The Myth of Phraya Khan-khak

The Myth of Phraya Khan-khak
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kk003The myth of Phraya Khan-khak - the myth of the Toad Prince - is folk literature that is popular among the people in the northeastern and northern regions of Thailand. It is commonly known as Tamnan Phraya Khan-khak. In some regions, the myth is variously called: “Tamnan Phraya Khang-khak”, “Tham Phraya Khang-khak” or “Phraya Khan-khak Chadok”. In northern Thailand, it is known as “Khantha-kha-daka” or “Suwanna-chakka-wattirat”, for example.

Noticeably, the myth of the Toad Prince is commonly known in the northeastern region; it is inscribed in the palm-leaf manuscripts found in almost every province in the region.

The myth was later written in the form of folk Jataka and sometimes it is categorized as Buddhist literature in the region. Thailand’s northeastern people believe that this story is a Jataka tale because the story says that Phraya Khan-khak is a Bodhisattva in his rebirth as a toad and a prince. He is called Phraya Khan-khak because, when he was born, his skin and physique looked like those of a toad or Khan-khak in the northeastern dialect of Thai language. Although he is ugly in physical appearance, Phraya Khan-khak has great merit and is supported by Indra, the King of Heaven. He is also highly respected by the townsfolk, so much as that they once neglected their sacrificial rite to Phraya Thaen, the Sky God. The latter became angry and held all the rain water from pouring down on earth. Phraya Khan-khak volunteered to lead an army of various animals - termites, bees, wasps, hornets, snakes, elephants, horses, bulls and buffaloes - to fight against Phraya Thaen in his heavenly abode. Phraya Thaen was defeated and therefore released the rain water to earth.

kk002The myth of the Toad Prince is interesting particularly because of the image of Phraya Khan-khak as a Bodhisattva, which reflects incorporation of the old belief in supernaturalism- as exemplified by Phi Thaen - into the Buddhist belief. This reveals the relationship between Buddhism and the fertility rite of the rice growers, whose livelihood depends on the seasonal rainfall. In this sense, Tamnan Phraya Khan-khak can be said to be a repository of cultural information that reveals the folk way of life and the Thai agrarian culture.

The myth of the Toad Prince plays an important role in the folk way of life in the northeastern region. It has been used in the sermon by the Buddhist monks during Phiti Kho Fon (praying for rainfall rite) and in the firing rocket ritual in the sixth month of the lunar calendar. The northeastern people regard the myth of the Toad Prince as a sacred story since it explains the origin of the firing rocket ritual, an important ritual in Heet Sipsong or the calendrical rites to be performed in each month of the year. The customs described in Heet Sipsong are still persisted and observed to this day.


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