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Friday, September 12, 2008

Mae Nak

The story of Mae Nak Phra Khanong (or simply Mae Nak) is a well known and popular Thai ghost story. The story is believed to be truly happened during the reign of Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramin Maha Mongkut (King Mongkut). The story concerns the beautiful Mae Nak (means "Lady Nak"), a native of Khet Phra Khanong in Bangkok, and her husband, Mak.

With Nak pregnant, Mak is called off to war (in some versions of the story the war is against the Shan tribe, while others are not specific), and is severely injured. While he is being remedied in the central Bangkok, Nak and the child she is carrying die in childbirth owing to the anomalous posture of the child in womb, they are buried by neighbors. But when Mak eventually returns home he finds his loving wife and his new child waiting for him. Neighbors who try to tell Mak of the death of his wife and to warn him that he is living with the ghost, meet with grisly ends.

One day, while Nak is preparing nam phrik and she makes a lemon fall down to the cellar. Hurriedly, the ghost extends her arm to pick the lemon from the upper floor through the floor's hole. Mak does see the event, and plans to flee from Nak.

At night, Mak lies her that he want to come down for urination. He then breaks a little hole at an earthen jar which is filled by water, so that Nak would perceive that he is urinating, and Mak flees away.

After having learnt the fleeing of her husband, she follows him. Mak sees his wife ghost and conceals himself in the Blumea bush. It is tradionally believed that the ghost is afraid of Blumea. Mak then runs to the temple of Wat Mahabut, where she cannot enter to the holy area. She then frightens the people of Phra Khanong as she angers them for helping Mak to go away from her. Pretty soon, she is exorcised by a vigorous exorcist, she is confined within an earthen pot which is dragged into the river.

Later, an old couple whom newly moved to Phra Khanong gets the ghost pot during the fishering. Nak is then freed by the uninkling couple. Eventually, she is suppressed by the verenable monk, Somdet Phra Phutthachan (To Phrommarangsi); the monk confined her within the bone of her corpse's forehead. The bone is later made into a head of the Monk's waistband, and the ghost is convinced to leave for the next life.

Somdet Phra Phutthachan's waistband is believed to have belonged to various persons, and is recently believed that it is in the hand of a Royalty.

Mae Nak's story is widely know because of her true love for Mak.

Though there is no evidence that the legend has any basis in truth, there is a shrine dedicated to Mae Nak at Wat Mahabut (which was situated in the Phra Khanong district until a 1997 boundary change placed it in neighboring Suan Luang district - much to the consternation of the people of Phra Khanong).

The Shrine of Mae Nak
The shrine of Mae Nak can be found at Wat Mahabut, which is down a small soi (side road) off Sukhumvit soi 77, also known as Onnut Road (sometimes spelled "Onnuj" or "On Nut"). Probably the easiest way to get there is to take the Sukhumvit line of the BTS Sky Train all the way to its terminal station at Onnut, then backtrack a short way until you reach Onnut Road (Sukhumvit 77) on the north side of the road. About 1km down Onnut road, on the left, you will find a small lane signposted as soi 7. Wat Mahabut and the Mae Nak shrine are to be found at the end of the lane, with the shrine at the far side of the compound near the canal known as Klong Phra Khanong.

In addition to adorning the statue of Mae Nak and her baby, which forms the centerpiece of the shrine, with gold leaf, the faithful also donate gifts of clothing to her ghost (she has a collection of fine dresses hung behind her statue) and toys for her child. There are stalls at the shrine selling toys if you should wish to make an offering.

In popular culture

The story of Mae Nak Pra Kanong has been the subject of numerous films, television series and printed media in Thailand. Among the works are:

Mae Nak Phra Khanong, a 1958 Thai film.
Nang Nak, a 1999 film by Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr
Ghost of Mae Nak, a 2005 Thai film by British director Mark Duffield.
Nak, a Thai animated feature film, released On April 3, 2008. [1] [2]
Mae Nak, an opera composed by Somtow Sucharitkul. It was premiered in 2003 and revived in 2005 by the Bangkok Opera, with soprano Nancy Yuen performing the title role in both productions.

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