Friday, November 26, 2010

Remembering some Thai folklore

I was roaming around the internet looking for posting of this old Southern Thai folklore of Ta Khao Mong-lai that I heard about when I was a kid. The problem is that I don't have Thai character keyboard and am probably misspelling the English transliteration of the name (Thai folks do have weird way of spell their name in English)... 

Ta Khao Mong-lai legend is a local tale linked to the geographical features in Thailand. There is a mountain called Khao Ta Mong-lai (Khao is Thai for 'Mount'), and he has a wife (one of the mountains in Northern Thailand that looks like a woman laying supine with her flowing hair spreading in little mountain ridges, a few strands of which extend into Myanmar). 

I once visited a cabin (more like a bungalow, actually) by the sea close to Mong-lai's supposed house pets, Cat Island and Mouse Island (Koh Maew and Koh Hnu). They are little islets in a half-moon bay that are so closed together that if you walk the length of the bay from east to west while looking at the islets you'd see the cat catching up with the mouse and swallowing it head-first. And if you reverse direction, the cat has a serious case of indigestion and vomits the mouse back out!). I had always loved listening to the locals and their stories, and it was fun riding around the Thai countryside while being narrated this tale and having the different mountains or islands or lakes that inspired the story pointed out to me.

Anyhow... I haven't found that legend online yet (I don't remember much of it now)... but I did find a few other Thai legends/folklores I heard about during my stay in Bangkok in the late 80's. Here is one:
Screenshot from
This is Nang Peeseusamood (roughly Madame Oceanbutterfly), a character from the famous Thai epic poem, Pra Apaimanee (พระอภัยมณี). Look rather intimidating, doesn't she? She is a much softer heart than she looks, though. There's a snippet of the poem describing her underneath the cartoon rendition (couldn't cut and paste the Thai writing, so you'll just have to look at it via the photo):
"She, a big-eyed giantess with bad temper ----  Ugly face with polite speech, a misfit!
 the two breasts hanging wild like sarongs ----  even the husband is wary of her unpleasant look."

"Madame Oceanbutterfly is a giantess living in a cave in the middle of the ocean. She can magically transform herself into an enchantingly beautiful woman. In her previous incarnation she was blessed by Vishnu so that she could remove her heart and keep it in a rock for safekeeping. She became arrogant and picked a fight with Fire. Her body was burn by acrid flame, and she became this specter haunting the rock where her heart is kept. Over hundreds of years, the rock that houses her heart sprouted arms, legs, and a face, and eventually sprang into life. One day she spotted Pra Apaimanee and immediately fell in love with him. She took him to live with her at her cave and bore him a son called Sinsamood (Oceantreasure). One day Pra Apaimanee and Sinsamood ran away to shore. Mme Oceanbutterfly followed them out of love, but is killed by Pra Apaimanee's magical recorder playing. She turned into a chunk of stone forever marking the beachhead where she died."

Youtube video posted by Saksiri2498

It had been a long time since I read this epic poem, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the same concept used in this really old Thai tale (Suntorn Poo started composing it around 1822) that popped up in the Harry Potter books. Horcrux! Mme Oceanbutterfly lived on after her body was burned to ashes because she was allowed to keep her heart in a rock (and then, like Lord Voldemort, she manages to return to life a while later from that same rock/horcrux).

Oh... since we're doing Thailand stuff, I got around to making pork satay last week and video-taped the process. It's pretty easy, thanks to Lobo Satay mix. If you can't find it at the local grocery, it's available at Grocerythai or at Importfood.


Georg said...

Bonjour Smorgy,

First I listened to the Thai music with Madame Big. To me it sounds a bit like Chinese music.

The food video makes me think to try this here at home though I would add some vegetables, I mean real ones, not powdered stuff. Do you have any suggestion to make?


Smorg said...

Hallo Georgy!

Glad you enjoyed this. :oD Satay is usually eaten with a sort of cucumber salad called 'ajad', though I don't really like it. There is a good video of how to make it here ( ).

For me, I like having a bowl of caesar salad with the satay instead. Not very authentically Thai, but much to my eclectic taste buds. ;o)

Btw, did you get mail #22? I got an error message the first time, and re-sent to same email address. Not sure if it really went through or not.

Cheerio from San Diego,
Smorgy :o)

Anna said...

Hello Smorgy

I think I've seen that cartoon somewhere before. Might have been some sort of Thai festival I went to last year.

Is there any sort of teaching that comes with that story? I was looking at some Chinese tales before for my e-reader, but wasn't sure about how pleasant to read they were in English so decided not to get them.

Got a severe storm warning for this arvo. How's the weather over there?

Best regards and wishes