Orang bunian

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Orang bunian (Indonesian pronunciation: [o.raŋ bu.ni.an]) are supernatural beings in Malaysian, Bruneian and Indonesian folklore,[1] invisible to most humans except those with spiritual sight. While the term is often translated as "elves", it literally translates to "hidden people" or "whistling people". Their appearance is nearly identical to humans dressed in ancient Southeast Asian style. They are sometimes said to lack a philtrum, but are always extremely beautiful. Modern depictions deviate considerably from the traditional view, and are increasingly elf-like. It is now common in popular culture to see bunian depicted as having pointed ears, high fantasy-influenced attire, or dressed in modern Minangkabau long coat clothing.

The bunian usually inhabit the deep forests or high mountains, far from human contact,[2] but they are also known to live near human communities, and are even said to share the same houses as human families.[3] Their social structure is similar to that of humans in the ancient Malay Peninsula, with families, clans, and royalty. As with other mythical beings in Indonesian folklore, bunian often have supernatural powers,[4] and must be appeased with certain rituals and customs before humans are allowed to trespass areas which they inhabit. They are sometimes blamed when children get lost or when someone gets lost in the wilderness. [5]

However, bunian are generally regarded as benevolent, and have been known to befriend and assist humans, particularly magicians (dukun or bomoh) and shamans (pawang).[6] It is even possible for them to intermarry with humans and bear invisible children.[7] Stories are recounted of men who married bunian women but, pining for their families they left behind, decided to leave the bunian community. Upon their return to human society, they found that everyone they once knew has died, and that many years have passed—similar to Urashima Taro and Rip Van Winkle.[8]


  1. ^ Muslims and Matriarchs: Cultural Resilience in Indonesia Through Jihad and ... By Jeffrey Hadler. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  2. ^ Lost hiker mystery: Did ‘orang bunian’ kidnap Teo Kim Lean?
  3. ^ International transnational associations: Associations transnationales internationales, Volumes 50-51. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  4. ^ Images of the Wildman in Southeast Asia: An Anthropological, Perspective By Gregory L. Forth. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
  5. ^ "Girls missing for hours played with mysterious 'kakak' - Nation - The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my.
  6. ^ [https://www.thestar.com.my/metro/views/2016/03/24/believe-it-or-not-theyre-out-there-mountain-trekkers-encounter-strange-supernatural-incidents/ Believe it or not, they’re out there ]
  7. ^ "Tales of the 'orang bunian' - Views - The Star Online". www.thestar.com.my.
  8. ^ Transcultural healing: the whole human : healing systems under the influence of Abrahamic religions, eastern religions and beliefs, paganism, new religions, and mixed religious forms, Roland Werner, University of Malaya Press, 1993 - Health & Fitness - 430 pages. Retrieved 2012-06-23.

External links[edit]

  • John Desmond Gimlette, Malay Poisons and Charm Cures]. Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2011.
  • Reimar Schefold, Vincent Dekker, Indonesia in focus: ancient traditions, modern times.
  • Carlosox, The Invisible People.
  • A. Samad Ahmad, Kesenian adat, kepercayaan dan petua.