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A Thai Folk Tale: Seven-Coloured Emerald

I’ve read the Thai folk tale ‘Seven-Coloured Emerald’ in ‘Folk Tales of Thailand’ (1976) by P.C. Roy Chaudhury. Thus, today I’d like to retell this story with a moral for you.

Thai Folk Tale: Seven-Coloured Emerald

Once there was a King called Hongse Thong who was married to two Queens. He had two children with the elder Queen, Prince Hongse Yout the Crown Prince and Princess Sroi Pradub. With the younger Queen, the King had only one son called Prince Hongse Noi.

Gachala Emerald, precious like the seven-coloured emerald in this Thai folk tale (photo credit: thisisbossi, wikimedia.org)

Gachala Emerald, precious like the seven-coloured emerald in this Thai folk tale (photo credit: thisisbossi, wikimedia.org)

The King had become very old and thus he thought about how to distribute his royal treasure. Of course only a male could become King and hence he left nothing to his daughter. The King cherished most his beautiful great seven-coloured emerald and wanted to give it to his oldest son, the Crown Prince. For this reason, the younger son complained to his father that he did not get anything in place of the emerald.

The court was split by the disagreement between the younger son and the decision of his father. The King’s younger brother also agreed with the younger prince that he should be entitled to receive something of the heir.

The precious Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

The precious Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

One day, a bold thief entered the palace and stole the precious emerald. Thus, neither of the Princes received it. The King was vexed and the Princes upset and enraged. However, finally nothing could be done about this matter, the emerald was gone forever and this is the end of this Thai folk tale.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: P.C. Roy Chaudhury, Folk Tales of Thailand, SterlingPublishers, 1976)




Thai Folklore: The Tale of Sang Thong

Sang Thong is a very popular folktale in Thailand and it is maybe the most well-known tale among Thai people. It has been transmitted in various forms ranging from jataka tale, written literature, folk drama, local legend to television drama. The first written version is Suwan Sangkha Chadok  in Panyasa Chadok (Suvannasankhajātaka, Jataka Tale).  Thus, today I’d like to retell this story for you.

The Tale of Sang Thong

Sung Thong, the prince in the conch shell (photo: thaigoodview.com)

Sung Thong, the prince in the conch shell (photo: thaigoodview.com)

Once there was a king who had two wives. When his major wife gave birth to a son, this son was born in a conch shell. The minor wife wanted to banish the major wife and her son from the kingdom and she was successful. The king ordered the major wife and his son, Prince Sang, to live in another place with an old couple.

Detail of the murals of the Sang Thong Tales, Viharn Laikam at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, (photo: ich.culture.co.th)

Detail of the murals of the Sang Thong Tales, Viharn Laikam at Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai, Thailand, (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Each day, Prince Sang would leave his shell to work in the household of the couple. When his mother learned about this, she broke his shell. Still the minor wife longed to get rid of the Prince. Thus, he found harbour at the place of a giant lady who took care of him.

Chao Ngo mural (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Chao Ngo mural (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

The giant lady forbade the Prince to jump into the golden well but one day the Prince broke this rule. He jumped into the well putting on an ugly mask to escape. When he wore his ugly dark mask he was called Chao Ngo. This was when he came across the Samon kingdom. The king of Samon had seven daughters. Hence, he ordered all kings to send their sons to his place so that his daughters could choose their husbands.

Sang Thong mural painting (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sang Thong mural painting (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Six of the king’s daughters chose a husband but only his youngest daughter Rodjana did not. To the king’s surprise and anger, she finally took Prince Sang as her husband. She was the only one who could see his golden body whereas to other people the prince appeared as an ugly dark person. Enraged, the King chased his youngest daughter and her ugly husband away to live in a rice field.

Sangthong mural, Thai folklore (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sangthong mural, Thai folklore (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Hence, the king also ordered his other sons-in-law to bring him a 100 fish and deer. He wanted to see Chao Ngo dead. However, Chao Ngo was clever and could perform magic. Thus, he was the only son-in-law able to bring the king what he wanted. Finally, Chao Ngo was the only one who could help King Samon to protect and save the kingdom. This was when his golden body and his royal origin were revealed.

Sang Thong, the hero, is finally acknowledged (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Sang Thong, the hero, is finally acknowledged (photo: ich.culture.go.th)

Summing up, we can say that Sang Thong is a hero who becomes finally accepted. At first he hides behind ugliness and deformation but then his true nature and beauty is revealed.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Siraporn Nathalang, Thai Folklore. Insights into Thai Culture, Chulalongkorn UP 2000)




A Jataka Tale: The Story of Prince Mahajanaka

I’d like to retell a Jataka Tale which is called ‘The Story of Mahajanaka’ (in Thai: ‘Phra Mahachanok’). I’ve come across this tale in the book ‘Folk Tales of Thailand’ by P.C. Roy Chaudhury. For a better understanding, Jataka Tales are stories about the previous lives of the Buddha. These are tales with a moral in which the Buddha shows some virtue.

A Jataka Tale: Prince Mahajanaka

In this life the Buddha was born as Prince Mahajanaka, the son of King Mithila of India. He was born after his father, the King, was killed by his brother Polajanaka. The Queen found harbour at a Brahmin’s house and Prince Mahajanaka was born and grew up there. When the Prince was 16 years old he wanted to see his father’s kingdom. Thus, he left his mother behind taking half of her jewels with him and sailed in the direction of Suvannabhumi. His aim was to make a fortune there.

Mahajanaka is saved by the Goddess Manimekhala Wat Yai Intharam, Chonburi*

Mahajanaka is saved by the Sea Goddess Manimekhala, Wat Yai Intharam, Chonburi (photo credit: buddha-images.com)

However, he got shipwrecked and the Goddess of the Sea, Manimekhala, rescued him. She took him to a mango-grove of Mithila, the former kingdom of Mahajanaka’s father. Since Polajanaka had died, his daughter, the Princess Sivali, was in charge of the kingdom. The throne would go to the man who married Sivali but she wanted her suitors to pass many tests. Thus, no one had taken this chance.

A scene from the Mahajanaka, Jataka tale, mural at Wat Yai, Chonburi*

A scene from the Mahajanaka, Jataka tale, mural at Wat Yai Intharam, Chonburi (photo credit: buddha-images.com)

Nonetheless, some ministers were sent out and they met Mahajanaka. They realized that he must be of royal origin considering the auspicious symbols on his feet. Thus, Mahajanaka was prompted to take all the tests imposed by Princess Sivali. Since the Prince passed the tests, he was allowed to marry Sivali. They lived happily together and a son was born who later became the viceroy of the kingdom.

Mahajanaka suffers a shipwreck*

Mahajanaka suffers a shipwreck, mural painting at Wat Yai Intharam (photo credit: buddha-images.com)

However, there was an event that changed Mahajanaka’s mind and life forever. One day, he realized that the mango trees in the grove were constantly plundered and then the barren ones were left alone. Hence, he came to the conclusion that it would be better to desire and possess less. If one had less worldly possessions, one would not desire and crave more.

This was when Mahajanaka gave up his kingdom and continued living as an ascetic. A short while later, he decided to become a hermit. Even though his wife tried to change his mind and the kingdom was threatened, King Mahajanaka vanished in the forest and his wife Sivali also became an ascetic in the royal gardens of Mithila.

"Phra Mahachanok" as animation project in honour of His Majesty's birthday (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

“Phra Mahachanok” as animation project in honour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Birthday (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

Finally, the Jataka tale about Mahajanaka has been very popular in Thai culture. In fact, this story is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s favourite tale. Thus, last year the story was made into an animation project in honour of His Majesty’s Birthday. You may watch this film here 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: P.C. Roy Chaudhury, Folk Tales of Thailand, SterlingPublishers, 1976)




A Jataka Tale: Angati the King of Videha

Today, I’d like to retell a Jataka Tale which is also called ‘The Story of Mahanaradakassapa’ and deals with Angati, the King of Videha. I’ve come across this tale in the book ‘Folk Tales of Thailand’ by P.C. Roy Chaudhury. For a better understanding, Jataka tales are stories about the previous lives of the Buddha. These are tales with a moral in which the Buddha shows some virtue.

A Jataka Tale: Angati the King of Videha

Angati was the King of Videha who summoned three of his ministers on a beautiful full-moon night in spring. Thus, he asked them for their suggestions how to spend such pleasant hours best. Hence, the ministers gave different kind of advice. One of them said the best way is to indulge in earthly pleasures whereas another suggested listening to the teachings of a wiseman. However, the minster named Alata said they should rather ask the ascetic Guna for advice.

Wat Suwannaram, Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand (photo Heinrich Damm, wikimedia.org)

The Jakata tale of the appearance of the Boddhisatva in form of Narada is depicted at  Wat Suwannaram, Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand (photo: Heinrich Damm, wikimedia.org)

Nonetheless, the King was disappointed by Guna’s advice because he did not seem wise. The King longed for advice on what to do to earn merits in order to get to heaven. Foolishly, Guna said that there were no consequences of sinful behaviour and that no other realms existed. The King Angati, however, believed Guna and thus went on indulging in his life of earthly pleasures.

The King had a clever daughter called Ruja. She advised her father against Guna’s misleading instructions. However, the King would not listen to his daughter. Thus, Ruja prayed vehemently to the Gods that they might change his father’s mind. This was when the great Boddhisattva disguised himself as the ascetic Narada. He went to see the King and thus finally, the King could be converted by Narada’s counsel.

Mural of Vessantara Jataka, 19th century, Wat Suwannaram, Thonburi district, Bangkok,Thailand (photo Heinrich Damm, wikimedia.org

Mural of Vessantara Jataka, 19th century, Wat Suwannaram, Thonburi district, Bangkok, Thailand (photo: Heinrich Damm, wikimedia.org)

Finally, we may note that this Jataka tale, the appearance of the Boddhisattva in form of Narada, is depicted in a mural at Wat Suwannaram in Thonburi district, Bangkok. If you have the chance to visit this temple, I recommend you take a look at the amazing murals 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: P.C. Roy Chaudhury, Folk Tales of Thailand, SterlingPublishers, 1976)




A Thai Folk Tale: The Clever Monkey

I’d like to present you a Thai folk tale called ‘The Clever Monkey’. I’ve come across this tale in the book ‘Folk Tales of Thailand’ (1976) by P.C. Roy Chaudhury. Thus, I’d like to retell this story with a moral for you.

A Thai Folk Tale

Once there was a clever monkey that enjoyed outwitting people and profiting from them. Thus, one day the monkey got a thorn in his tail and went to a barber asking him to remove that thorn. The barber took his razor, brought out the thorn but at the same time cut a bit of the monkey’s tail. Hence, the monkey was furious and asked the barber to give him his razor as compensation. The barber did as demanded and the monkey was happy he had made a score.

Hanuman langur, in the Thai Ramakian Hanuman is known as the clever monkey god (photo credit: XenonX3, wikipedia.org)

Hanuman langur, in the Thai Ramakian and folk tale, Hanuman is known as the clever and witty monkey god (photo credit: XenonX3, wikipedia.org)

On the monkey’s way home, he met an old woman who was cutting firewood. Thus, the witty monkey offered her to use his razor to cut the wood. The old woman gladly accepted the offer but soon the razor broke. Hence, the monkey was enraged and demanded that the woman should give him all her firewood in consideration of the broken razor.

Hanuman the monkey god

Hanuman the monkey god, illustration at Wat Phra Kaew (photo taken by myself)

Shortly afterwards, the monkey met another old woman who was preparing Thai fish cakes by the fire. Since her firewood was nearly exhausted, the monkey offered her his firewood. The old woman gladly accepted the offer but after a short while she used up all the firewood. Hence, the monkey became very vexed. Thus, he demanded all her fish cakes as the price for the used up firewood.

Delicious Thai fish cakes (photo credit: wilkipedia.net)

Delicious Thai fish cakes (photo credit: wilkipedia.net)

Happy and amused, the clever monkey run off with the fish cakes. However, the aromatic smell of the fish cakes attracted some dogs which eventually assaulted the monkey. This was when the scared monkey left all the cakes behind jumping on a tree to find shelter from the dogs.

Thus, in this Thai folk tale, the clever monkey finally got away empty-handed, whereas the dogs feasted on the delicious fish cakes.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: P.C. Roy Chaudhury, Folk Tales of Thailand, SterlingPublishers, 1976)