Sandokan "The Tiger of Malaysia" is Emilio Salgari's most enduring creation. Orphaned when the British murdered his family and stole his throne, Sandokan gathered a legion of pirates and took to the sea to attain his vengeance. Under the command of Sandokan and his loyal friend Yanez de Gomera, the Tigers of Mompracem fight for the defense of tiny native kingdoms against the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires. There are 11 books in the series.
About the Series
The first Sandokan adventure appeared in serial form in the La Nuova Arena in 1883, and was published as Le tigri di Mompracem (The Tigers of Mompracem)in 1900. The tale proved so popular, the characters so intriguing, that it spawned a legion of sequels, pitting Sandokan and Yanez against a variety of enemies: Rajah James Brooke, Governor of Sarawak, better known as 'The Exterminator' for the merciless way he hunted down pirates (The Pirates of Malaysia); the Thugs of the Kali cult in the Indian Sunderbands (The Two Tigers), corrupt rulers (Quest for a Throne) and even the British Empire itself (The King of the Sea). Salgari's pen transformed the bloodthirsty pirate into a noble warrior, a kind of Malay Robin Hood, imbuing his characters with a strong sense of idealism, passion, and loyalty.
TV and Film
The first Sandokan novel was adapted for the silver screen in 1941: I pirati della Malesia starring Luigi Pavese as Sandokan. Le due Tigri followed a year later. Twenty years later, legendary Hollywood body builder, Steve Reeves would take on the role and give North America its first glimpse of the Malay pirate in the 1963 MGM film Sandokan the Great, doing well enough at the box office to spawn a sequel, The Pirates of The Seven Seas, the following year. Two more movies were made in the mid 1960s starring Ray Danton: Sandokan Fights Back and Sandokan versus the Leopard of Sarawak.
However, it wasn't until 1976, when three European production houses united to create a 6-part TV miniseries based on Mr. Salgari's novels, that the quintessential Sandokan was found. Kabir Bedi rocked Europe with his portrayal of the Malay pirate, bringing in 27 million weekly viewers in Italy alone. The landmark series also starred Philippe Leroy as Yanez, Carole André as Lady Marianna Guillonk and Adolfo Celi as James Brooke. A sequel was made La tigre e ancora viva: Sandokan alla Riscossa! the following year which also proved popular. Bedi's Sandokan was the most marketed miniseries of its time and to this day his is the face of the Malay pirate. Kabir Bedi reprised the role in the 1996 mini series The Return of Sandokan.
Comic Books and Animation
The first comic book adaptations of Salgari's works began to appear in the mid 1940s and have continued intermittently until present day. Hugo Pratt added to the Sandokan comic book canon in the mid 1960s with his version of The Pirates of Malaysia. In 1977, at the height of the Bedi Sandokan phenomenon, Walt Disney published Sandopaper e la Perla di Labuan (Sanduckan and the Pearl of Labuan) a wildly-popular parody that has been in print ever since. In 2018, Star Comics published a series of comics based on the Sandokan saga.
The 1990s saw the birth of the first Sandokan animated series. BBI in Spain transformed the legendary pirate into a tiger leading a band of pirates comprised of assorted cartoon animals. The series was quite popular throughout Europe. A few years later Italy's state-owned television, RAI, produced three animated series with Italian production house Mondo TV. You can find the enitre animated series on YouTube in both Italian and English. Check out our animation page for links.