A Pontianak or Matianak or Kuntilanak (as known in Indonesia, sometimes shortened to just kunti) is according to Malay folklore, a woman who died during delivery or childbirth and became a vampire.
The pontaniak is also known in Philippine, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is often confused or merged with other similar creatures.
From Malay pän-té- -näk.. The origination of the word "Pontianak" is unknown. In Malay "anak" means child but the word "ponti" is unknown.
In Java, the pontianak is more like the langsuyar of Malaysia. She would either be a woman who died a virgin or a woman who died in childbirth. She flew through the night and would be heard wailing from the trees in the forest. To lure men, she can take the shape of a beautiful woman with long hair. After the victim falls in her trap, she will turn ugly and old with sharp teeth or into the form of a owl and emasculate him before drinking his blood.
The Pontianak is the stillborn child of a Langsuir. Langsuir also sucks the blood of living infants and appears in the form of a night owl with long claws.
Through some misinterpretation, the Pontianak has also taken on the role of the Langsuir that is in the form of a beautiful woman who died in childbirth. In Java and the rest of Indonesia the names of the Languisar and the Pontianak are reversed such that the Pontianak is the mother and the Langsuir is the baby but on Java the Pontianak also wails at night like a banshee for the loss of her child.
There is no known way of killing this vile creature, but to stop it, one must drive a nail into her neck the creature will change back to the woman it once was. The nail remains in the woman's neck until she dies and is buried with it ... should the nail ever be removed, she will once again become a pontianak and embark on a killing spree. For this reason, she is believed to be scared of thorns and sharp objects.
A man might save himself from this fate if when the pontianak turns its back to reveal the hole in the back of her neck if he grabs her by the long black hair and manages to pull one single strand from its head.
It also said that if one were to tie a red thread from a banana tree (the Pontianak's home) to the foot of the person's bed, the Pontianak would have to do the person's bidding, trapped.
To prevent a stillborn child from becoming a Pontianak the corpse is treated in the same way as that of the mother, i.e. a hen’s egg is put under armpit, a needle in the palm of each hand, and (probably) glass beads or some simple equivalent in its mouth. The following charm will be used :
- “O Pontianak the Stillborn,
- May you be struck dead by the soil from the grave-mound.
- Thus (we) cut the bamboo-joints, the long and the short,
- To cook therein the liver of the Jin (Demon) Pontianak.
- By the grace of ‘There is no god but God, ...etc."
She is believed to feed on intestines and blood. She relishes all types of blood, but the blood of a newborn is supposed to be the most preferred blood. She kills pregnant women and eats the fetus. "Pontianak" is believed to be attracted by child birth when there is a plenty of blood flowing out from human body. In the olden days, measures are taken by the people to prevent the vampire from coming during child birth. They are also known to turn up at a childbirth and 'steal' the new-born baby away.
Such a being resides inside the trunk of ancient trees.
In the early days, there lived a 'Pontianak', a banshee who fed on newborn babies. This particular breed of banshee, the one found on the island, is also known as 'Hantu Langsuir' . The Langsuir can detach her head from the body in times of attacks. What is normally reported of the Langsuir is a flying head with entrails attached and of course the ear-piercing screeches and wails.
This resident banshee had a palatable fancy for male babies- waiting eagerly for new-borns but only attacking at night. One night, she heard the groans of a villager in labour, in the nearby village. Having been waiting for months now for a newborn, her thirst for young blood was insatiable.
She hastily detached her head from her body and flew off to the house unaware of the villagers lying in wait to ambush her. On arrival at the house, she noticed that all the doors and windows to the house were barred from within. In desperation, she decided to enter from under the house, through the cracks of the floorboards. The villagers, in position for the attack, threw a net over her. Her wails from the surprise of the ambush alerted her body but before the body could be reunited with the head, another group of villagers infiltrated the Pontianak's house and put flames to body. Without a body to return to, the Pontianak was finally destroyed.
The village has still retained the name 'Pontianak' but is now a quiet, serene beach.
Art / Fiction
- Pontianak Gua Musang
- Anak Pontianak (1958)
- Pontianak Kembali (1963)
- Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam - Maya Karin as Pontianak (2004)
- Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2 - Maya Karin as Pontianak (2005)
- "Malay Magic" by William Water Skeat (first published in 1900; reprinted in 1966 by Frank & Cass Co., Ltd.)
- "The Vampire: His Kith and Kin" by Montague Summers (originally published in 1928, most recently reprinted under the title The Vampire by Dorset Press in 1991)
- The Vampire Book by J. Gordon Melton. (Visible Ink Press, 1994, 1999).