Before attempting to portray social conditions in Sik before the colonial period, the difficulty in separating myth from historical fact should be recognized. There is neither archeological24 nor documentary evidence to provide a factual basis for the often colorful material provided by local informants in which important characters assume heroic, if not superhuman, qualities. Although their accuracy may be questionable, local legends are valuable as source material insofar as they can be seen to portray an idealized past which provides a legitimizing sense of tradition to contemporary social norms. Though names, places, and dates have been lost or jumbled, in some ways this reconstructed past is as useful to our understanding of contemporary events as would be a complete, factual record.
For example, past penghulus were recalled to have been "like Sultans,"25 it being frequently noted in this context that the positions of both Sultan and penghulu were hereditary. Hereditary succession to important positions is the ideal, but in fact only once in the twentieth century has a penghulu of Sik succeeded a kinsman, while not one penghulu of the nineteenth century was remembered to have followed a hereditary path of succession. Yet in 1969 the attraction of this ideal was still strong. With the penghulu of Mukim Sik about to retire, two delegations of local notables collected petitions with over 2,000 signatures and presented them to the Chief Minister of Kedah, requesting that the penghulu's son be appointed to succeed his father. The fact that the father had not inherited his position, nor had any penghulu of the mukim ever____________________