Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1870 Malay lanun 

Subjectlanun pirate
Culture: Riau-Johore Malay, Iranun-Tobello
Setting: piracy, Malacca Straits 19thc
Evolution1780 Moro pirate > 1870 Malay lanun

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Warren 2002 p1
"Lanun.  The name struck fear into the hearts and minds of riverine and coastal populations across Southeast Asia two centuries ago.  Recently, ethnohistorical research has also shown that where Iranun or Lanun raiding is concerned, old traditions die-hard.  The terrors of the sudden harsh presence of these well-armed alien raiders lives on in the oral recollections, reminiscences, popular folk epics and drama of the victims' descendants in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, to this day.  Only in one part of the globe, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, did Europeans find 'piracy' flourishing extensively; pursued as a calling, not by individuals, as was the case with most of those who had followed the profession of buccaneering in the West, but by entire communities and states with whom it came to be regarded as the most honorable course of life -- a vocation."

* Gwin/Stanmeyer 2007 p132-133
"For centuries, this sliver of ocean has captivated seamen, offering the most direct route between India and China, along with a bounty of resources, including spices, rubber, mahogany, and tin.  But it is a watery kingdom unto itself, harboring hundreds of rivers that feed into the channel, miles of swampy shoreline, and a vast constellation of tiny islands, reefs, and shoals.  Its early inhabitants learned to lead amphibian lives, building their villages over water and devising specialized boats for fishing, trading, and warfare.  Some made their living as pirates, preying on foreign vessels that dared to ply their waters.  Armadas of these skilled sea raiders in light, maneuverable craft regularly plundered passing ships and retreated upriver to fortified villages.  Their raids yielded troves of gold, gems, gunpowder, opium, and slaves, which they used to build powerful sultanates that dominated much of the Sumatran and Malaysian coastlines.
​    "Sailors chronicled the horrors they faced in the strait and nearby waters.  One 19th-century episode involved the capture of British Captain James Ross.  Believing his ship held a stash of silver coins, lanun forced him to watch as his young son was lashed to an anchor and drowned.  Then they cut off Ross's fingers joint by joint.
​    "European colonizers and their navies brought the sultanates under control in the late 1800s, but the lanun were never eradicated."

* Spruit 1995 p114
"[T]he continuous problem of piracy in the Straits of Malacca was one the British could not avoid.  Traditionally, for the sultans and other local rulers, piracy was a right acquired by the orang laut.  With food and weapons the Malay rulers bought the pirates' loyalty and a share of the booty.  From the coast with its many islands and coves the pirates attacked the eastbound or westbound merchantmen, depending on the prevailing monsoon, forming a constant threat, especially in the area between Singapore and Malacca.  Captured crews were killed or used as rowers on the swift and manoeuverable pirate ships.  The British decided to put an end to the piracy, mainly because of the damage to trade.  They were supported by groups in Britain who wished to stop piracy for humanitarian reasons.  Heavily armed steamers with modern weapons were used against the pirates; regardless of wind, steamers could pursue the pirates to their lairs and finish them.  Treaties were concluded with the sultans who received compensation for their lost income.  In about 1870 piracy had largely disappeared."

* Singapore and Malaysia 1996 p111-112 (quoting Thomas Francis McDougall in The Times, May 27, 1862, after the battle of Tanjung Kidurong)
"The captives state that when the pirates take a vessel they kill every one who makes any resistance.... those they spare are first taken aboard their own prahus, they put a rattan or a black rope halter round their necks, beat them with a flat piece of bamboo on the elbows and knees, and the muscles of the arms and legs, so that they cannot use them to swim or run away. After a while they are made to row in gangs.... if he does not do this effectually he is 'krissed' and thrown overboard, and another man put in his place...." 

* Singapore Infopedia online > Bugis Trade
"Piracy was a menace to ships plying the waters of the Malay Archipelago during the early decades of the 19th century.15 The lure of profits in Singapore waned against the gory reports of plunder and murder by the pirates.16 The frequency and impunity of pirate attacks in the waters off Singapore made the Bugis consider pulling out from trading at the port.17 Government gunboats were dispatched to patrol the seas, but the piracy problem was too entrenched and continued to haunt the Bugis juragans (captains), in turn affecting Singapore merchants involved in the Bugis trade. The war on piracy took a favourable turn towards the mid-19th century following the cooperation of the Malay chiefs, especially the temenggong (village chief) who was able to turn the tide against the pirates through his network of Malay followers and personal connections with neighbouring chiefs and princes." [references omitted]


* Stone 1934 p570
"SONDANG, SUNDANG.  The Malayan broadsword." [reference omitted]

* Macaraeg 2009 p8
"The pommel is carved as a stylised cockatoo head -- this motif is identical to that seen on sword pommels from the Malay-Muslim cultures of Mindanao and Sulu, now collectively known as 'Moro'.  While the literature on Southeast Asian weaponry typically presumes a flow of such styles from west to east, the evidence regarding the cockatoo pommel suggests that the Malays of northern Borneo and peninsular Malaya adopted this feature from the Moros, no earlier than the nineteenth century.  The Moros believed the cockatoo transmitted its earthly observations to Heaven through its loud calls.  Placement of the cockatoo form on the hilt of a personal weapon, itself the object of spiritual attention, reinforced the symbolic associations between the bearer of the sword, his audience's understanding of cultural symbols, and his relative social position.
​    "I believe that the decoration of such weaponry was historically employed as a means for socially mobile individuals to contest their relative status when direct violence was not a culturally acceptable option.  Conspicuous consumption of rare and precious materials indicated access to wealth and power, and fossils certainly fell into this category.  Because this type of sword was worn thrust through a waist sash, the large pommel would have been a highly visible fashion statement."  [references omitted]

* Sheppard 1972 p133
"The largest member of the kris family is the Sundang, the sword kris.  It originated in the Celebes and was probably introduced into the Malay peninsula by the Bugis at the end of the seventeenth century, since when it has been used extensively all over the country.  The blade possesses all the features of a kris; it is two edged and pointed, it has a collar and knuckle guard and it may be either straight or sinuous.  It is, on average, 22 inches long and 8 inches wide at the top.  But the hilt is quite different from that of a kris.  The Sundang is a cutting and slashing weapon and is not intended for thrusting.  The grip has therefore been changed.  The hilt of a Sundang is in the same plane as the blade and is shaped to suit a normal sword grip.  In appearance it resembles the head of a cockatoo.  It is gripped round the straight tubular lower part, which is often covered with a layer of strong cord to provide a grip like that on a cricket bat.  Two silver bands are often added on either side of the base of the hilt to bind the guard and blade together.
    "The Sundang sheath has a plain narrow crosspiece, smaller, in proportion, than that of the kris, but the shaft is broad and straight, with a rounded tip.  Veined wood seems rarely to have been used, but bands of gold or silver, ornamented with a leaf design or of filigree, were sometimes added."


* Frey 1988 p50
"Much has been written about the hulu, the hilt of the Peninsular Malaysian kris.  It is usually in the form of a highly abstracted crouching or squatting figure which is holding its sides as if in distress.  The position is known as jawa demam (fever stricken), jawa gigil (shivering) or jawa sakit.  Considerable speculation concerns its origin -- whether it is indeed an aspect of the Hindu bird-god Garuda, carrier of Vishnu; a zoomorphic evolution of some god-figure stemming from the Majapahit hilt or simply a variation of the cockatoo, the parrot, a common design element positively identified on many Malayan hilts."

* Sheppard 1972 p126-127
"The earliest known kris blades were probably made with meteoric iron, which was rare and believed to possess magic qualities.  Later, iron, when purer iron was used, nickel or nickelous iron was added to provide damascened patterns on the surface of the blade.  When the blade was finished, it was treated with arsenic to bring out the pattern; gold or silver inlay was sometimes added to record the name of the titled owner, or to reproduce a Koranic text or rows of Arabic numbers on the blade.
    "The hilt [nH: Kris hilt -- Hulu Kris] of the Malay kris is rounded and curved to bear a superficial resemblance to the butt of a small pistol, and it is grasped in the palm of the hand in exactly the same way as a pistol butt, with the four fingers, close together, curling round the hilt from below, while the thumb is extended along the upper side of the hilt.  The grip is admirably suited for thrusting.
    "The design of the kris hilt has been compared to many different objects: to the winged steed of Vishnu, which had the head of a bird and the body of a man, sometimes called Garuda; or to a protective Orge, called Raksasa; or to a 'Javanese with fever' or to a chicken with a broken neck [nI: Ayam patah Tekah] or to the skull cap of a Pilgrim [nJ: Hulu Kopiah Pa'Haji].  In most cases it was probably intended to represent the Garuda, which was believed to possess enormous strength and other supernatural powers.  These, it was hoped, would be transferred to the owner of the kris.
    "The spread of Islam in the Malay peninsula caused the shape and appearance of the Bird-Man hilt to be modified, but a short beak and a pair of folded arms can be recognized on many Malay kris-hilts to this day.  The forward tilt of the beak, the suggestion of hunched shoulders and the folded forearms are responsible for the 'Javanese with fever' interpretation: it relates to an incident during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of Malacca, when the warrior Hang Tuah killed a 'Javanese with fever' who had run amok."