The Al-Jaffari family

The maternal family of the protagonist, Sarah. The Central Asian surname was acquired via the ‘recent arrivals’ of the Syed clans in the 1500s. The family line itself was older, stretching back more than a thousand years. The progenitor, Merong Mahawangsa, is described by the narrator as “part man, part deity, part legend”. Descendants of this man ruled the northern Malay kingdoms of Kedah and Nakhon Si Thammarat during the Brahman-Buddhist era. The most infamous of his descendants was the Fanged King, who was dethroned because of his practice of cannibalism and blood sacrifice.

Sarah daughter of Raden is most likely descended from a cousin of the Fanged King, Ganji Sarjuna, who founded the ancient kingdom of Gangga Negara – now part of Perak. At least, that’s what we assume of her.

The females of the family, once of a prominent warrior caste (serikandi) and rulers in their own right, had their influence diminished significantly when the Malaccan Sultanate turned the conquered kingdoms into vassal states. The succession line shifted from absolute primogeniture to cognatic primogeniture, favouring the male heirs. In their unquenchable desire to cling to power, and in fending off predatory nobles, the women turned to the dark arts – and their own Constant Companions – to keep the house in order. It wasn’t without repercussions.

See ‘The Raden Family’, ‘The Fanged King’ and ‘Moyang’.

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