07
Dec
11

Nang Ua & Thao Khulu

While doing translations for the orchid exhibition of Royal Flora Rachaphruek 2011, I came across this intriguing story.

There is an old folktale from the Isaan region of Thailand, a tragedy about star-crossed lovers, Prince Khulu of Kali and a girl named Ua from Puttarach. They fell in love, but her mother had promised her hand in marriage to another man. Ua refused and hung herself rather than marry another man. Heartbroken, Prince Khulu stabbed himself to death. In the end, their souls were reunited in heaven. It is said that a white blossom grew where Ua killed herself, while a yellow flower appeared where Prince Khulu died.

Local folks believed that each flower was imbued with their spirit, so they were not supposed to be grown at home. They also say that wherever a “Nang Ua” orchid grows that a “Khulu” orchid can be found nearby. This is thus the origin of a local Isaan adage which translates, “Wherever you see Khulu, you will find Nang Ua.”

I could not find much about this legend on Google, but I wonder how old the story is. It bears striking resemblance to Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, but it seems very possible that this version originated independent of Western influence (though Romeo and Juliet first appeared at the end of the 16th century, so it may well have morphed telephone game-style along ancient trade routes). Does this mean that young doomed love is a universal concept?

In case you are wondering what the flowers in question look like:

Thao Khulu Orchid

Nang Ua Orchid

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