Our "Taleng Phai" is not "Lilit Taleng Phai"

          I started researching and compiling documents from the King’s version of the “Thai Chronicles”, “Thai-Burmese Warfare” by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab, The Luang Prasert Aksoraniti Version of “Old Ayudhya’s Chronicle” and “Testimony of a Former Ayudhyan”.

          Based on my own reading of the events and my wish to recount a story that had been passed from generation to generation, I used the puppet song as the narrative. I envisioned a bed-time story told by parents to a child who then falls asleep and dreams of the events unfolding in front of his dreamy eyes, seeing what was happening in the Ayudhyan period after the fall to Burma in 1569.

          After having written the prologue, I felt that the Black Prince’s or the Crown Prince’s return to Ayudhya, after having been held hostage in Burma for so many years, could not have been easy without the exchange of another member of royalty.

          I trusted my own conviction that Princess Subankalaya must have left her motherland to Hanthawaddy and sacrificed herself as a concubine to Min-en, Bayinnaung’s heir to the Burmese throne, in exchange for her brother Prince Naresuan, who was to save the country from vassalage.
What a great sacrifice this was from that unsung heroine but her courage and sacrifice had faded with the passing of time.

          “Flowers of fragrance Once fallen soon wither.
Sun, wind and rain, with the passing of time, Dissolve them into the earth.”

          “Royal Daughter, thou art leaving for Burma.

Where wilt thou go? To Hanthawaddy to reside.”

          The above verse was transcribed with lively music in the Ayudhyan style, meant to resemble a nursery rhyme sung by innocent children and supposed to have been passed down until today. The scene of Princess Subankalaya’s departure to Hanthawady was, thus, the beginning of Taleng Phai.

          The plot was conceived and outlined according to Ajarn Chakrabhand’s idea that there should be the cockfighting scene and the dream sequence of fighting the huge crocodile, which seem like great fun, both theatrically and dramatically. I followed the storyline as written by Prince Damrong Rajanubhab in that I had Viceroy Upayaza challenge Prince Naresuan to a cockfight.

          To compress the story, without going back to their younger days and not contradicting The Testaments of a Former Ayudhyan, the cockfight was set after the competitive siege and fall of Khang, as it must have been in their pastimes since childhood,

          As for the character of Viceroy Upayaza, I disagreed with Prince Paramanujitjinoros’ Lilit Taleng Phai and several versions of Thai history that say he was a cowardly, lascivious prince who was inept in warfare, so much so, that his father derisively urged him to wear women’s clothes when he refused to go to war.
I cannot accept this view because history seems to contradict it. There is mention of his name at every aggressive skirmish prior to his death on the elephant mount. Mere noblesse oblige and humiliation could not have been the driving force for a coward when he had the advantage of a five hundred thousand strong army to engage in face-to-face combat on elephant back with King Naresuan who was so much disadvantaged at the time.
Indeed, we must acknowledge and admire Upayaza’s self-esteem and arrogance in his fighting ability.

          Viceroy Upayaza accepted King Naresuan’s challenge with complete self- confidence but was killed in the historic elephant battle.
I ended the play here as I didn’t intend to recount the whole story of King Naresuan’s life. I only wanted to write a play in gratitude to this king and the national heroes of the past who laid down their lives to secure the sovereignty of our nation.

          A strange inexplicable incident happened concerning the inception of this play and I would like, candidly, to put it on the record.

          After some time, Sergeant Kai (Prayong Kitnithet), having heard me giving interviews or going about telling people that he was the one who had recommended the story of Taleng Phai, asked me, in wonderment, in front of Ajarn Chakrabhand,
          “Did I really say so?”
          “Yes, you did. Ajarn Chakrabhand was there too,”
          I replied, asking for Chakrabhand’s reassurance.
To which Sergeant Kai said,
          “Well, I don’t know what came over me. I knew nothing of Taleng Phai, honestly. I had just heard about it here in this house after you composed it.

          I humbly dedicate my work in writing, music and artistic creation, executed with faith and effort, as a tribute to King Naresuan and the Siamese monarchs and to our national heroes.

Vallabhis Sodprasert

6th July 2008
Translated by Nopamat Veohong