An Account of the Wild Tribes Inhabiting the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra and a Few Neighbouring Islands

An Account of the Wild Tribes Inhabiting the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra and a Few Neighbouring Islands is an 1865 book written by the late Pierre Etienne Lazare Favre, a Catholic missionary, based on his observations and findings on the tribes found in the mentioned areas.

These tribes were collectively referred to as Orang Binua and were regarded as indigenous people of Malay Peninsula. The Orange Binua, in turn, consisted of 3 broad classes. These 3 classes included the Battas, who lived in inner parts of Sumatra and some nearby islands, the Semangs, who were located in forests in Kedah, Tringanu, Perak and Selangor, and the Jakuns, who occupied the southern part of the Malayan Peninsula. Of these 3 classes, the book focuses predominantly on the Jakuns and captures their origins, physical appearance and constitution, population and habitation, customs and practices etc., with vivid descriptions.

Below are some interesting points from the book.

  1. The stature and physical appearances of the Jakuns differed based on where they were residing. However, in general, Jakuns had black hair.
  2. The Jakuns had sound minds, possessed good memories and were capable of making sound judgements.
  3. Religious beliefs differed among the Jakuns but some of them had theist views and therefore did not have specific religions.
  4. Many of the Johore Jakuns the author visited lived in houses that were raised approximately 6 feet above ground and accessible via ladders.
  5. The Jakuns wore clothes but usually did not wash them and wore these clothes till they were no longer fit for wearing.
  6. Some common jobs among the Jakuns involved the hunting of animals and cultivating of vegetation.
  7. Jakuns possessed and utilized weapons, such as spears, parangs and sumpitans, for offensive or defensive purposes.
  8. Monogamous relationships were the norm and Jakun marriages typically took place in July and August when fruits are plentiful. Fathers of the brides had to give their consent for the marriages to take place.
  9. Natural childbirth with no assistance usually took place.
  10. Small-pox was a sickness the Jakuns could not treat among themselves and as a result, Jakuns with small-pox were usually abandoned by their family members.

The 200-page book is an easy read and is likely to be of interest to people studying sociology or the history of Malayan Peninsula.

A Pantun (Malay poetry) included at the end of the book.

A Pantun (Malay poetry) included at the end of the book.

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