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Pontianak (folklore)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Pontianak or Kuntilanak (from Dutch-Indonesian: puntianak, Jawi: ڤونتيانق) in Malay mythology is the malicious spirit of a woman who died whilst pregnant.

A Pontianak is usually depicted as a ghost, whose presence is indicated by the fragrance of the Plumeria flower. It often resembles resembles as a ghost which dies in a violent death, although it can take the form of a beautiful woman, usually with long hair. Many accounts of the Pontianak describe it as the spirit of a woman who died during childbirth or pregnancy. However, some Malay legends claim that the Pontianak originates from the spirit of a stillborn child, rather than a pregnant woman.

Earliest Sightings

One of the earliest recordings of this creature is that of Syarif Abdurrahman Alkadrie and his voyagers. Planning to build his palace on an island, he was distracted by a woman whom he had passed near the Kapuas River. The woman he encountered he encountered apparently possessed long hair and a disfigured face.


Pontianak has been theorized to be derived from pon (‘puan’, short for perempuan, meaning ‘a woman’), ti (short for mati, i.e. death’), anak (‘child’), i.e. 'a woman who has died in childbirth'.


The Pontianak as a ghostly figure with long hair is one of the most powerful spirits in Indonesian folklore and popular horror films. It is said that the Pontianak has supernatural powers to lure in men as their prey. This demonic creature is also known to seek revenge against men who don't believe her death. The spirit can be detected by the sound of an infant crying and the smell of decaying corpses or the Plumeria flower. Many people report seeing this ghost in haunted spots and abandoned areas.

Description of physical appearance and behavior

A Pontianak is usually depicted as a beautiful, red-eyed, and pale-skinned woman with long black hair dressed in a blood-smeared white dress that preys on men and helpless people. Notably, a Pontianak is said to have a hole on the nape of her neck. They are also described as changing into a more monstrous form upon having captured suitable prey. A Pontianak can also be a beast due to its bloodthirsty and carnivorous nature.

In folklore, a Pontianak only appears under the full moon and typically announces her presence through high-pitched baby cries or feminine laughter. If the vocalizations are low in volume, then the Pontianak is nearby; if it is loud, then the beast is far away. Some sources also state that dog howling at night indicates that a Pontianak is far; but if the dog whines, then Pontianak is nearby. Her presence is also said to be heralded by a floral fragrance identifiable as that of the Plumeria, followed by a stench similar to that of a decaying corpse. The Indian version, the Churail, turns her feet backward just before her transformation into her vampire form.

A Pontianak kills her victims by using her long fingernails to physically remove their internal organs for consumption. In cases where the Pontianak desires revenge and retribution against a male individual, she is said to eviscerate the victim with her hands. It is also said that if one has their eyes open when a Pontianak is near, she will suck them out of the victim's head. The Pontianak is said to locate its prey by the scent of their drying laundry. For this reason, some Malaysians refuse to leave any piece of clothing outside of their house overnight.

The Pontianak is associated with banana trees, and her spirit is said to reside in them during the day.

According to folklore, a Pontianak can be fended off by driving a nail into the hole on the nape of her neck, which causes her to turn into a beautiful woman and a good wife until the nail is removed. In the case of the Kuntilanak, the nail is plunged into the apex of her head.

The Indonesian Kuntilanak is similar to the Pontianak, but commonly takes the form of a bird and sucks the blood of virgins and young women. The bird, which makes a "ke-ke-ke" sound as it flies, may be sent through some black magic to make a woman fall ill; the characteristic symptom is vaginal bleeding. In her female form, when a man approaches her, she suddenly turns and reveals that her back is hollow, but this apparition is more specifically referred to sundel bolong.

In popular culture

  • Indonesian films, see also id:Kategori:Film kuntilanak
    • Kuntilanak (1962) starring Ateng
    • Kuntilanak (1974)
    • Lawang Sewu (2007)
    • Casablanca Tunnel (Red Kuntilanak) (2007)
    • Kuntilanak's Nest (2008)
    • Kuntilanak (2006), Kuntilanak 2 (2007), Kuntilanak 3 (2008)
    • Kuntilanak's Morgue (2009)
    • Kuntilanak Beranak (2009)
    • The Nail of Kuntilanak (2009)
    • Santet Kuntilanak (2012)
  • Indonesian Video Game
    • DreadOut (2014)
    • Pamali: Indonesian Folklore Horror(2018)
  • Malaysian films
    • Pontianak (1957)
    • Dendam Pontianak (1957)
    • Sumpah Pontianak (1958)
    • The Pontianak Child, also known as Anak Pontianak (1958)
    • The Return of Kuntilanak (1963)
    • Pontianak Musang Cave (1964)
    • Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam (2004)
    • Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2 (2005)
    • The Scream of Pontianak (2005)
    • Help Me, I'm a Pontianak (2011)
    • Pontianak vs Oil Person (2012)
    • The Nail of Kuntilanak (2013)
  • Singaporean films
  • Hong Kong Film

Related folklore

In Philippine folklore, the vampiric tiyanak shares many similarities in terms of origin with the pontianak. However, the tiyanak is the ghost of the child rather than the mother. In Pakistani/Arabian culture, the story of Pichal Peri is similar.

See also


  1. ^ "Revenge of the Pontianak". IMDb. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  2. ^ "The House of Aunts". 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2015-04-13.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 September 2020, at 11:23
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