By Thomas Hudak
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Thai poets produced epics depicting elaborate myths and legends which intermingled the human, natural, and supernatural worlds. One of the most famous of these classical compositions is the Samuttakhoot kham chan, presented here in English for the first time as The Tale of Prince Samuttakote. The work of three poets, it was begun during the reign of King Naray (1656-1688) and was completed in 1849 by the patriarch-prince Paramanuchit Chinorot (1790-1853).
Translated with enchanting poetic imagery, the poem relates the adventures of Prince Samuttakote and his princess as they tour the heavenly realms with a magic sword. The two are separated after the sword is stolen but are reunited after further adventures. Upon ascending the throne, they teach the moral code of precepts and how all life is affected by it. The poem is important for its depiction of the amusements and daily life of seventeenth-century Thailand and for its use of classic Thai poetic devices.
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During the Ayutthaya period in Thailand (1350-1767), a group of meters based upon specific types and arrangements of syllables became a significant part of the Thai literary corpus. Known as chan in Thai literature, these meters, and the stanzas created from them, were adapted and transformed so that they corresponded in structure to other Thai verse forms.
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