Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen, The: Siam’s Great Folk Epic of Love and War—Two-volume box setby Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit
Translated and edited by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit
Illustrated by Muangsing Janchai
The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen is the most outstanding classic in the Thai language. The plot is a love story, set against a background of war, ending in high tragedy. This folk epic was first developed in oral form for popular performance with a fast-paced blend of romance, tragedy, and farce spiced with sex, warring, adventure, and the supernatural. 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, fully annotated, with over four hundred original line drawings and an essay on the history and background of the tale. The main volume presents the entire tale in translation. The companion volume contains alternative chapters and extensions, Prince Damrong’s prefaces, and reference lists of flora, fauna, costume, arms, and food. 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 marvellous text.”
About the translators
formerly taught Asian history in Cambridge University and has lived in Thailand for over thirty years.
is professor of economics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Together they have written A History of Thailand, Thailand: Economy and Politics, Thaksin, and published several translations.
About the illustrator
, a native of Suphanburi, the cradle of this tale, was trained in Thai painting, and studied further in Tibet, India, Nepal, Burma, Laos, and China. He has executed several temple murals, including a series on the tale at Wat Palelai, Suphanburi.
Main volume highlights
- Vivid and lively translation
- Four hundred line drawings illustrating historical, cultural, and other terms
- Fully annotated with cultural, historical, and textual notes
- Afterword explaining the development of the tale and its literary milieu
Companion volume highlights
- Alternative texts and episodes not included in main volume
- Prince Damrong’s original prefaces in translation
- Comprehensive lists of the flora, fauna, clothing, arms, and food mentioned in the text
What others are saying
“The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen is imaginatively designed and illustrated, superbly translated, and beautifully produced. A work of art!”—Peter Skilling, École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Bangkok, and Honorary Associate, Department of Indian Sub-Continental Studies, University of Sydney
- Love, war and betrayal in old Siam, by Jeff Kingston (The Japan Times, 27 March 2011)
- Translating a Thai Epic: A husband-and-wife team tackled the English translation of a story beloved by a nation, "The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen." This premium article will be available to nonsubscribers at the link above until 20 March 2011, but is always available to Chronicle subscribers
- Khun Phaen sets sail, by Paul Dorsey (The Nation)
- Thai literary epic in new English translation, by Vaudine England (BBC News, Asia Pacific, 23 December 2010)
- Translating Four-Century-Old Thai Treasure to English a Labor of Love for Couple, by Peter Janssen (Jakarta Globe, 25 November 2010)
- Thai classic available in English after four-century wait, by Peter Janssen (Monsters and Critics, 17 November 2010)
- Thailand’s epic tale of love and war, audio recording of an interview on TheBookShow, ABC Radio National, Australia
- KCKP Launch, video recordings of talks (in Thai) by the translators, Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit, at the official launch of the book.
- KCKP Launch, four sessions, in two languages, in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai
- Khun Chhang and Khun Pen, Cambodian movie (in Khmer), hosted on YouTube
Siam | Thai literature | folk epic | translation | love triangle | execution