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Tigri 1900.jpg
Sandokan and Marianna "The Pearl of Labuan" on the cover of the novel The Tigers of Mompracem, Alberto Della Valle 1900
Created byEmilio Salgari
Portrayed byKabir Bedi, Steve Reeves
AliasThe Tiger of Malaysia
OccupationPirate, Warrior
SpouseMarianna Guillonk

Sandokan is a fictional pirate of the late 19th century, who first appeared in publication in 1883, created by Italian author Emilio Salgari. He is the protagonist of eleven adventure novels and is known throughout the South China Sea as "The Tiger of Malaysia".[1]

Sandokan novels[edit]

Emilio Salgari wrote several novels chronicling the adventures of Sandokan and Yanez, two of his most legendary creations. The pirates are introduced in The Tigers of Mompracem, which portrays their relentless struggle against the Dutch and British powers that seek to wipe them out. In subsequent novels they battle against James Brooke, the Raja of Sarawak and also travel to India to measure themselves against the Thugs, a notorious band of stranglers devoted to the goddess Kali.

The titles in the series are:

The last two titles were published posthumously.

There were also several other Sandokan titles published by Italian authors Luigi Motta, Emilio Fancelli and Salgari's son Omar.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II has written a modern Sandokan novel called The Return of the Tigers of Malaysia.

Fictional biography[edit]

Sandokan is the son of Kaigadan, the last of a dynasty of rulers of Borneo, whose parents were massacred by the British to take the throne. Sandokan has sworn revenge on them and assembles a group of rebel pirates, the Tigers of Mompracem, to attack them, which earns him the name of "The Tiger of Malaysia". Stranded in Labuan, Sandokan is recovering of his wounds in the house of Lord James Guillonk when he meets Marianna, "The Pearl of Labuan," the niece of Guillonk with whom he falls in love. Although having to escape, Sandokan manages to meet Marianna again and they marry eventually. Defeated by the British, he manages to free his men and apparently gives up piracy and escapes to Java with his wife.

Sandokan and his friend Yanez De Gomera, later help Kammamuri to fight James Brooke, "The Exterminator", the White Rajah of Sarawak, so as to free Tremal-Naik. Sandokan eventually has to help Tremal-Naik again, when his daughter is kidnapped by the Thugs of the Kali, a sect of killers commanded by Suyodhana, "The Tiger of India."

After many battles throughout the years, Sandokan manages to defeat all of his enemies and retires as rajah of Kili Balù, while his friend Yanez is appointed rajah of Assam.


Sandokan is depicted by Salgari as a gallant pirate. He is described as tall, charming, very muscular, slender and attractive, with cold, black eyes, a fierce and severe look, a big turban on his head. Unlike his troops, who are described as mostly half-naked, Sandokan always wears fine oriental clothes, generally red silk with embroidered gold, and long red leather boots.

Sandokan is a formidable fighter, brave, ruthless with his enemies, but kind, generous and faithful to his friends. He has absolute leadership over his men, and is often shown as having no fear, with Yanez playing as a sort of counterweight to his impulsive nature.

Related Characters[edit]

  • Sandokan, also known as "The Tiger of Malaysia": A Bornean prince turned pirate.
  • Lady Marianna Guillonk: Also known as "The Pearl of Labuan", Sandokan's Italian-English wife.
  • Yanez De Gomera: Sandokan's loyal friend and comrade. Portuguese, Goan.
  • James Brooke: the White Rajah of Sarawak, their worst enemy.
  • Lord James Guillonk: Marianna's father. He wants to kill Sandokan.
  • Tremal-Naik: Indian from Bengal.
  • Kammakuri: Tremal-Naik's servant.


The first Sandokan films were made in 1941 Italy with Luigi Pavese as Sandokan

A series of Italian-made films with American leads were filmed in 1964 and released internationally.

  • Sandokan the Great (Sandokan, la tigre di Mompracem) (1964), starring Steve Reeves (dir. Umberto Lenzi)
  • Sandokan - The Pirate of Malaysia (I pirati della Malesia) (1964) a.k.a. Pirates of the Seven Seas, starring Steve Reeves (dir. Umberto Lenzi)
  • Sandokan Fights Back (Sandokan alla riscossa) (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan To The Rescue, starring Ray Danton (dir. Luigi Capuano)
  • Return of Sandokan (Sandokan contro il leopardo di Sarawak) (1964) a.k.a. Sandokan vs. the Leopard of Sarawak, starring Ray Danton (dir. Luigi Capuano)

A pair of Italian films featuring a character named "Sandok" were filmed based on the character by Salgari

TV miniseries[edit]

In 1976, Indian actor Kabir Bedi played the lead in Sandokan, a six-part miniseries for European television directed by Sergio Sollima. Carole André was cast as Lady Marianna Guillonk, Philippe Leroy played Sandokan's trusted friend and lieutenant Yanez De Gomera. The role of the main antagonist James Brooke was performed by Adolfo Celi.

The series included the episodes:

  • The Kidnapping
  • The Mysterious Prince
  • The Tiger Hunt
  • The Offer
  • Betrayal
  • The Battle

In 1977 Kabir Bedi reprised his role in the film La tigre è ancora viva: Sandokan alla riscossa! (a.k.a. The Tiger Lives Again: Sandokan To The Rescue!). The TV series theme song, Sandokan, was composed by Oliver Onions (a pseudonym of the De Angelis brothers), and made the Top 10 in many European countries, albeit mostly in the translated English version.

A 2004 documentary Sandokan's Adventure detailed the making of the series.

Animated series[edit]

Sandokan the animated series was released in 1992 by Spanish animation studio BRB International, and broadcast in the United Kingdom on Channel 4 and Republic of Ireland on RTE Two. This children's animated show, written by Doug Stone and Dave Mallow, is loosely based on Salgari's novels. In the show Sandakan (here an anthropomorphized tiger) is an usurped prince who travels the seas as a pirate seeking to reclaim his rightful throne from the Rajah of Sarawak. The first nine episodes of the series are available in three DVD volumes in the United Kingdom. A condensed version of the series was released as an animated movie, The Princess and the Pirate, in 1995.

Another animated series was released in 1998 from a coproduction among RAI on 1993-94, Studio Sek and Mondo TV and broadcast in Italy on Rai 1. This series was composed into three parts: Sandokan, la tigre della Malesia (Sandokan, the Tiger of Malaysia, produced in 1998); Sandokan, la tigre ruggisce ancora (Sandokan, the Tiger roars again, 2000); Sandokan, le due tigrie (Sandokan, The Two Tiger, 2004). The adventures of this 26 episode cartoon series are based on the stories of the famous Italian novelist Emilio Salgari (1862–1911). The story takes place in the second half of the 19th century, and is situated in the Malaysian archipelago, Borneo, and India. Co-produced with RAI Italy, and TF1 France, the series achieved a big success such that it a second series was decided to be produced on this character. An interactive computer game, a video special, a sticker album, along with other Merchandising articles such as books, toys, shirts, bags etc. are now available based on the series


  1. ^ "Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies - Google Books". 2006-12-26. Retrieved 2015-04-18.

External links[edit]