Tumeric and the Hidden Village


The following informant is a 60-year-old Thai immigrant who heard the following story growing up as a kid. 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 S

S: This story, its kind of similar to the Amazonians. In Thailand near Chiang Mai, where I am from, there a place called Muang Laap Lae, which means it is invisible. Like if you look at it you wouldn’t be able to see there is a country there. It is a country that is so hard to get to and the path is so difficult to get there to that if you don’t know how to get there you can’t. this is why people call is Muang Laap Lae (Hidden Country) or Muang Mong Mae Hen (Invisible Country). Only people who are very good persons are able to see the hidden country. Mong Mae Hen means invisible.

There is a one good young man who enters into the forests and sees a bunch of beautiful women in the forest. At the end of the forest the girls hide large leafs. The man takes one of the leafs and wait there. Later the women return and start looking the leaves that they hid. Once they get their leaves they immediate disappear back into, into the forest. But one of them cannot find their leaf because the young man took the leaf. This one woman is very frustrated and annoyed and the young man gives the leaf back in exchange for, uh, in exchange for being able to follow the woman because he wants to see the invisible village people have been talking about. The woman agrees and takes the man to the hidden village. Once he gets to the village he realizes that the village only has women. The beautiful woman who took him to the village tells the young man, “The people who live in this village, are people who have a lot of merit and they never lie. If anyone does anything bad or lies they have to leave the village. And a lot of men tend to lie so that’s why all the men had to leave the village.”

Do you understand?

C: Yes, I understand.

S: So the young man is smitten with the woman who brought him to the village and asks if he can stay there and marry her. The mother of the woman agrees to the marriage on the condition that the man has to have merit and doesn’t lie. They get married and live together until they have one child together. And one day when the wife isn’t home and the man is taking care of the kid. The kid is crying asking for his mother non-stop. So the man playfully lies to his child “Your mom is here! Your mom is here!”

Now the mother-in-law hears this and is angry that her son-in-law is a liar. When the wife gets back she’s very, uh, disappointed that the husband did not keep his word and tells him he has to leave the village.

The pack the man a bag with stuff, his own stuff, stuff he needs to live, and also gave him a lot of heads of turmeric. A lot of turmeric because the husband cannot stay in the village. The wife takes him to the edge of the forest and points to the path to leave the village and the wife returns to the hidden village. The man has to follow the path that his wife pointed to. As he is walking the more he walks, the bag they gave him gets heavier and heavier. And the path is so long. So he eats the food and the drinks the water that they gave him. But all he can find in his bag is the turmeric. The turmeric that his wife gave him. So he starts throwing away the turmeric because it is heavy. When he finally gets back to his village his family and friends ask him where he’s been gone for so long. The man tells the story of the hidden village and also how his wife gave him a lot of turmeric that he threw away because it was heavy. There was once piece of turmeric left and he took it out to show them, and it turned out the turmeric was a bar of gold. It was a bar of gold. The man is surprised and feels regret for having thrown away all the turmeric he was carrying. Because he threw it all away, all the turmeric they gave him. And when he went back to look for the turmeric he threw away, he found it had grown into turmeric plants. And when he dug it up its just normal turmeric not the bars of gold they gave him. When he tries to find the hidden village again he cannot and just gets continuously lost in the forest. So he returns home back to his old village.

Analysis: I think there are two messages in this tale. One is to not lie, something which is important in Buddhism, and also to not take things for granted. The man in the story does both, but it seems like kicking him out for telling his kid a white lie is a little extreme.