FolktalesTemples

Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady” (Long Version)

As soon as they arrived, Chattan ordered other elephants to convert a cave into a house for his daughter. They gathered wood and rocks and quickly constructed a beautiful, comfortable home. Chattan said that it was for her alone and no elephant should ever go inside.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on doors at Wat Nong Wang

 

Life in the forest wasn’t all bad for Nang Phom Hom, but she was very lonely. When the elephants went out to gather food, they would stay away for days at a time and she had nobody to talk to. She also missed her sister. Lune, and her family and friends from home. She thought often of her mother and knew that she would be terribly worried, but there was no way to send a message. In fact, her mother waited anxiously every day for her daughters to return, hoping that they were still alive. She had ordered soldiers to go look for them, but they told her they could not because they did not even know which area to search.

One time while out finding fruit, Chattan saw two young princesses lost in the forest. He wanted them to be Nang Phom Hom’s friends and servants, so he ran and grabbed them while they sat on a riverbank and put them on his back where they could not escape.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on doors at Wat Nong Wang

 

Chattan took the girls back to his home and told Nang Phom Hom to come get his gift. She was very happy, and when he told the girls that if they became friends with his daughter and took good care of her he would look after them just like he did Nang Phom Hom. The pair agreed and promised to never leave Nang Phom Hom alone.

The three girls lived together and became as close as sisters. Over the coming years Nang Phom Hom grew into a beautiful young woman. She began to think of love and to long for a husband, but because she could not leave the elephant realm she worried that she might die without ever meeting a man. This made her depressed.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on doors at Wat Nong Wang

 

While bathing in the river one time Nang Phom Hom realized that she could find a man with a love letter. She wrote that she lived alone in the elephant realm of the Himmapan Forest and hoped whoever read her words would be her soulmate and come find her. She put the letter, along with three strands of her hair, into a golden box, lifted it over her head in prayer to Indra for help, and then set the box afloat. She watched it flow downstream and out of sight, and from then on Nang Phom Hom could think of nothing but her box, and whether it would reach a worthy man. She continued to feel sad and spent much of her time walking absent-mindedly around her home, imagining who would find the box. Indra saw her frazzled state and he guided the box down the river until weeks later it reached the city of Bengjan.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on doors at Wat Nong Wang

 

Bengjan was the capital city of a vast, powerful kingdom. Like Nakhon Sri Ratchathani, Nang Phom Hom’s hometown, Bengjan was worldly and prosperous and its king was wise and righteous. The people were happy. The handsome young prince, Thao Tarangsit, was beloved by all and Indra predestined that he would be the one to find Nang Phom Hom’s message.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

Tarangsit had recently reached marrying age and told his mother than he was ready to find a wife. That same day some of the palace’s female were servants swimming in the river and saw a golden box floating in the water. They tried to grab it, but couldn’t. It seemed to run away from them, so they reported it to the king. But even he could not catch it.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

When Tarangsit heard about the mysterious box he went down to the river. He reached for it and was able to pick it up easily. When he opened the box everybody around could smell Nang Phom Hom’s hair. People thought it must have come from an angel. With his heart racing, Tarangsit read her message and fell deeply in love. He wanted to be the one who found her. That evening he could think of nothing but Nang Phom Hom. He was so excited that he couldn’t sleep.

Early the next morning he told his father and mother that he was going off to find his true love in the forest, but they forbid him. He was to be the next king and could not risk his life on a foolish quest. This might be a trick from a ghost, they said, and even if not, the journey would be very difficult and dangerous and it was very unlikely that he could even find her. There were lots of beautiful women in Bengjan and he should just marry one of them.

Though Tarangsit knew his parents were right, his obsession with Nang Phom Hom only grew stronger over the following days and it made him depressed. He wouldn’t eat or talk to anyone and wondered if he should just die. Because their son was suffering, the king hit the royal drum and called the citizens to an assembly. He explained his son’s desire to search for his true love and he wondered whether they approved or not. At first everyone said the prince should find a wife here because they wanted him to be their next king. But, Tarangsit told them that while he appreciates their devotion to him, love is burning in his heart and he is so restless that he cannot be king without Nang Phom Hom. Then it was decided that he would go. He told his parents how much he loved them and appreciated everything they have done for him and begged for their forgiveness. Then at an auspicious time he set off to find Nang Phom Hom.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

When Tarangsit got far away from the city, the forest became very thick and beautiful. The flowers and song birds made him think of Nang Phom Hom. There were also tigers and elephants and many ghosts, but he was not afraid of anything. Nothing could stop him from his quest.

Tarangsit ate fruit when he could find it, but he often went hungry. He slept under trees, on the dirt and in the cold, but he read her letter each night before falling asleep to warm his heart. Eventually he arrived in the Himmapan Forest. He was near her now, but he still had no idea where she was or how to find her and could do nothing but keep walking.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

One day a ghost saw Tarangsit and wanted to take him as her husband. She transformed herself into a beautiful woman and walked behind the prince, expressing her love for him and telling him they should have sex right now. But Tarangsit knew that she was a ghost and told her to stop lying and go away. But she insisted he was wrong and continued to sweet talk him, so he shot an arrow at her and finally she ran off into the forest. After this, many other ghosts followed him. Some tried to seduce him, some wanted to eat him, but he was so brave that none of them scared him. He was able to chase them all away with his bow and arrow and his search for Nang Phom Hom continued. He was weary and frustrated, but never thought of giving up.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

After three months journeying in the forest, he came to a lake and saw a small pavilion and garden on its shore, and up on a hill not far away was a stone house. He was excited, but also wondered if he had really found her home or if he would be disappointed. He bathed and then rested in the pavilion for someone to come.

Later, the two girls came down to the lake and were shocked to see a man there. They walked up to the pavilion and asked the stranger who he was and why he came here. Tarangsit told them he lived in a city very far away and that he found Nang Phom Hom’s letter and hair and had come looking for her. Feeling confident he was in the right place, he asked which of them was Nang Phom Hom. They explained who they were and said they would take him to meet her. By luck, Chattan was away gathering food at this time, so it was safe for Tarangsit to be there.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

The girls walked Tarangsit back to their home and when Nang Phom Hom saw a handsome man approach, she was both overjoyed and afraid. But, she had to maintain decorum befitting a princess and did not let either emotion show. She welcomed him and asked who he was and what he was doing here. He showed her the golden box with the letter and lock of fragrant hair and said his heart had been on fire ever since he opened it. He was sure that she was his soulmate and had walked alone all the way from Bengjan to find her. He felt blessed that he finally succeeded.

Her heart racing, Nang Phom Hom asked if he was of royal blood or just an ordinary man. When he answered that he was born a prince, Nang Phom Hom stayed silent for a moment and then wondered aloud how she could believe and trust him. Tarangsit told her that he was a good man. He was honest, righteous, and hardworking. He had never married before and wanted her to be his only wife. Before he left home, he was afraid that her letter was a trick and maybe she had a husband already, or perhaps she was a ghost out to trap him. Or maybe after he risked his life on a dangerous journey, she would reject him. But he ignored his fears and followed his heart and she should do the same. Hearing this, Nang Phom Hom finally let herself feel happy and confident. Her dream really had come true and they both knew for sure that they belonged together. They talked together for the rest of the day and late into the evening, both feeling happy and free. Then that night they went to her room and slept together.

Nang Phom Hom story painted on window shutters at Wat Nong Wang

 

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