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Phadaeng Nang Ai: A Translation of the…

Phadaeng Nang Ai: A Translation of the Thai-Isan Folk Epic in Verse

by Wajuppa Tossa

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This first English translation of an Isan folk epic is both readable and faithful to the linguistic features of the Thai original. It is presented together with a thorough discussion of the historical background, explanatory material, and a glossary of Thai-Isan terms.



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In the Mekong region, there are at least two important regional myths that have long been known and recited in several local ceremonies throughout the Mekong communities and lately have been comprehensively translated to English publications. One is Phadaeng Nang Ai and the other one is Phya Khankhaak. The Phadaeng Nang Ai, probably the first of Thai-Isan folktale ever translated into English verse, deals throughout its ‘epic’ the explanation of regional geography, local place-naming, and more importantly the interpretation of multi-layered relations between humans and the nature asserted by the beliefs in Buddhist doctrine and cosmology. Wajuppa claims that Phadaeng Nang Ai continues to be a cultural force in Isan tradition as it is still told and performed annually at the firing-rocket-for-rain Bun Bangfai festivals as well as recited during other occasions throughout the years. In fact, myth is far from being an idle mental pursuit; it is vital ingredient of practical relation to the environment. For that reason, Tambiah (1970) in his anthropological work of Isan spirit cults referred to two versions of the myth of Phadaeng Nang Ai he collected from two local sources followed by his structural analysis of such myth. Tambiah came up with conclusion of Phadaeng Nang Ai that while the plot of the myth overtly predicates an antagonism between man and nature, the underlying message is the resolution of the relationship between them in terms of fertile union and sharing of common properties. For Tambiah, the Phadaeng Nang Ai myth portrays what he called the ‘balance equation between naturalization of human society and the humanization of nature’ through the narration of triangular contested love of the Naga’s son Pangkee, Phadaeng, and the princess Nang Ai.
  jakkrits | Sep 6, 2008 |
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