Legend – Chaiyaphum, Thailand

The Legend of Mae Nak

There was a couple in ancient times named P’ Mak and Mae Nak. P’ Mak was a soldier and had to go to war. He lost communication with Mae Nak for a really long time. During that time, Mae Nak was pregnant. Both Mae Nak and her son died in labor. Everybody in the town knew that Mae Nak died. Only P’ Mak didn’t know. P’ Mak came home from war and saw Mae Nak and their baby and was very happy. Everybody told him that Mae Nak and their baby died already, but P’ Mak didn’t believe them until one day Mae Nak was cooking som tum and dropped a lemon through the cracks of the wooden planks of the upper floor to the bottom floor, where P’ Mak was standing at the time. P’ Mak saw Mae Nak reach her arm from the top to the bottom floor to pick up the lemon. Now P’ Mak believed everyone that told him that Mae Nak died already. Mae Nak loved P’ Mak so much that she used all of her power to stay as a human and take care of her husband. P’Mak was scared and called witch doctors to help take away Mae Nak. None succeeded until one witch doctor came that was very skilled. This witch doctor was able to put Mae Nak’s spirit in a clay pot and seal the top with white linen tied tight with white thread and threw it in the river.

One day, a man was fishing and pulled up the net and saw the pot. The man wondered what was inside the pot and opened it. As soon as the man opened the pot, Mae Nak’s spirit came out and came back to haunt the town because Mae Nak was very mad that she was caught and thrown in the river. Mae Nak returned home and P’ Mak would hear her call his name “P’ Mak kaaa! P’ Mak kaaa!!” The people in the town have a statue of Mae Nak and still worship her today.

My mother remembers learning this story in her elementary school in Chaiyaphum, Thailand where she grew up. The school was in a temple by her house and the classes were taught by monks. The class read this story in a book for a history lesson. All the students were scared after learning about this legend, but my mom says she does not know why they were scared. They also turned this story into a joke amongst each other. For example, when someone dropped something far away and would have to get up to go get it, he or she would say a phrase along the lines of, “I wish I had long arms like Mae Nak.”

According to my mother and to Thai people, Mae Nak’s spirit still resides in Pakanong, which is an area in Bangkok, Thailand. People still worship her and pay respects to her at her statue or to pictures of her in their homes. The people living in that area give offerings to her, which often include Thai traditional outfits because she liked these beautiful outfits in her lifetime. Her story has also been adopted by other Thai books and films as well. There have been very many versions of the Mae Nak legend in movies throughout the decades. I have seen a couple of the movies and have also heard this story since I was young, maybe around the age of seven, from my parents. The story of Mae Nak is told as truth and in the form of a scary story.