The Burning of Longka

Very soon Hanuman sees the spires and walls of Longka city, and coming down to the Earth, he changes himself back into his forest form. Boldly he marches up to the main gate of the city and makes as if to enter. Four watchmen lounging at the gate call out to him sharply, "Where are you going, little monkey? Don’t you know this is the city of the demon king? Be off with you to the forest, before we set about you."

"Little monkey!" chokes Hanuman, enraged at this incivility. "We’ll see about that." He draws his sword and in short time cuts up the four demons so badly that their own mothers would not recognize them.

But no sooner has he done so to the last of the watchmen than the guardian spirit of Longka, a monster with four faces - each uniquely horrible - and eight club-bearing arms leans out of the clouds and picks Hanuman up, sniffing him over.

"What have we got here," the demon mumbles to himself peering closely at the monkey. "Some new kind of rabbit, maybe." He suffers from myopia.

"Rabbit!" yells Hanuman furiously. "Know that I’m the invincible Hanuman, and meet your end." He wrenches himself free of the monster’s grip and sets about him with his sword. In no time at all, Longka is without a guardian spirit. Wasting no ceremony on the matter, Hanuman picks up the body and throws it into the ocean.

"Rabbit!" he mutters.

To avoid further encounters of this kind, Hanuman sings an incantation that puts the entire town to sleep. Unhindered, he is now able to pass on foot through the streets on his way to Totsagan’s palace, where he expects to find Nang Seeda. Everywhere, in the streets, in the market and in their houses, the demons are stretched out asleep. The Son of the Wind enters the palace without difficulty, passing one gate after another until he comes to Totsagan’s inner sanctum, and there, in the sleeping chamber - there is the demon king himself, and in his arms a woman of the most exquisite beauty. Enraged at the thought that Totsagan has been enjoying Phra Ram’s wife, Hanuman growls and lifts his sword. But just at this moment, from somewhere out of the silence a gecko raises its warning cluck. Hanuman pauses, lowers his sword, and looks closer. The woman is Nang Monto, he sees now, the demon’s legitimate wife.

The monkey continues the search for Nang Seeda, growing more and more impatient as the time passes. Having found nothing anywhere, he returns to the hermit’s hut and asks Nart where he might find Phra Ram’s queen.

"If you were not such an impatient monkey and didn’t have such a high opinion of yourself, I might have told you where to find Nang Seeda in the first place," says Nart. "As it happens, she is being kept in Totsagan’s park, just outside the city walls."

Pausing only momentarily to thank the hermit, Hanuman sweeps up into the air. He quickly finds the park. Changing himself into a common monkey once more, he swings through the trees until he comes upon Nang Seeda.

Meanwhile, in Longka city, Totsagan has woken from his enchanted sleep.

Ever since he first saw Nang Seeda, he has suffered the scourging of an unrequited passion for her, which neither Nang Monto nor any other of his beautiful wives is able to assuage. Every minute of his day is spent with the image of Nang Seeda before his eyes, while at night the sleep as he is able to snatch is haunted by her unattainable loveliness.

Now, because of his suffering, his very reason seems to be tottering. Shouting, he rouses his women, calls up his bodyguard and charioteers, demands lights and food and drink. The palace hums like an upset hive as the demons rush to fulfill the distracted king’s demands. In a little time he has been appareled in his most costly robes. Mounted on his lion-drawn chariot and accompanied by a full retinue, he drives out to the park where Nang Seeda is confined.

The tumult of his arrival and the glitter of torchlight through the trees stops Hanuman as he is about to disclose his presence to the sleepless and sorrowful Seeda. The Son of the Wind takes in the situation in a flash and immediately swings himself into the branches of a tree, from which he can watch what happens and hear what is said without being seen.

Dismissing his retinue, Totsagan approaches Nang Seeda, his heart tortured afresh at the sight of her. Seating himself close to her, trying to speak in a calm voice, the demon king tells her of the pain he is suffering on her behalf. Having summoned before her the picture of his torments, he pleads with her to pity him and give him peace. Nothing that lies within his realm shall be denied her, he promises; let her ask for pearls from the bottom of the sea, or jewels from the center of the mountains, costly cloths from remote lands and scents from the deep forest, human beings as her servants, fabulous animals to draw her chariot - all these things shall be hers the moment she expresses a wish for them. And more, far more that this shall be hers if she will only look upon him with the warm glance of compassion. She shall be the queen of Longka, his first wife and joint ruler, with power equal to his. There is nothing greater than this, except his life itself, that he can lay at her feet.

During this impassioned speech, Seeda has drawn herself away from the demon, filled with an unspeakable loathing and dread of the creature. Now she musters her revulsion, and answers his briefly, calmly, "I am the wife of Phra Ram. Either he will rescue me, or I shall die. But a goddess shall never become the wife of a demon."

For a moment Totsagan continues to sit silently, like a man stunned. Then he gets up and walks slowly away. He mounts his chariot and looks back at Seeda. "If you do not come to me soon of your own will," he says, "I shall come here with soldiers and take you by force." With this newest image of her beauty and unwavering courage still before his eyes, the demon king drives back to his palace.

Thinking on the demon’s parting words, Seeda decides that her position is hopeless. She takes a cord from her breast cloth and, singing a plaintive love song to herself, walks down to the lotus pool. The burden of her song is that although she must part from Phra Ram in this world, in the next they will be together forever. She climbs a sturdy tree close to the pool and fastens one end of the cord to a limb. With the other, she makes a noose and puts it around her delicate neck. She takes her final look at the world of stars and waving branches and dim flowers and, with her last thoughts of Phra Ram, allows herself to fall. The noose tightens, and Nang Seeda quickly becomes unconscious.

But the Son of the Wind has followed her, puzzled as to what she is doing. Now he leaps into the tree and unties the cord so that Nang Seeda falls unconscious to the ground. As she recovers her senses, Hanuman prostrates himself at her feet, saying as he does so, "Look, I know I deserve all kinds of punishment for thwarting the will of the queen, but the fact of the matter is Phra Ram has given me a message to deliver to you and in the circumstances I don’t see what else I could have done. One way and another I should have been in trouble, so I hope you’ll excuse me for interfering." And still grumbling, he hands her the tokens and delivers his message as best he can.

Nang Seeda is by no means convinced that the tokens come from Phra Ram. "I have only your word that you are one of Phra Narai’s soldiers," she tells Hanuman. "But I don’t recognize you, and these tokens could have been found by anyone. I’m afraid you are one of Totsagan’s brood, saving me for your master’s evil ends."

This is just what the shrewd monkey has been expecting her to say, so now he repeats Phra Ram’s description of his first meeting with Seeda in Mitila town. Hearing it, Seeda is convinced and weeps.

Hanuman’s mission is now completed, but before leaving he urges Nang Seeda to accompany him. She refuses.

"It is ordained that Phra Ram must first slay the demons; then, we shall be reunited. Tell him what I have said. And tell him that my love will wait for him."

And having said this, Nang Seeda returns sadly to her pavilion.

Hanuman decides to have some fun before leaving Longka. He runs through the park, breaking down fruit trees and uprooting bushes and shrubs and raising a terrible hullabaloo. The watchmen, after getting over their astonishment that a little monkey can create so much havoc, fire arrows at him. Hanuman merely laughs and, when he tires of dodging their arrows, leaps down among them, wrecking terrible havoc with his sword. The survivors among the watchmen flee to Totsagan to tell him about the destructive intruder.

Incensed, the demon king sends out his one thousand seven-faced sons, Pan Sahatsa Kuman, to deal with the monkey. They find Hanuman breaking the last of the trees in the devastated park and surround him.

"Little hooligan," they shout, "just what do you think you’re doing?"

"Kindly step closer, my multi-faced friends, and Hanuman will show you," the Son of the Wind retorts.

At this impertinence, with much grinding of teeth, the Pan Sahatsa Kuman attack Hanuman. They fight in midair, overturning chariots and choking lions. Hanuman thumps, snaps, breaks, cracks, chokes, disembowels, chops into pieces and, in short, deals with the demon so violently that within a very brief space of time there is not once of the thousand left alive.

When Totsagan hears what has happened, his grief and fury are boundless. Rushing from his Diamond Palace, he calls on his son Intorachit to destroy the monkey.

Now Intorachit is an extremely powerful warrior with the defeat of Phra In himself to his credit. Armed as he is with discus and bow, both weapons of miraculous powers, there is no reason to suppose he will be beaten.

Mounted in his war chariot and accompanied by his bodyguards, he drives out to the park. Hanuman, surrounded by corpses, is still there.

"Whoever you may be," says Intorachit, "prepare to die at my hands."

When he hears this, the Son of the Wind hoots with laughter. "This is all my own work," he says, indicating the broken trees and the dead bodies. "I did it without any help whatsoever. Do you imagine I’m going to tremble at your threats?"

By way of reply, Intorachit sends a hail of arrows at the mocking monkey. Hanuman catches them effortlessly, snaps them in half and throws them back at the demon’s feet. Then he leaps up and plays havoc among Intorachit’s revenue, overturning and smashing chariots, killing the lions, and putting the drivers to flight.

The son of the demon king is taken aback at this display. No ordinary monkey, he tells himself.

The demon prince now selects his Nakabat arrow, bends his bow and fires it at Hanuman. The arrow changes in midair into hundreds of hissing snakes which entwine themselves about the monkey’s limbs. If he wishes to do so, Hanuman can easily free himself, but instead, after putting up token resistance - that is, killing the majority of the demon’s bodyguard and personal retainers - he pretend to be bound fast by the serpents, and submits to Intorachit.

Proudly, the demon prince orders his surviving warriors to bring the captive Hanuman before Totsagan.

Totsagan is delighted with his son’s victory. He praises Intorachit before the assembled demon court and then orders Hanuman to be taken to the place of execution. The court executioner is told to impale the monkey on an iron spear. With ceremony, the executioner prepares to dispatch the meekly kneeling monkey, but to all the astonishment of one and all, when he lunges at Hanuman with all his might, the intended victim is unharmed and the spear blade is snapped from its haft.

"Too bad," says Hanuman sympathetically, "try again."

The demons need no encouragement. A lance is quickly produced, and the executioner darts it at the monkey. It shatters to a hundred pieces.

"Tut-tut," says Hanuman.

A javelin is tried and shivered. A trident makes no impression, while a mace, and axe and a club used successfully strike sparks off Hanuman’s diamond head but otherwise have no effect on the patient monkey.

As the demons debate what to try next, Hanuman springs up, showers the broken weapons on the bystanders and proceeds to make mincemeat of the executioner. Just as suddenly he drops back to his knees, and with a most contrite expression says, "Please don’t be discouraged. Have another try."

Their conventional methods having failed, the demons now resort to pounding Hanuman to death in a mortar. For a while the diamond-hard monkey bears patiently with their attempts to make an impression on him, even encouraging them with calls of, "That’s the stuff, friends, lay it on as hard as you can," and the like. But suddenly he leaps out of the mortar, tears the pestle out of the hands of a demon and lays about him with it, cracking demon heads left and right.

Thoroughly alarmed by this time, Totsagan consults with his courtiers to discover a sure method of killing the apparently invulnerable captive. His chief advisor whispers in his ear. Totsagan smiles and nods approval. Messengers hurry away at the demon’s bidding, and all eyes turn to the door of the courtyard.

There is a wild trumpeting, the doors open, and in lumbers a huge bull elephant. The beast is in heat and, seeing Hanuman in the center of the courtyard and goaded on by its mahout, bellows again wildly. Hanuman calmly lays himself flat on the ground and permits the beast to trample and kneel on him to its heart’s content. But when he tires of its ineffectual stomping, what does the Son of the Wind do? Up he leaps with a great cry, hurls the mahout to death on the flags of the yard, and tears the head off the elephant with as little effort as if he were dealing with a fly. He throws the bloody head among the courtiers. "What next?" he asks cheerfully.

Almost in despair, Totsagan has Hanuman brought before him. "Is there no way to kill you?" he asks.

The cunning monkey thinks fast. It is time to bring the business to an end and return to Phra Ram. He assumes an expression of the utmost simplicity, bows before Totsagan and replies, "Almost none, great king."

Totsagan takes heart at this. "Almost none," he says. "Then you must indeed be a powerful monkey. Tell me truthfully now, as one warrior to another, what is it that the gods have not protected you against?"

"Fire, my lord," says Hanuman promptly. "If there is anything that can do for me, it’s fire."

Totsagan gives a great laugh at the simplicity of the monkey, "Fetch me hay and fibers and cotton," he says, "and jars of palm oil."

The materials are brought. The demon orders that Hanuman be securely bound in the materials, which are then thoroughly soaked with oil. Totsagan takes his diamond spear.

"Now, monkey," he says, "we shall see what you are made of." And with one great blow of his spear against Hanuman’s flinty hide, he turns him into a blazing torch.

Hanuman waits until the flames have taken a good hold on the materials around him and then leaps over the courtiers and into the palace. He flies from chamber to chamber, stopping briefly here and there to start a blaze before moving on, the demons always one move behind and hampered in their efforts to capture the monkey by their attempts to quench the fires he has started. Within a matter of minutes the whole palace is ablaze, so Hanuman turns his attention to the city. Soon Longka is a sea of flame.

Well satisfied with his work, Hanuman flies over to the sea and plunges in. When he emerges he is pleased to see that the flames are extinguished - all that is except those licking at the end of his tail. He plunges is into the water again and again, but still it burns. Desperate, he flies to the hut of the hermit Nart, throwing himself prostrate before him and begging breathlessly to be told how to put out the fire.

The hermit looks at him sourly. "You’re clever enough to set fire to Longka and fill the island with pestilential smoke. How is it you can’t help yourself?" he asks.

"This is no ordinary fire," says Hanuman. "It was started by Totsagan’s diamond spear."

"If that’s the case," says the hermit, "you can soon put it right."

"Listen hard and I will tell

How you can quench your fiery tail.

Take its end and without fail

Place it in the little well."

Hanuman understands immediately. He sticks his burning tail in his mouth and pinches his nostrils. The flame goes out at once. Hanuman throws himself gratefully before the hermit once more, thanks him, and then flies back over the ocean to his waiting companions, and then on to Phra Ram’s camp.

Totsagan’s first thought is for his wives. Hurrying through the blazing palace he breaks into the women’s quarters and drags out the panic-stricken Nang Monto and his other women. Mounting his cloud chariot Butsabok, he flees with them to Mount Satana, leaving his hapless subjects to fend for themselves. Many perish miserably in the flames.

The other nobles follow their king’s leadership and, giving up their futile attempts to save the city, flee to Mount Satana. Pipeck, the king’s brother - a demon skilled in clairvoyance and the arts of astrology - and Intorachit, his son, succeed in escaping the doomed city.

Kumpagan, however, the Regent of Longka and another brother of Totsagan, is almost killed. He is a prodigious eater and a sleeper without equal. At a sitting, he frequently devours a whole flock of sheep and a herd of cattle, washing them down with enough wine to float a large ship. Then it is his custom to sleep off the effects of this snack, a nap to him being a couple of months long. The burning of Longka takes place during one of his sleeps, and it is only through the devotion of his wives that he is woken and hurried out of the city - belching and muttering thickly to himself - while there is still time.

In the safety of the folds of Mount Satana the court assembles itself about Totsagan, who immediately confers with his advisers on what to do about the destruction of Longka. The advisors suggest that messengers are first sent to Phra Piroon, the Rain God, to ask him to put out the fire. As Phra Piroon is an ally of Totsagan, he gladly causes a torrent of rain to fall on Longka, which puts out the flames. This prompt action cannot save the buildings, but some of the materials can be used in the reconstruction of the city.

As to the creation of a new capital, the advisers remind Totsagan that he has credit at the court of heaven and suggest he petition the gods Isuan and Witsanukam - the latter being the heavenly architect - to carry out the rebuilding for him.