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The Career of Khun Chang Khun Phaen



This article traces the development of the long Thai narrative poem, Khun Chang Khun Phaen. The poem began life in a troubadour tradition of recitation. The best evidence suggests the tale originated around 1600, and the early development of the text probably took place in the Narai era. In response to popular demand, an original story, possibly once recited in a single session, was developed into some twenty episodes, and three ‘sequels’ were later added. Between the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the ‘ownership’ of the poem passed from the folk tradition to the court. As a result, the poem shows a mixture of folk and court styles, sometimes separate, and sometimes layered upon one another. Starting around 1850 and ending in 1918, the ever-developing text was converted into the static form of a standard printed book. In this last stage of its career, the plot, characterization, and meanings of the work were substantially changed.


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Authors: Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit


* This article was published in the Journal of Siam Society and is being shared on the Thailand Foundation Website with permission from The Siam Society.