Most of you know that I have started working at Chiang Mai University. I work with Caleb and one other colleague to assist the teachers and students in the International College. We each have teachers and classes that we are specifically assigned to and aide in whatever way necessary, as well as run ‘workshops’ in hopes of enhancing the students’ English abilities.
Because my life is constantly hilarious, one of the classes that I am ‘assisting’ in is Lan Na History and Culture. Why is this funny? Well, because while this is an extremely interesting subject matter and is enriching my life here in the land of a million rice fields, the professor has no interest in teaching the class and has therefore handed it over to me. (Not completely, not every class… but many more classes that I was prepared for at first.)
This being said, I have had to do a lot of reading in order to learn the subject matter I am teaching.
This weeks class is about the ‘Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand’ and while I was reading the legends of this area, I came across this story and thought I would share it.
Consider this my Valentine’s Day gift to you all.
The Legend of Prince Chao Luang Kham Daeng
(from “Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends by Donald K. Swearer)
Early the next morning a forest rooster was heard and as the sun rose crows flew out from the thick of the forest, after Chao Luang Kham Daeng awoke he went for a walk in the forest. Admiring the beauty of his natural surroundings he felt refreshed. Suddenly he spied a golden deer happily nibbling grass around a large tree. The prince called the soldiers to come and confirm what he saw. “Yes,” they exclaimed, “it’s a golden deer.” Chao Luang Kham Daeng ordered the soldiers to make a circle around the golden deer. “If the deer comes toward any of you,” he said, “grab it and prevent it from escaping.” When the soldiers made a circle around the golden deer, it was startled and began running back and forth, sometimes stopping and at other times going around in circles.
The prince was entranced by the deer’s beauty. Seeing that Chao Luang Kham Daeng was in a trance-like state, she ran towards him and jumped through the cycle where the price stood. Chao Luang Kham Daeng had his soldiers surround the forest in an even smaller circle. The golden deer saw no way to escape [if she stayed where she was] so she emerged from her hiding place in the dense woods and continued her flight. Chao Luang Kham Daeng followed her until the golden deer began to tire. The prince then ordered his solders to advance quickly. As the deer continued to flee she was intercepted by the soldiers. The the golden deer ran into another forest with Chao Luang Kham Daeng and his soldiers in hot pursuit. Seeing them closing in, she cast off her deer body so that when the prince and the soldiers arrived they would see only a deer corpse. Although they searched high and low, the soldiers found no evidence of the golden deer. Chao Luang Kham Daeng saw only a beautiful, nude maiden with bright white skin. The prince urged his horse to follow after her. Coming to a brook, the woman fell exhausted into the water. Chao Luang Kham Daeng, thinking that the large number of male soldiers might frighten her, held up his hand for them to halt. Stepping out of the water the maiden continued to run until she came to another brook where she paused to look back. As the woman continued her flight, the sun grew quite hot for it was midday so when she reached another brook she knelt down and with cupped hands quenched her this. Reaching a hillock, the beautiful girl hid in a stone cave with the prince and his soldiers still in pursuit. When she was seen by them she ran to the top of the hill around which the soldiers began to dig a moat three levels deep to prevent her escape. After they had finished the second level the young woman realized that she would not be able to escape if they finished the thrust so she again fled from her hiding place. The prince, spying her, followed on his horse. The maiden ran quickly to a high mountain with Chao Luang Kham Daeng following behind. Here she stopped and asked the prince, “Why are you chasing me?” Chao Luang Kham Daeng answered that she was the most incomparably beautiful woman in the world. The young woman responded, “Are you like every other man in the world, only interested in sex?” “Oh, no, my fair lady, your incomparable beauty compels me to speak only the truth.”
“Men don’t remain truthful to women for a very long time,” she said. “When they’ve got what they want, all the sweetness disappears; they lose interest and leave.”
“That’s not true [for me],” the prince replied. “Your beauty is unlike any other in the world. Therefore, I wanted only to speak truthfully from my heart.” To this the woman said, “A man’s commitment to a woman soon fades. When he gets what he wants all the sweetness evaporates and he loses interest.”
“It’s because you possess such goodness that I wanted to meet you,” continued Chao Luang Kham Daeng. “I won’t be so easily dissuaded.” To this the young woman responded, “What’s the hurry? I don’t even know you. How can I love you?”
“I’m Chao Luang Kham Daeng, the son of the king of Champa. I was on my way to confront an enemy on behalf of my father. I would die willingly with the satisfaction of knowing that you let me serve you.”
“As for me,” the woman replied, “I live at hem with my aged mother. Everyday I go out looking for food for I am still under my mother’s care. If you want [to marry] me, you must request permission from my mother.” Chao Luang Kham Daeng then followed the woman into a large cave, but before leaving he promised his soldiers, “I’ll return in seven days if not earlier.”
The soldiers were very worried about the prince but, not knowing what else to do, they returned to their camp on the hill to wait. That evening the staged entertainment to celebrate the marriage of Chao Luang Kham Daeng even though it was unofficial. After seven days had elapsed and Chao Luang Kham Daeng still had not appeared, the soldiers searched everywhere but as no sign of the prince was to be found they broke camp and returned to Champa. Dought that the woman [with whom Chao Luang Kham Daeng went into the cave] was Camathewi (a princess from folklore) the king said, “The real Chamathewi isn’t beautiful so I’m sure the woman was the demon In Lao. She was out looking for a human being to eat just at the time my son happened along so he became a meal for her. When In Lao is out and about looking for food it is a bad time to go into battle.”