The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen

Siam's Great Folk Epic of Love and War

Translated by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit
Illustrated by Muangsing Janchai

  • $70.00s paperback (9786162150456) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 2010. Paperback 2012
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 984 pp., 400 line drawings, 5.50 x 8.30 in.
  • Territorial rights: Not Available in South Asia
  • Distributed for: Silkworm Books
  • Contents

Siam's folk epic of love, war, and tragedy

Khun Chang Khun Phaen is one of the most famous works of old Thai literature. The plot is a love story, set against a background of war, and ending in high tragedy. This folk epic was first developed in oral form for popular performance with lashings of romance, adventure, violence, farce, and magic. It was later adopted by the Siamese court and written down, with two kings contributing. This first-ever translation is based on Prince Damrong's standard edition of 1917-18, with over a hundred passages recovered from earlier versions.

This English translation is written in lively prose, completely annotated, with over four hundred original line drawings and an afterword explaining the work's historical background, social context, and poetic style. The first volume presents the entire poem in translation and the companion volume contains alternative chapters and extensions, Prince Damrong's prefaces, and reference lists of Thai terms. The volumes are available separately or as a slipcased set.

According to the leading Thai linguist William Gedney, "If all other information on traditional Thai culture were to be lost, the whole complex could be reconstructed from this marvelous text."
Chris Baker formerly taught Asian history at Cambridge University and has lived in Thailand for over thirty years. Pasuk Phongpaichit is professor of economics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Together they have written several books including Thailand: Economy and Politics, A History of Thailand, and Thaksin. The illustrator, Muangsing Janchai, is trained in Thai painting and has executed mural paintings in several temples. He is a native of Suphanburi, Thailand.

"The translation by Baker and Pasuk is indeed a valuable work in its own right. The two-volume set covers a lot more than an English version of the standard accounts. The couple has undergone a thorough search for alternative texts for comparison . . . provided them with a rare insight into the multilayered legend and how it has been received, treated, and interpreted over time."
-Bangkok Post