An important work on colonial Malaya, and a very entertaining read by a British Resident of Perak. While the book centres on specific animals in Malaya and his encounters with them (particularly while hunting), Maxwell describes about the cultural importance of nature to the inhabitants of the land, along with some interesting anecdotes and excerpts of poems and songs. An example below:
‘My quarters were placed on the river-bank, and facing the house, a little more than a mile away, a hill named Changkat Asah rose abruptly from the level plain…The huge dark mass dominated the beautiful village at its base. It was of course the feature of the place, and an object of superstitious dread to the Malays. Many were the stories told of the spirits that dwelt there, and no searcher of rattans or dutta dared to remain on its slopes after dark. Every Jin and Efrit known to the Eastern mind; the malignant demons that change form at will; the familiar spirits of sorcerers; heads of women that roam the forest to suck the blood of men; the Voice-Folk whom all can hear and none may see – every kind of spirit lived on Changkat Asah. The mass of stone that forms its highest point was said to be a bilke hantu, “a spirit’s room”. ‘
Included in the book are secular and religious poems, and invocations to the spirits, with Maxwell’s translations in-text and the originals in the appendix
About George Maxwell (from Wikipedia):
Sir (William) George Maxwell KBE, CMG was born June 9, 1871 in Malacca and died August 22, 1959. He was the eldest son of William Edward Maxwell and Lilias Grant Mackay. Sir George was a colonial administrator in British Malaya and Straits Settlements. His father W.E. Maxwell was a famous colonial officer in British Malaya, who held the post as British High Commissioners in Malaya and Governor of Straits Settlements.
Sir George entered the service of the Perak Government as a junior officer in 1891. He then progressed to Assistant District Magistrate and Registrar of Courts in Kinta Valley (Perak). He was also the Assistant Secretary to the Government of Perak, Acting Collector of Land Revenue in Larut, Registrar of Titles and Warden of Mines in Northern Perak and Acting Senior Magistrate for Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Perak. In 1904, he was transferred to the Civil Service of Straits Settlements and was Acting Commissioner of the Court of Requests in Singapore.
He was posted as the District Officer of Dinding, Perak, Solicitor General (1906). On 9 July 1909 the Bangkok Agreement, which was ratified by the British and Siamese, made Kedah part of the British Empire and he was then appointed British Adviser to Kedah (1909–1915) and (1918–1919). He was also the British Resident of Perak (1919–1921) and Chief Secretary of Federated Malay States (1921–1926).