Singapore fairy tale picture book inspired by Oxley Road saga

Photo: The Phantom of Oxley Castle/ Epigram Books
Photo: The Phantom of Oxley Castle/ Epigram Books

The gripping 38 Oxley Road saga has provided creative fodder for a new fairy tale picture book published by Epigram Books.

Entitled “The Phantom of Oxley Castle”, the story centres around a grand castle with 38 rooms on a tropical island and its colourful occupants including two young princes, a princess and their pesky butler named OB Markus.

Prince Hector the Eldest is bookish and rational; Prince Humphrey the Youngest is rebellious; and Princess Harriet is daring and brash. One night, the children hear a strange, ghostly noise coming from the dungeon and decide to investigate.

Those familiar with the Lee family feud that began in June this year and made international headlines would recognise the character references in the fairy tale targeted at both young and adult readers.

The book is the brainchild of Edmund Wee, publisher and CEO of Epigram, and co-written by Chloe Tong, 24, a University of Warwick postgraduate student, and Liana Gurung, 23, a National University of Singapore graduate. It is scheduled to be launched later this month.

Wee came up with the story idea on a whim when Tong and Gurung were doing an internship at Epigram. He told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore that it somehow “slowly took on a life of its own”.

Describing the book’s reference to the real-life feud as “oblique”, Wee stressed that all characters in the book are fictional. The two young writers echoed the sentiment, saying that the work is not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events. But they admit there are similarities between the fairy-tale characters and the squabbling Lee siblings.

Tong said, “Three siblings, one house, a father who isn’t home to witness his children’s shenanigans. I think people can tell the similarities for themselves.”

“Oxley Castle” may be a fairy tale but readers can expect plenty of satire given the “blatant” association.

“We didn’t want it to be satire for satire’s sake. So you’ll find that The Phantom of Oxley Castle satisfies all the tropes of a fairy tale. All the ‘once upon a time’, ‘happily ever after’ stuff can be expected, but there are also plenty of Easter eggs relating to the saga that adults can pick up on,” Tong added.

Gurung agreed, saying that making the connections is part of the fun of the book. The writers and publisher hope that people can see the humour in the book and that they are not trying to stir up further controversy.

“Something that all of us agreed on was that Singaporeans ought to be able to laugh at ourselves, in private and in public. I think the book does exactly that,” said Tong.

So how will the book end? According to the publisher, there is no ending and a sequel is in the works. In other words, just like the FamiLee saga.

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