. This is not, however, a criticism of the feudal conception. The feudal conception is a historical reality and must be reckoned with. But to make the hero demonstrate his absolute loyalty to the extent of appearing superhuman (1) only reduces, not enhances, his great qualities.Hang Tuah is introduced with some particulars of his origin (2). It is difficult to say exactly what the social significance of the honorific title ‘Hang’ is. It seems to be widely used for the common run of men. There is, however, a reference made by the bendahara that the families of Tuah and hs four friends are of “orang berasal juga” (3). We are inclined to think that the title ‘Hang’ refers to the ordinary freeman as opposed to the serf. Why the Bendahara speaks of the families as “orang berasal juga” may be due to the fact that Tuah’s mother is a ‘Dang’ (4).
The word ‘tuah’ means ‘luck’ or ‘fortune’. It is not certain whether the ‘writer’ hand I mind the connotation of this word when he chose it as the name of his hero. It is very likely, although he obviously had not much choice because Hang Tuah almost certainly did exist as a historical figure (5). If so, it was a happy coincidence. Dr. C. Hooykaas suggest that he is a kind of luck-bringer who may be compared to the European Fortunatus (6). At any rate the ‘writer’ himself speaks of him as “bertuah daripada budak yang banyak itu.” (7)
Enough, therefore, has been told about Tuah before he goes into the royal service to impress on the reader that there is a personality by no means to be ignored. As one character puts it, he is “bukan barang-barang lakunya dan sikapnya; perkataan hulubalang juga barang yang keluar daripada mulutnya.” (15) This is faint praise or we consider what he had said in reply to the man who warned him of the approaching bandit: “Apatah dikatakan orang mengamuk sekian ini? Bukan negeri tiada berhulubalang dan pegawai akan mengembari, disana juga ia dibunoh orang.” (16)
(2) Cf. p. 23.
(3) Cf. p. 36, although the fact that Tuah’s mother keeps small eating shop would tend to show that they belong to the consumer group.
(4) ‘Dang’, according to Wilkinson, is an honorific title prefixed to the name of certain court ladies or ladies-in-waiting.
(5) He is mentioned in Sejarah Melayu (Cf. Sejarah Melayu, chapters 14 & 19).
(6) Cf. Hooykaas, p. 80.
(7) Cf. p. 42.
(8) However, as we have said before, descriptions of his personal appearance are nowhere given. The passage which comes nearest to being such a description is a revealed thought of one of the character: “Siapa gerangan orang itu, terlalau sangat tertib lakunya dan manis muka-nya?” (p. 380).
(9) Cf. p. 23.
(10) p. 24.
(11) Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu.
(12) Cf. p. 30.
(13) There was soon to be another occasion when he and this time – his four friends had the chance to display their courage and dexterity with weapons. This itme the Bendahara himself saw them kill the bandits and indeed it was done in his defence. The incident won for themselves recognition and entry into the royal service.
(14) p. 34. (15) p.29
(16) p. 33.
(17) There are numerous attempts to illustrate his courage whether in fighting or adventures of other kinds. The incident while carrying the royal letter to Majapahit (pp. (18), the “bathing” incident in Seri Betara’s prohibited garden (pp. 169-173), the “horse-valuing incident” (pp. 334-5), the “diving-for-the-crown” incident, (pp. 445-6) are some of the more striking ones.
(19) This is the heroic cult of honour (Cf. Brown, p. 51), the cult of ‘biar puteh tulang jangan puteh mata’. An interesting example is afforded when the royal mission to obtain the hand of Tun Teja failed. Tuah felt insulted and said, “Chih! Bukan orangnya Yang Dipertuan titahkan aku. Jika si Tuah gernagan membawa titah….sahingga putih tulang tiada putih mata.” (p.100). Another equally interesting example is when Teja refused his love. He vowed that “Jika aku tiada boleh Tun Teja itu aku tiada mau kembali ke Melaka dan aku tiada menyebut nama perempuan lagi didalam dunia ini.” (p. 201).
(20) During his sojourn at Inderapura the raja invited him to stay in his kingdom. He declined saying that, “kalau kalau patik ini dipinta oleh paduka kekanda (Raja Melaka) ditangkap patik dan diberikan ke Melaka, alangkah malu patik.” The raja assured him that no such thing would happen. But Tuah wnet into a fit and, with his hand on his keris challenged, “Chih! Siapa dapat menangkap si Tuah? Marah matanya kuhendak lihat saperti orang Inderapura ini?” (p. 187).
(21) Refer Bendahara Seri Buana’s view of him (p. 186), that of the Javanese spearman (p. 261-2), that of Tun Teja (p. 267) & that of Petala Burai (pp. 287-91).
(22) On the occasion while he was carrying his master’s letter to Majapahit a group of Javanese warriors tried to intercept him. His challenge caused the ground to vibrate (p. 253). On another occasion his challenge shook the audience hall “saperti ditiup rebut lakunnya” (p. 284).
(23) “Mempersembahkan nyawa kebawah duli”.
(24) On one occasion Seri Betara offered him a top post in the Javanese court on handsome terms, but he politely declined it (Cf. p. 109). On another occasion the Raja of Inderapura made a similar offer which he likewise refused (Cf. p. 187).
(25) p. 74 (26) p. 143.
(27) Cf. pp. 143-4.
(28) Wah, terkaralah oleh Patih Gajah Mada (p. 234).
(29) Cf. p. 285. (30) Cf. pp.332-41.
(31) When the Sultan ordered to be executed, he confiscated the keris and ask Jebat to wear it.
(32) Cf. p. 340.
Next: Installment #12: Chapter IV Hang Tuah – Cont’d