SPECIAL: Isaan folk tales (part nine)

Today The Isaan Record brings you two stories: one of a beloved prince from Si Sa Ket province, and the other about how the Mun River was formed.

Story 17: The Lost Prince

LONG, LONG AGO, BUT AFTER THE THAI PEOPLE HAD LEFT SOUTHERN CHINA, THERE was a Thai prince in Srisaked. He was very strong and brave. The people in his town said, “Prince Bantud is the greatest hunter in the whole country. Every day he goes into the forest to hunt animals, and every day he kills many fierce and terrible beasts.” Because he was such a good hunter, he soon knew every part in the forest. He could not get lost. If he wanted a tiger, he knew just where to find one in the forest. If he wanted a deer, Prince Bantud knew where all the deer lived.

Prince Bantud got tired of hunting in the forest he knew so well. He was proud of his skill as a hunter, and he said “When you know the forest, then you do not need any skill to catch animals.” He was very sad, and he would not hunt.

The people were worried, they loved their prince. One day a man came to the town and said, “I know of a forest Prince Bantud has never seen. It has lots of animals.”

Prince Bantud was very happy and decided to go to this new forest. He took his soldiers with him, and they went to the forest which was on a mountain. They had just come to the darkest part of the forest when Prince Bantud saw a deer. It was eating grass, and everyone agreed that it was the most beautiful deer they had ever seen. Prince Bantud thought, “I would’ like to have this deer for myself.” He said to his soldiers, “I want to kill the deer. You will take the path to the left, I will go to the right and chase the deer until it comes to you. Then we can kill it easily.”

Prince Bantud was very excited, he ran after the deer. He thought, “When I return with this deer, everyone in the country will know of my fame.” But the deer saw the prince and it ran farther and farther into the forest away from the soldiers of Prince Bantud. Soon the prince was lost and could not find his way out of the forest. He had forgotten that he did not know the paths in this forest. He sat down. He was lost, and he had not killed the deer.

Meanwhile, Prince Bantud’s soldiers were waiting for him. One said, “Almost four hours have gone by, where is our prince? Is he lost? Has some wild animal killed him?” No one knew the answers, so they decided to look for Prince Bantud. Soon night came and they had not seen him, even though they had been all through the forest.

So the soldiers returned to the palace. They said to the people, “The prince is lost, we have tried to find him, but we do not know our way in the forest. Tomorrow everyone must come with us to help up find the Prince.” Because everyone loved Prince Bantud, they agreed. For many days after that everyone looked for the lost prince, but he was never seen again.

The people were very sad, they loved their prince very much. They decided to name the forest, Bantud forest, and the mountain, Mount Bantud. You can see the forest and the mountain in Srisaked province. Their names have not been changed since Prince Bantud disappeared many centuries ago. And until today no one has ever seen Prince Bantud again. Don’t you wonder what happened to him, and why he disappeared?

Story 18: How the Moon River Was Made

THE MOON RIVER FLOWS FROM KORAT TO UBOL AND THEN INTO THE MEKHONG. It is the biggest river in the Northeast. Here is a story people all over Thailand tell about how this river was made:

Thousands of years ago there were no men in this part of the world. In fact most of Thailand was a big sea. Two serpents lived in this sea. They were so big that each one lived in one half of the sea. In the northern part lived the serpent named Pinta-yonak-wati. In the southern part lived the serpent Thana-moon.

Because the serpents were so big, they were always hungry. They decided to work together to find food. When one of them found some food, he would give half to the other serpent.

One day a very big elephant fell into the southern part of the sea. It could not swim, and so it soon died. Thana-moon found the elephant, and. he took it to Pinta-yonak-wati. “Here is an elephant I have just caught. It is very big so we will have lots of food to eat today. We will not be hungry.”

The next day a porcupine was drinking water, and it fell into the sea and died. Pinta- yonak-wati found the porcupine. According to their agreement, he gave half of the animal to Thana-moon. But the porcupine is a small animal, and it has many quills. The quills cannot be eaten, so before he took the porcupine to Thana-moon. Pinta-yonak-wati took the quills off the porcupine.

When Thana-moon had eaten his part of the little porcupine, he was still very hungry. He saw the quills and thought, “Pinta-yonak-wati has not given me half. He is keeping some more for himself.” Thana-moon became very angry and he began to fight with Pinta-yonak-wati.

Soon many fish and animals could not sleep, nor could they drink the water from the sea. The two serpents were fighting all of the time. The fish and the other animals asked the god, Indra, to help them. They said, “Indra, you must make the serpents stop fighting. If they do not stop, we will all die.”

Indra came to the sea. He said to the serpents, “You must stop fighting. You must leave this sea. Pinta-yonak-wati, you must go to the northwest. Thana-moon, you must go to the southeast.”

When Pinta-yonak-wati left the sea, his great body left a mark on the earth. That mark became the Ping River. Then Thana-moon left the sea his body left another mark on the earth. His mark became the Moon River. Even today these rivers are named after the serpents. If you go to northern Thailand, you will see the Ping River. And if you go to northeastern Thailand, you will see the Moon River.