The story of the Young Sea-Captain exist in various earlier versions but this is an edition from a manuscript written in 1830s. The story is about a princess who got tired of waiting and she went out and saved her stupid brother’s life while disguising herself as a man and unfortunately for her, a prince fall in love with her and in severe emotional confusion over his feeling to a girl who dressed like a boy and everyone was convinced that she’s a boy and he insisted that she’s not. So, he and his father made up things to test her in front of everyone that she’s a man… including peeing in front of everyone, gambling, horse-riding, dancing and almost sleeping together. Luckily, she have a magic bird who spy on the emperor and the prince and the princess churn out clever ways to outwit these two scheming people who were bent on trying to humiliate her in every way possible.
This hikayat was full of feels and weird sex jokes and occasional groping. I thought these aristocratic literature would be dry and proper considering it was a favorite in the old Malay courts and the cover was bland even with those gold lettering. It was surprisingly a very well-constructed romance. A girl meet a guy. The guy fall in love and pursue the girl and the girl tried so hard to push him away but then that night together they spent telling stories instead of sleeping which reminisced 1001 Nights and then that “I’m gonna leave you now and I don’t want you to chase me” scene. Honestly, Prince Bikrama was an asshole and then he became this simpering puddle of depression (he actually fainted when she ran away) but he redeemed himself when he won her hand in a competition and fought a war with other princes over for his love.
In fact, I do think the whole book was better than most Malay romance we had now. Its like Fantaghiro except the girl uses more wit than Fantaghiro do and her reason to disguise herself as a boy to save her brother was more solid and there’s a lot of feminine empowerment qualities from this captain princess alone. Which I think it was grand.
Sadly, despite some era of Malay literature appreciation during British Malaya days, there weren’t any English translation for this hikayat. Of all fairytales, you’d expect this kind of feminist story of a clever Malay princess who save the day from men’s idiocy (because really, every major conflict in this book was cooked up by these incompetent feudalistic men) would remain famous for centuries.