The Impersonation of Nang Seeda

When Sukrasan returns with the news of Phra Ram’s warlike preparations, Totsagan is deeply disturbed. He calls together a council of ministers and asks them what course of action they advise. It is decided that Phra Ram must be diverted from his intended campaign against Longka.

The demon king summons Benyagai, Pipeck’s daughter, and gives her the following instructions. Using the magic powers learned from her father, she is to assume the form and appearance of Nang Seeda. Having done so, she must then be found, apparently dead, in the vicinity of the monkey camp. Totsagan tells her that if Phra Ram is deceived and decides to call off his campaign against Longka as having no further point, she, Benyagai, may expect to be suitably rewarded.

Benyagai is terrified when she hears this plan. She knows that she can expect no mercy from the monkeys if her deception is uncovered, but she is equally sure that her uncle will deal with her ruthlessly if she refuses to do his bidding. Alone and friendless at the court, she has no choice but to give her assent. Weeping, Benyagai mounts the chariot that Totsagan puts at her disposal and is taken to the park where Nang Seeda is held prisoner.

On the way, she stops to tell her mother, Dreechada, of the mission that Totsagan has thrust upon her. Still weeping, Benyagai asks her what to do.

The sight of her daughter’s unhappiness brings home sharply to Dreechada the hopelessness of their position, and she is unable to restrain her own tears. She counsels Banyagai to obey the orders of the demon king and to pray to the gods for their protection.

At the entrance to the park, Benyagai leaves the chariot and seeks out Nang Seeda on foot. Having asked the way of one of the demon ladies attending Ram’s wife, she arrives at the pavilion where Seeda, sad and solitary, spends her days.

Throwing herself at the feet of the lovely queen, Benyagai sobs out the story of her father’s banishment and her own plight at the court of the demon king, giving Seeda to understand that being in a position almost as unfortunate as the captive queen, her sympathies lie outside the court of which she is a member; and this, indeed, is almost the truth of the matter. But even while she is telling her story and arousing Nang Seeda’s compassion, she is imprinting the very image of Ram’s wife on her memory. By the time she takes her leave, promising to return to talk with Seeda whenever she has the opportunity, every particular of Nang Seeda’s person - her features, her form, the texture and coloring of her skin, the arch of her brow and the tint of her lovely eyes - every item is held fast within the young demon’s memory.

Having transformed herself into Nang Seeda’s double, Benyagai reappears before the demon king. Totsagan, astounded at this apparition, and thinking that the woman he has desired so long has come to surrender herself to him, descends from the throne, and raises her from her knees. Embracing her, Totsagan promises again that she shall become the mistress of half his possessions. When Benyagai is able to free herself from his arms, she changes back to her original form. For a moment Totsagan is disappointed and angry but quickly recovers himself. "My dear niece," he gloats, "if I am pained by this ruse, how much more the humans are going to suffer when they see you."

Exulting at the prospect of Phra Ram’s pain, he sends Benyagai on her way.

In the early morning, when the sun has not yet risen above the trees and the air is still cool, Phra Ram comes down to the sea to bathe. As always, his thoughts are with his absent wife, and to ease the pain of separation, he sings a love song softly to himself as he goes, promising that the days until their reunion shall be few.

He sees a body - that of an exquisitely beautiful woman - lying as if cast up on the shore. Going closer, he realizes - with a horror that no words can describe - that the corpse is that of his wife. He sinks to his knees beside the body, tenderly lifts it from the ground, and calls in a broken voice for his brother Lak.

Hearing the sound of voices raised in lamentation, Hanuman hurries down to the shore, followed by Sukreep and Pipeck. "This is what comes of your folly in Longka," Phra Ram upbraids Hanuman. "If you had not enraged the demon king, Nang Seeda would still be alive." At first Hanuman is too shocked to speak, but soon his eyes take in two discrepancies that have escaped the others, and his quicksilver brain reaches a conclusion.

"With all due respect," he says, "you are weeping in vain. That is not Nang Seeda. Look at the currents of this strait. They flow towards Longka, so how could they have brought this body here. And then I never saw a corpse that didn’t show some sign of disorder or corruption. It’s my opinion this is another of Totsagan’s tricks. Let us burn the corpse and see what happens."

At Hanuman’s command the monkey’s build a funeral pyre and place the "corpse" on it. the pyre is lit and the flames swiftly lick through the dry wood. Up to this point Benyagai has played her part perfectly, but this is more that she can bear. With a shriek she changes into her own form and flies up into the air, intending to make her escape.

This is exactly what Hanuman has been expecting. In no time at all he is up in the air and in pursuit. Poor Benyagai is no match for him in speed and still less in strength. Hanuman overtakes her, seizes her by her long and flowing tresses, and drags her unceremoniously back to the camp.

An impromptu court of inquiry is convened, with commander in chief Sukreep as its presiding officer. Benyagai sees that there can by no further point in deception and divulges her errand and her identity.

"I am Benyagai, daughter of Pipeck, Prince of Longka," she says. "Totsagan, the demon king, imposed this undertaking on me, and I had no choice but to obey him."

Phra Ram summons his soothsayer and commands him to pass judgement on his daughter. In tears - for demons no less than human kind are subject to paternal devotion - Pipeck admits that there can be no other punishment for his daughter’s deception than death. Phra Ram is deeply touched, both by the demon’s suffering and by his loyalty. "Come now," he says, "she is your daughter, the comfort of your old age. She shall live. Indeed, she shall return to Longka and tell our adversary of his newest defeat."

Hanuman is told to see Benyagai safely on her way to Longka. One might as well imagine that water will not dissolve sugar as expect the gallant monkey not to exercise his charms upon a lovely woman. They have flown no great distance before his soft words, warm looks and ardent caresses awaken passion in Benyagai’s slender form. Somewhere before the Hematiwan Mountains they sink to the mossy floor of the forest, where only the nodding flowers and the shy beasts of the woodland are their witnesses, and embrace.

Some time later, Benyagai arrives back at Longka and tells Totsagan of the failure of her mission. Disappointed though he is, the king gives her a regal reward.

Hanuman, too, is a little late returning to camp. The generals ask him if he had trouble on the way.

"Quite the contrary," says Hanuman.