Sandokan is best known as the hero in a series of novels by the Italian writer Emilio Salgari (1862-1911). He has written eleven novels in which Sandokan and his friends Yanez and Tremal-Naik go on adventures in Malaysia and India. Salgari's works have been translated into many languages, there have been comic versions and, of course, film adaptations. The best known is the one from 1976 (Italy) in which Kabir Bedi plays the main hero.
Inspired by films and books, I studied Austronesian Studies (Southeast Asian Studies). I soon found out that both Mompracem Island and the tiger flag really existed. The former had really been the flag of Sandokan's lost homeland Marudu; the latter appeared as such in Salgari's first novel in 1883.
In the course of my studies I traveled to Malaysia, for the first time in 1992, for the last time in 2019. Since it was generally assumed that Sandokan was an invention by Salgari, I did not dare to hope that his name would be confirmed there. But when I was in Marudu and showed my self-made tiger flag, they recognized it and showed me the terrain of the former fortress of Syarif (Sharif) Osman, who fought and lost against the British in 1845. I was told that Sandokan had been his friend and comrade in arms. This knowledge had not been handed down on British historiography, but there are British sources in which the name (in variations) apperas, namely in genealogies and reports by Btitish officers.
So I went to Rome to see Prof. Dr. Santa Maria, who at that time worked in Naples in the field of Southeast Asian Studies. He advised me to publish my discovery and helped me with it. Since then I have published several articles about the historical Sandokan and also Syarif Osman, given lectures and also wrote a dissertation on "Marudu 1845".
Sandokan was not invented by Salgari. Sandokan really existed and he also fought against British colonial power. His existence has been recorded both orally and in writing.