OpenAI Writes Enrique of Malacca Story

I recently had used OpenAI's ChatGPT to write a story about Enrique of Malacca, and “story” turned out to be the key word in my prompt—as opposed to introduction or encyclopedia entry. The ChatGPT wrote something close to a children’s story, making Enrique a heroic navigator.

I gave OpenAI’s ChatGPT the following prompt:

“Write a 300-word story about Enrique of Malacca’s circumnavigation.”

First, the opening sentence of paragraph 2, a gem that would embarrass any copyeditor who let it get into print:  

“One fateful day, a Portuguese explorer named Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Malacca seeking provisions for his audacious plan to find a western route to the Spice Islands.”

Minor logic issue, basically Magellan thus sailed eastward halfway around the world from Lisbon to Malacca to get provisions that would allow him to sail westward to the Spice Islands—which would require first sailing westward back to Lisbon and then westward across the Atlantic and Pacific—when the Spice Islands (the Moluccas) were in fact just 2,600 kilometers farther east from Malacca.

Anyhow, here is the ChatGPT-generated story. 

Enrique of Malacca was a skilled sailor from the bustling port city of Malacca, known for its vibrant trade and diverse cultures. Born to a Malay family, he learned the art of navigation and sailing from his father, who was a renowned navigator himself. Enrique's curiosity and adventurous spirit were matched only by his deep love for the sea.[1]

One fateful day, a Portuguese explorer named Ferdinand Magellan arrived in Malacca seeking provisions for his audacious plan to find a western route to the Spice Islands. Captivated by Enrique's knowledge of the sea and his fluency in multiple languages, Magellan invited him to join his expedition. Recognizing the opportunity to explore new horizons, Enrique eagerly accepted.

The expedition set sail in 1519 with a fleet of five ships, navigating through treacherous waters and facing unforeseen challenges. Enrique proved invaluable, acting as a bridge between the Portuguese crew and the people they encountered along the way. He shared his insights into local customs and languages, helping to establish friendly relations with various indigenous communities.

As the journey continued, Enrique's reputation grew as a skilled negotiator and mediator. His genuine respect for the cultures they encountered endeared him to both the crew and the locals. From the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean to the intricacies of navigating uncharted territories, Enrique's expertise and guidance played a crucial role in the expedition's survival and success.

Sadly, the expedition would not see its completion as Magellan lost his life in a fierce battle in the Philippines. Despite the devastating loss of their leader, Enrique's resolve to continue the journey remained unwavering. The surviving crew elected a new leader, and under Enrique's navigation skills, they sailed on.

After nearly three years of treacherous seas, they finally reached the Spice Islands. The journey had been challenging, but Enrique's remarkable expertise and unwavering determination had made the seemingly impossible, possible.

Enrique's circumnavigation became a legendary tale, spoken of in awe by sailors and merchants across the oceans. His name was etched in the annals of history as the first known person of Malaccan origin to circumnavigate the globe. His story stands as a testament to the power of knowledge, courage, and cultural exchange in overcoming the most formidable challenges. To this day, the spirit of Enrique of Malacca lives on in the hearts of adventurers and explorers who dare to dream beyond the horizon.

A few facts: (1) Nothing is known about Enrique’s origins or whether he had ever been on a boat before being taken as a slave. (2) The Portuguese invaded Malacca. (3) While he was registered in Magellan’s fleet as an interpreter, the fleet didn’t reach a place where Enrique could converse with locals for a year and a half, and that (Limasawa) was just weeks before Magellan was killed and Enrique deserted. (4) Enrique did not replace Magellan; in fact he may have been complicit in the ambush of the two men who did. 


1. This story was generated on OpenAI.com on July 17, 2023.

By John Sailors,

Enrique of Malacca's Voyage

(C) 2023 by John Sailors. All rights reserved.

See also:

Map of Enrique of Malacca's circumnavigation
Map of Enrique of Malacca's circumnavigation: Malacca, Lisbon, Seville,
Rio de Janeiro, Puerto San Julián, Guam, Limasawa, Cebu.[1]

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his own language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he was taken as a slave by Ferdinand Magellan. A teenager, he accompanied Magellan back to Portugal, then to Spain, and finally on the Armada de Molucca to locate a westward route to the Spice Islands. More about Enrique of Malacca.

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