I was sitting on the frigid wooden floor, imagining myself amid the verdant forest, filled with lives. Birds. Rabbits. Insects. I wondered what birds looked like. I heard them every morning, with their small voices, chirping harmoniously into a soothing song. To be honest, I was not entirely certain if it was morning, evening, or night time. I had never actually seen the sun myself. I only knew what time it was when I heard people conversed on the other side of this wall. I barely remembered what the sky looked like. It was a long time ago since I saw it. I knew it was blue, but I also remembered it to be painted with a warm orange color. And I was no longer sure which color it was exactly. From a far distance, beyond that wall, I could hear the gate creaked open. My heart started thumping as the cold sweat ran down my face. My wandering mind was brought back to cruel reality where there was only darkness. As the door across me swung open, an acute terror surged through my veins. The flickering fire from the rusty lamp lightened up the small room. I narrowed my eyes, trying to adjust them to the unfamiliar brightness. With my hazy vision, I looked up to the familiar face of an old lady. The person whom I called 'Mother.' She took her first step into the room, eyes fixed at me.
"Sing," she said. I could do nothing but started to sing mother's favorite song—A Siamiese. As the first word resounded, I could feel sharp spines piercing my throat, cutting the flesh inside of me. Mother said I would get used to the pain, but I never did. The pain seemed to be more excruciating each time I sang. I bent down, faced the ground, and let the first golden medlar to crawl down from my mouth, leaving its metallic taste behind. I was not sure whether it was the test of my blood or the flower. They tasted very similar. I glopped down a mixture of saliva and blood down my throat, hoping it would mitigate the pain from open wounds inside. To pronounce each word was tortuous, but I could not stop singing. I did not want to anger mother. I did not want to be punished again. Medlars continued to crawl up my throat, stinging and cutting me on the inside. Each time the golden flower fell on the ground, mother's smile widened. I wondered why she wanted these flowers so badly, but I never asked. Not that I did not want to. I could not. Not after finishing the song. To pronounce one more word was too agonizing to bear.
As the last word had been said and the song came to an end, the final flower dropped on the ground. I looked up to mother's face, tears dripping from my cheeks. Normally, mother would pat me on my head, praising me for being so courageous, but she did not that day. Instead, I could see the greed in her eyes. Before she even said a single word, I knew, almost abruptly, what she desired.
"One more time." Her voice echoed. I started to shake my head vigorously, mouth sealed tight, trying my best not to let any sound resonate. I clasped my hands together, begging mother for mercy. In my head, I could hear my own voice screaming NO over and over again. I truly believed I would die if I were to sing again.
"One. More. Time," said mother, vehemently. I froze in terror. I knew her patience was about to reach its limit. But I could not sing anymore. My throat was lodged with blood and swollen wounds.
"ONE MORE TIME" She roared. The flame of fury was ignited in her. She turned around, picked up a steel stick which was lying against the wall, and faced me. Her face was twisted horridly. I had never seen her this angry for. I felt as if she has turned into a raging monster. My body started to shake uncontrollably. I had to sing. I NEED to. Mother might kill me if I did not.
"S—s—a—" I tried to pronounce the first word of the song, but all that could be heard was just air. I tried harder, so hard that blood was spitting out from my mouth. I looked into mother's eyes, trying to seek empathy, hoping she would spare me. But I could see no mercy in her eyes—not even a small glimpse of sympathy. At that moment, I knew I was doomed. I shut my eyes and soundlessly started to pray. I repeated the same prayer over and over again—the one I heard every day along with the sound of chirping birds. I didn't know what it meant, but that was all I knew.
"CURSED CHILD," mother growled as she whipped me on the back with the steel stick. I could feel an immense affiliation surging through my spine. The pain spread across my upper body, but soon it faded. I started to lose my sense. My vision became fuzzier, and, eventually, all I could see was darkness.
Original story (Phikul-Thong / พิกุลทอง) in Thai (I could not find english version so I summarized the story into my own version down below): http://www.sac.or.th/databases/thailitdir/detail.php?meta_id=389
To be frank, the original story is pretty f** up… The male protagonist, Phichai-Mongkuth (too long, I'll call him PM), decided to rescue Phikul (the female protagonist) and marry her, because he found her message which was veiled in her , apparently fragrant, hair while he was strolling along the river. Phikul had a weird super power. Golden bullet wood (medlar) would fall out from her mouth each time she spoke. I don't know how. The author did not describe the process in detail. In the text, it seems the flower to appear out of thin air. Anyhow, they got married and gave birth to two sons. Then, another wave of catastrophe, which separated the lovers, struck them. Yes, 'wave', literally. The wave struck the ship they were on splitting them apart, two boys and PM to one place, and Phikul to the shore of Titan town. The king of the Titan town wanted to make Phikul his wife (well, because she was so damn beautiful), but she refused. With rage, the king made Phikul a servant instead (lol).
On the other side, PM and his sons found themselves amid a forest. There, they met a hermit who taught them transformation spell. Casting the spell, The three turned into birds and flew to the town of Titans. The Titan princess (Titan King's sister) captured the three in the bird form, and pet them inside the palace. Once they managed to get inside the palace, PM and the boys transformed back into human. The princess fell in love with PM because he was handsome. And, yes. Just like that. PM made the princess his mistress (I know what you are thinking. wtf. and his sons was there with him as well). Once the Titan King found out that his cute little sister had an intimate relationship with PM, he tried to kill PM out of anger. Well, PM was not only good looking, but he, too, was good at swordsmanship, so he was able to kill the Titan King with little effort. Weirdly, the princess did not even care her bro was a dead meat! She was so blinded by the 'love' she had for PM.
PM became the new king of the town, because no titans were dare to challenge him after witnessing his skill. Phikul heard about the new king and she knew, instantly, that the person who killed the ex-King was her husband who had came to rescue her. Somehow, she managed to go see her lover and her son, but the story did not end there. She still had to overcome the last obstacle, the greedy little princess. The titan princess, now PM's mistress, accused Phikul of adultery with her dead brother. But, eventually, Phikul had proven her innocence by walking on the flame. Indra, the hindu god which appears in several Thai folktales, which had never been mentioned about before in the story, randomly entered the scene and put off the fire with the magical eternal water. Then, it was the greedy little princess's turn to prove she did not lie by walking through the glaring fire. She could not bare the heat and, eventually, confessed she lied. And the story ended with PM commanding the princess to apologize Phikul.
Contemporary version (in English) : https://www.bloggang.com/mainblog.php?id=wawa-virata&month=14-07-2007&group=5&gblog=1
This version is very similar to Cinderella (for me at least). Go read yourself and let me know your thought! 🙂
My thought on the original story :
The original version actually reflects the Patriarchal society in Thailand during that Ayutthaya era. During that time, men were able to gratify their sexual desire without any restriction. They could, by law, have as many wives as they'd like. Women, on the other hand, could not do so. There are several symbolism present in the story. One of the most interesting one for me is a gibbon. In the story, Phikul is turned into a gibbon (I did not include that part in my summary).
The screeching sound gibbons make rhymes with the word 'Bua/Pua' (ผัว), which literally means husband. Phikul, which has turned into a gibbon, desperately calls for her husband, 'Pua Pua Pua Pua,' to come and rescue her. Thus, in the story, this money-like creature is used to symbolize the trust Phikul has for her husband. She genuinely believes that her husband would find her if she continues to call for him. The screech symbolizes affliction she is experiencing, being taken away from her sons and lovers.
picture from : https://easyayurveda.com/2016/11/28/bakula-mimusops-elengi-bullet-wood-spanish-cherry/
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