Marco Polo had described the ‘rukh’ or ‘roc’ as a giant eagle with a 150-foot wingspan which could carry and devour an elephant!
When the Great Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan heard of this he sent an envoy to get a quill from the astounding bird.
This was the way the legend could have started!
Historians write about an old Arab chart describing a group of islands in the Indian Ocean known as the “Islands of the Rukh”.
The famous Arab traveller, Ibn Batuta, who crossed the Indian Ocean in the 14th century, visiting the Maldives, could have sailed very near Seychelles and stated that he had seen the rukh!
“Now the rukh, or roc, was described by Marco Polo as a gigantic eagle, with a 150- foot wingspan, which carried off and devoured elephants; and the Great Khan, anxious to obtain one, sent off an envoy who returned with a quill from this fabulous bird.”(Webb 1964:10)
Thus wrote Mr. A.C.McEwen who had studied the subject! He related that he once saw an old Arab chart in which a group of islands in the Indian Ocean was shown as the “Islands of the Rukh”.
Some say that the envoy took back a coco de mer leaf and others stated that the roc or rukh was in fact one of the granitic islands!
The historian, Al Masudi, is said to have visited Madagascar in 915 A.D... He could have called Mahé the high islands beyond the Maldives ('”hautes îles au-delà”)….. raised from the sea by refraction…. and the quill brought back by Kublai Khan’s envoy could have been in fact a palm frond!!!!