Today, Kinabatangan is the capital of Kinabatangan district in Sabah’s Sandakan Division.
But many generations ago, there was a cave in this area that mythical princesses called home.
British explorer Frank Hatton recorded many legends and stories when he came to North Borneo (Sabah) working as a geologist.
These legends included the story of a cave where seven sons of a nobleman took shelter long time ago.
Hatton did not mention the exact name of the place except that it was a cave in Kinabatangan.
Here is how the legend of seven brothers and the Kinabatangan cave goes:
There was once a powerful Pangeran (nobleman) in Kinabatangan who had seven sons.
This chief was famous for his power and bravery, so much so that he wanted his sons to follow in his footsteps.
So he told his eldest son to conquer some islands near the Sulu Sea.
Obediently, the eldest took his brothers along with seven large perahus (long boats) on an expedition.
Their battles for conquest were hard and severe, but they completed their quest successfully. Upon their return home, they found themselves pulling up against strong currents.
As night fell, they realised they were opposite a cave embedded in a limestone cliff on a riverbank.
“Let us sleep in that cave,” said the eldest brother. “It will be easier and we shall enjoy more comfort than in the perahu.”
The youngest brother, however had bad feelings about the cave. He told him, “I fear some harm will come to us if we go there.”
Refusing to listen to the youngest brother, they all went ahead to stay in the cave.
It’s a TRAP! The Kinabatangan cave closes its mouth
The youngest brother was still restless, so he woke up with a sudden jolt in the middle of the night.
To his horror, he saw the entrance of the cave getting smaller. He tried to wake his brothers but none of them wanted to listen to him.
As he watched the cave entrance shrink, in his anguish the youngest brother did the unimaginable. He dove out of the cave just in time to make his escape.
In that split second, he managed to turn to look at his brothers.
That was when he saw each of his brothers in the arms of fairy-like damsels who led them further into the cave.
The entrance of the cave then shut, sealing the six brothers inside forever.
Hatton, who wrote this tale in the 1880s, said that ladders were kept hanging outside the cave, and rice thrown in by passing travellers to feed these long-lost warriors.