Singapore legend: Red Hill

Singapore legend red hill swordfish history name where how royal army reason behind place or myth

Photo: Bukit Merah: From a hilly kampong to a modern town, Federal Publications, 1996

Ever wondered about the reason behind the name of a place? We present the Singaporean legend of Red Hill

Singapore has many intriguing folk legends that not everyone may know about. Many of the places we see or have been to obtained their names from these stories.

In our National Day issue, we explore the dramatic legend of Red Hill.


Swordfish Infestation

Back in the olden days, the coast of Singapore was infested with ferocious swordfish. These swordfish would attack anyone who went near the shore.

The deadly fish struck fear in the hearts many villagers and fishermen, and many of them became too terrified to go near the sea. The villagers consulted the Sultan but even the royal army was no match for the fierce attacks of the swordfish.

The Little boy’s Idea

One day, a little boy had a plan and he proposed it to the Sultan. His daring plan was to build a wall made of banana tree trunks along the coast. The swordfish beaks would pierce the banana tree trunks and be embedded in them when they attack.


The army wasted no time and immediately built the wall of banana tree trunks. Indeed, as the boy had predicted, the swordfish leapt out of the water, only to be stuck in the tree trunks.

At once, the royal army took advantage of their predicament and slayed all the swordfish. Once again, peace and security had been restored.

Fatal Jealousy

The little boy soon grew popular among the villagers and army. This caused the Sultan to become jealous of the boy.

Fearing that this fame would threaten his position as the Sultan, he despatched his soldiers to get rid of the boy.

Climactic Conclusion

The soldiers eventually found the boy living on top of a hill. Armed with swords, they entered his house.

When the boy sensed what was going to happen, it was too late. The cold-hearted soldiers cut through the boy with their blades.

The boy’s blood gushed out and flowed profusely, down the hill. Within moments, the entire hill was bathed in red.

From then on, the entire hill and its vicinity has been known as Red Hill (or Bukit Merah in Malay) due to its red soil, and in memory of the tragic boy hero.

This is just one of the many interesting legends of Singapore. Why don’t you tell us, which is your favourite legend?

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Republished from Issue 44.