This story was written to introduce ‘Singapore’ as a topic for geographic and historical study. Students enjoyed the idea of a hunting expedition and a ‘mythical creature’ as an origin-story marking the beginning of Singapore. The events in this story took place in 1299.
Once there lived a young Prince called Sang Nila Utama. The young Prince loved to go hunting as a way to escape the pressures of his Princedom Palembang, which was the capital of the great Srivijaya Empire.
“Pack enough supplies for a couple of weeks,” Prince Utama said to his men. “I have a feeling this will be no ordinary hunting trip,” the Prince added.
The men sailed to Bintan Island and unloaded the boat. They made camp and prepared their weapons to begin the hunt the next day.
As the dawn hunt began Prince Utama spotted a stag and started chasing it up a small hill, but when he reached the top it had vanished.
“Can you see it anywhere?” he shouted to one of his men. “It was right here, he can’t have gone far. What a glorious animal! I must have it!” the Prince declared.
Eager to find it, the Prince climbed the large rock in front of him. From the top he could see a great distance across the sea.
“What is that island over there? Such white sand! It looks like a giant white sheet of cloth.” He turned to his chief minister, who always accompanied him on his hunting expeditions.
“That is the island of Temasek,” said his minister.
The Prince was instantly intrigued. It looked like something out of one of the epic poems he had read as a child.
“I must go there at once. Gather the supplies we are setting sail,” he commanded.
“Ah, but your majesty, there are some clouds gathering on the horizon. I’m not sure if now is the best time to sail,” his faithful minister advised him.
“It doesn’t look very far, I’m sure we can make it before that storm comes through,” the Prince said.
The men were used to doing as they were told and wasted no time packing up their camp and heading back to their ship. An hour later they were sailing towards the island when the wind began to blow strongly.
“Tie the sail down lads, the storm is almost upon us,” the Captain called out.
But it was too late. The storm was much faster than the ship and it erupted all around them. The ship was tossed around in the huge waves and it began to take on water.
“Quickly we’re going to sink. You there, start bucketing that water off and you, we must toss the heavy things over the side at once!” shouted the Captain.
The men threw all the heavy things into the sea to lighten the ship. But still water kept entering the ship.
“The sea gods are angry, you must throw your crown over board to show that you are humble,” said the Captain to the Prince who was watching helplessly.
The Prince threw his crown into the sea as an offering to the gods and immediately the storm died down. They reached Tamesek safely.
The island was more beautiful than the Prince had even imagined. He was sure that it was one of the famous lost islands he had heard about in the stories of his childhood.
The men gathered their hunting weapons and headed off at once to explore. The Prince had just left the sandy shore when he looked up ahead and saw a strange animal with a red body, black head and a white breast. It was a fine looking animal and moved with great speed. When it saw the Prince it quickly disappeared into the jungle.
“What animal was that?” the Prince asked his minister.
“It was a lion Your Highness,” the minister said.
The Prince was pleased. “A lion! That’s a good omen. I knew there was something special about this place,” he declared. “It’s a sign that good fortune is coming our way.”
That night as they sat by the campfire, the Prince was thoughtful.
“I have decided to build my new city here. We will name it Singha Pura – the ‘Lion city’. And it will become one of the most powerful cities in the Empire.
Soon afterwards the Prince became King and he built his Lion city. He became a very powerful King and made many friends in neighbouring countries, including China and India. The King and his wife ruled the city of Singhapura for 48 years.
Download this story to read to your class: the-first-king-of-singapore-by-sarah-parker