LANDMARK LEGENDS: Red Hill, Singapore

 By Rieh Argel

Legends and myths are not just simple stories; they contain lessons and morals passed on from generation to generation. These tales may also include valuable historical facts and data about the culture and lifestyle of people or race involved.

A legend on the origin of Red Hills in Singapore


Once upon a time, in a far away fishing village in Singapore, there was a smart boy named Nadim. The boy who lives on a hill was known for planting banana trees and selling its fruits to earn a living. He was also known in the village as a boy with a compassionate heart.

Nadim’s village is ruled by a wise and cunning Raja who often accepts gifts of visitors from afar. One day, a visitor from a nearby village came; an old man who uses the beak of a swordfish as a walking stick to help him along. The Raja was fascinated by this use and called his advisor. He ordered every fisherman in the village to gather swordfish beaks.  The fishermen had nothing to do but follow. The time came that the Raja grew tired of collecting swordfish beaks and allowed his townspeople to go back to their own fishing. Unfortunately, the mass-capture of swordfish angered the fish and any boat that entered the water were destroyed by their long, sharp beaks. The townspeople were so much worried that they were blaming their raja for what had happened. The incident brought famine to the town.

Being aware of the current issue; Nadim decided to harvest his bananas to share them with the villagers. One day when he was gathering the bananas, he saw a bird whose beak was caught on the trunk of the tree. This gave him the idea to use banana trunks to catch swordfish. He went to the Raja and proposed his idea.  As the Raja was desperate for a solution, he listened to Nadim’s suggestion. Realizing he had nothing much to lose; the Raja accepted the boy’s idea. He ordered his soldiers and all the fishermen in the village to cut down all the banana trees nearby and build a barrier along the beach.

When the tide was high, the swordfishes swam up to the beach and got their beaks stuck onto the banana tree trunks; this proves the idea to be successful.  

The people were overjoyed with the victory except for one, the Raja was threatened with the boy's intelligence. He was afraid that Nadim would gain more respect and eventually become more popular than him. As a result, he ordered an assassin to murder his competitor.

The murderer successfully carried out the deed; and on that night the whole hill was covered with blood. Every single gravel and soil that lied on the hill turned red.  The hill looked so reddish that the people later on called it Bukit Merah; a hill dyed red.

Rekindle this heartbreaking legend by visiting the Red Hill in Singapore

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