Thai Folk Legend: Prince Sang Thong

I wanted to expand on the folklore explored in this collection beyond just American into other cultures. So, I asked one of my friends who is part Thai if she knew of any old folk tales that were from Thailand. Her mother was actually born in Thailand, and so my friend asked her about any folk tales she might know about. Her mother remembered the tale of the Prince named Sang Thong.

The folktale begins with a king who had two wives. One gave birth to a baby that lived inside of a crab shell, which prompted the King to banish his wife and their baby because of the child’s deformity. Interestingly, when the baby emerged from the shell he was a handsome boy with a golden body. Still, he was banished and worked as a servant after his mother smashed his shell “because of the jealousy of the other wife….she still wanted the prince dead because she had no son herself and his existence threatened her power.” My friend then explained how this went on for several years, and “Prince Sang Thong nearly forgot about his true status as a prince […] until one day the other wife tried to kill him after finding where he was.” This prompted he prince to leave his home and take shelter with a woman my friend called “the big lady.” When I asked her about this, she did not have much of an explanation because her mother did not go into detail about this “big lady.” Apparently, the lady had a magic well that she forbade the prince to go near. His curiosity was too strong, so he went to go into it, but decided to disguise himself by wearing ratty old clothes and an ugly mask. He found inside the well a magic kingdom and a princess who saw past his mask and wanted to marry him. Her father “said absolutely not because he is poor and hideous looking.” But the disguised Sang Thong continued to pass every test her father gave him, no matter how impossible. Eventually, the King reluctantly approved the marriage, and Sang Thong removed his mask and revealed his royal status as a prince without a kingdom. He was then embraced by the King and finally accepted.

I saw this folk tale has having two morals built within its framework. On the one hand, it describes the benefits of persistence and having faith in oneself. Despite the prince’s deformity at birth, he did not let it hold him back. This is primarily because of his mother helping him by smashing the shell and allowing her son to have to learn how to live without hiding. The next moral is similar to the idea of don’t judge a book by its cover. The King and his servants discriminated against Sang Thong because of his looks, but in reality, he was a handsome and magical prince with a royal lineage. Thus, it aims to discuss how people should not judge others on their looks or first impressions. Unfortunately, I felt that some of the performance aspect was removed because it was filtered through a third-party. I tried to hear the tale from my friend’s mother, but our schedules never worked out for a meeting. Moreover, my friend recounted the tale over the phone to me, which I also feel took out some of the performance aspect to it.

Source: Tian Reynolds