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Abath

Abath is a name of an Indonesian creature regarded to be a unicorn. Edmund Barker, a member of James Lancaster's crew travelling to East India, reported that in the kingdom of Iunsalaom (Junkceylon, now Phuket Island in Thailand) they purchased 2 or 3 horns of abath, which is thought to be a female unicorn. The creature has one horn in its forehead, which is brown-gray in color and is prized as a great remedy against poison.[1]

This abath is certainly Sumatran or Javan rhinoceros, in Malay called بادق‎ bādaḳ. The qaf is usually silent, so the word "bada" was coined by Portuguese travelers. Ending in "a", it seemed feminine to their ears and was assigned the feminine article, "la bada", and sometimes misinterpreted as "l'abada" (see: abada). "Abath" is a variant of this word.[2]

Explanations

Indonesian rhinoceroses had been mistaken for unicorns for a long time. Marco Polo, traveling through the kingdom of Basma, reported numerous unicorns living there, however he pointed out that those ugly, mud-wallowing brutes are very different from unicorns from European stories.[3]

References

  1. Hakluyt, Richard. Principal Navigations..., vol. 11
  2. Scott, C.P.G. The Malayan words in English
  3. Polo, Marco. The Travels of Marco Polo
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