Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen: Legendary tale of war and love from Thailand.
The Machiavellian story of three childhood friends. The tale of love, jealousy and war spans over 50 years.
The legendary tale was narrated orally for a very long time before it was first printed in 1872. The poem has all the elements of an epic with elements of bravery, heroism, magic, horror, betrayal, heartbreak etc. Let’s look at the classic Thai folktale in detail.
The love triangle.
The main characters of the story are three friends named Khun Chang, Kun Phaen and Wanthong. They are childhood friends; Khun Phaen is not very attractive but is socially very well-placed and rich, whereas Khun Chang is heroic, handsome and intelligent. As time passes, Wanthong grows up to be a great beauty; Khun Chang enters monkhood and excels in magic and martial arts. At the age of 15, Wanthong and Khun Chang are reunited and fall hopelessly in love with each other. They get married to each other after a tumultuous affair. This makes Khun Phaen fume with jealousy and anger as he too is in love with Wanthong. By using his power and influence, he manages to send Khun Chang to the north to fight a war and convinces Wanthong and her mother that Khun Chang died on battlefield. Heartbroken, Wanthong gets married to Khun Phaen.
The tragedy strikes.
After winning the war, Khun Chang returns but not alone with a new wife. This anger Wanthong and is fights with him and ultimately goes back to Khun Phaen. Khun Chang soon realizes his love for Wanthong and, with the help of magic, kidnaps her and elopes. But he is very soon found by royal guards, and he surrenders. When he goes to prison, Wanthong gives birth to his son, Phlai Ngam, who is intensely disliked by Khun Phaen, who even tries to kill him. But Phlai Ngam goes to live with his grandmother and grows up to be a warrior who sets his father Khun Chang free. Phlai Ngam is given a hero’s welcome, and on the eve of his wedding, the old rivalry between Khun Phaen and Kun Chang is rekindled. The king intervenes and asks Wanthong to choose between one of them. She is dumbstruck, and that angers the king, who orders her execution. Though Phlai Ngam is able to receive a pardon grant for his mother, he is too late, and Wanthong is executed.
The epic tale is still considered one of the greatest pieces of literature ever produced in Thailand.