Pikul Flowers: Thai Folktale


The following informant is a 61-year-old Thai immigrant who heard the following story growing up as a kid in the Issan region of Thailand. This interview was carried out in a mix of Thai and English. In this I will be denoted as C and the informant will be denoted as U

U: This story is called Pikul Gold or Golden Pikul. Pikul is the name of a flower, this is a story about doing good things. Once upon a time there was a beautiful young woman name Pikul. Her appearance was beautiful and the way that she acted was beautiful. And her mom died when she was a child and she was raised instead by a step-mother and had a sister named Mali. This is, uh, kind of similar to, uh, Snow White or Cinderella, or something like that.

The bad thing was her step-mother and her sister were bad people. Both of them made Pikul do hard work every day, which I guess is like Cinderella. One day after finishing all her work at home Pikul went to go fetch water from the well which was far from their house and heavy. And there was an old lady in front of her who was thirsty and asked for some water to drink. Pikul was happy to help the old lady and told her she could take the water to wash her face and body so she could feel refreshed. And she said, “Don’t worry about if there is not enough water, I can get some more.”

And took care of the old lady well. The old lady says, “Oh wow not only are you pretty but you are also nice.”

Even though the old lady looked very poor and dirty Pikul still treated her well. After that the old lady gave Pikul a special blessing: “With this blessing, the Pikul flowers will fall out of your mouth, Golden Pikul flowers will flow out of your mouth.”

C: They’re falling out of her mouth?

U: Yes, this was a special blessing.

C: That’s a blessing?

U: “Whenever Pikul feels sad, the flowers fall out of her mouth.”

After giving her the special blessing the old lady disappeared. Pikul knew at that moment the old lady was an angel who gave a special blessing to Pikul. When Pikul arrives at home late she is yelled at by her step-mother who says, “You’re skipping work, you’re not doing anything.”

So Pikul tells her step-mother the story of the old lady. As she’s speaking Pikul flowers are flowing out of her mouth and her step-mother is greedy, instead of feeling bad for Pikul she gets greedy instead. She goes from being angry to being greedy and takes all the Pikul flowers and orders Pikul to keep talking so the flowers will keep flowing out of her mouth. She does this so, so she can sell the Golden Pikul flowers for money.

Now everyone is the household is living well, Pikul doesn’t have to do a lot of work anymore but instead she has to talk all day, so the flowers flow out of her mouth. Pikul is tired, she’s very tired with her step-mother because she made Pikul be someone with a sore throat and a raspy voice. The step-mother gets mad at her and bullies and beats her to get her to keep speaking. She can’t speak a single word because her throat hurts and her throat stings.

Now instead to help satisfy the step-mother’s greed, the step-mother comes to the decision to send her other daughter, the one called Mali to do what Pikul did. The daughter that is actually is her daughter. So she goes to where Pikul met the old lady but instead of finding an old lady she meetings a beautiful young woman, wearing beautiful red clothes, standing underneath a large umbrella. The young woman asks Mali if she can drink some of the water that she is carrying, but because, because Mali is jealous of the young woman she acts rudely to the young woman because she doesn’t think the young woman is the angel. Mali curses at the young woman, and the woman, the woman who is wearing the beautiful red clothes, then it turns out she is the angel. So she curses Mali back, “Whenever you angry and you speak worms will fall out of your mouth.”

C: Uh oh.

U: So, Mali goes back home and explains to the mother what happened angrily and the house starts filling up with worms. As they’re falling out of her mouth the house is filled with worms. Because she was speaking with angry emotions. Now the step-mother she starts to think that Pikul, that Pikul was pulling a prank by telling them a fake story and making Mali have what happened to her. She thought she was lying to them, do you understand?

C: Yes.

U: Now the step-mother beat Pikul, chasing her out of the house. Feeling bad Pikul wanders around and she’s traveling on the same path and runs into a young prince riding a horse. The prince sees this young woman sitting and crying and asks her “What happened?”

As soon as he finishes speaking Pikul flowers start flowing out everywhere. The prince is so happy to see this and immediately asks to marry Pikul. After that they get married and become a King and Queen.

This is why there is a saying in Thailand when someone isn’t speaking people will say:

Direct Text:
กลัว ดอกพิกุล จะร่วง จากปาก หรือ อะไร ที่ ไม่พูด

Phonetic Spelling:
Klạw dxk phikul ca r̀wng cāk pāk h̄rụ̄x xarị thī̀ mị̀ phūd

Are you afraid that pikul flowers will fall out of your mouth that why you don’t speak?

Are you not speaking because you are afraid pikul flowers will fall out of your mouth?

Analysis: I think this an interesting tale about being a nice person even in the face of hardship. I think it is very interesting how the informant compares this tale to the tale of Cinderella.