The Destruction of the Demons (The Abduction of Nang Seeda)

Imagine a forest, deep, dim and mysterious, stretching away on all sides. Above it shines a hot sun, but only the occasional ray pierces the thick roof leaves and strikes down to the mossy ground, and the air is still, moist, and cool. Beyond a curtain of creepers, a stream runs over a rock ledge into a small pool. Here butterflies and scintillating dragonflies flaunt their colors over the dun water, as brilliant as the flowers of the bank and far more subtle. Beneath the surface of the pool, fish as old and gray as stones hover on tremulous fins.

The only constant sound is the murmur of the stream. Now and again, somewhere in the distance, a bird - like no bird you have ever seen - calls out, or the cicadas strike up their mindless music, or a beast crashes unseen among the upper branches.

There is no change here, no calendar, no time, only a succession of muted days and starless nights.

Here, far from Ayutaya, Phra Ram, Nang Seeda, and Phra Lak have made their home.

One day, in distant Longka, Totsagan, the King of the Demons, hears of beauty of Nang Seeda and determines that she shall become one of his wives. Nang Monto, his own favorite, warns him that Ram is the incarnation of the god Narai and that the abduction of Seeda can only be followed by war. Totsagan, however, has already made up his mind and is not to be deterred.

Early in the morning, accompanied by Mareet, one of his subjects, he mounts his chariot and flies over the ocean and forest until he comes to the Kotawaree River, near where the royal hermits have their hut.

At Totsagan’s instruction, Mareet changes himself into a gazelle. He darts across the clearing before the eyes of Nang Seeda and disappears into the undergrowth. Enchanted by the beauty of the animal, Seeda implores her lord either to catch it or bring her its magnificent pelt. Phra Ram suspects that the beast is a piece of enchantment, but, overcoming his fear, he takes his bow and follows the gazelle into the forest, having first warned his brother to guard Nang Seeda well.

Mareet, with terror in his heart, flies deeper and deeper into the forest, but Ram at last corners the beast and mortally wounds it. Mareet falls, as he does so crying out in Phra Ram’s voice, "Oh, Lak, help me. I am trapped by a demon. Help, help!"

The call rings through the forest to the hermit’s hut, but Lak, knowing that no mere demon could bring about his brother’s end, remains with Nang Seeda. She, however, now distracted at the thought that Phra Ram is in danger, entreats Lak to go to his aid, and, when he still hesitates, taunts him for his cowardice, accusing him - worse yet- of hoping that if his brother dies and that she, Nang Seeda, will become his wife. Seeing that it is useless to reason with the distraught Seeda, Phra Lak prostrates himself dutifully before her and hurries off into the forest, hoping to return within a matter of minutes.

Seeda is left alone.

This is the moment that the demon king has been waiting for. Having transformed himself into an old anchorite, he hobbles before Nang Seeda, greets the lovely lady in a quavering voice, and asks her name. His eyes meanwhile feed on the perfection of face and form before him, the like of which he has seen nowhere in all the Three Worlds, at once inflaming his desire and strengthening his determination to make her his own. Her voice too, as she tells him she is Seeda, the wife of Phra Ram, seems that of an angel rather than a mere mortal.

Craftily he asks her, "How is it that you - with the attributes of a goddess - live here in the wilderness? Why, at the expression of the desire, you could be the bride of Totsagan, the King of Longka."

At these words Nang Seeda feels a deadly coldness invade her limbs, but she replies indignantly, "In the eyes of gods and men alike, the demon Totsagan is a criminal, and Phra Narai, in his incarnation as Phra Ram, is destined to crush him."

Even as the last word leaves her lips the anchorite vanishes, and in his place stands Totsagan, the ten-headed, the twenty-armed. Wasting no more time, he seizes Nang Seeda, and, despite her struggles and despairing cries for help, firmly grasping her slender limbs in his many hands, he lifts her into his waiting chariot and soars up high above the forest. Held fast, weeping, overcome with fear and shame, Seeda calls on her husband for help, but her cries fall on the empty air.

But the air is not entirely empty. Gliding in and out of the small clouds, soaring in the sunlight above the forest is the heavenly Sadayu. This great bird has long been a friend of the king of Ayutaya and of his children, and seeing that Seeda is in trouble, he immediately swoops to the attack, crying as he falls, "You ten-headed black guard, prepare to meet your doom!"

Totsagan, furious at being insulted by a mere bird, prepares to dispatch his assailant. When Sadayu clashes with the enemy, however, striking left and right with powerful wings and needle-sharp talons,  Totsagan’s demon bodyguards fell lifeless, like rain from the air. The two thousand lions drawing the demon’s chariot are similarly destroyed, and Totsagan and his prize are thrown roughly to the earth. His weapons scattered, his demons destroyed, the King of Longka draws what seems likely to be his last breath when the great bird sings out in triumph:

"Your death is here, O criminal king,

For you are mortal, whereas I

Am told that I need never die

Unless I’m struck by Isuan’s ring."

Hearing this, Totsagan immediately tears Phra Isuan’s ring from Seeda’s finger and hurls it as the bird. Transformed into a hissing discus, the ring breaks the bird’s mighty wings and lodges in his breast. With the wind sighing through his broken feathers, Sadayu crashes to earth. There he plucks the ring from his breast and, mortally wounded awaits the coming of Phra Ram.

Totsagan reanimates his creatures, mounts his chariot once more, and flies on with captive Seeda to Longka.

For some time, the grief-stricken royal brothers wander through the forest. From Sadayu they learn the identity of Seeda’s abductor, and from giants whom they defeat, they can hope to gain allies for their campaign against Longka from the monkey kingdoms of Keetkin and Chompoo.

Eventually they come to the grove where Hanuman, the magic monkey, is meditating. The Wind God Phra Pai stirs up a breeze in which he has skillfully combined the scents of many flowers, and the two heroes, overtaken by an irresistible lassitude, lie down under a large and shady tree and sleep. Hanuman, having broken off his meditation to collect some fruit, comes on them and, curious to know who they can be, throws down pieces of twig onto the sleepers.

Phra Lak awakes and, seeing the little white monkey on the branch above, reaches up a hand to catch it. Hanuman skips onto a higher branch, however, and dances this way and that as Lak tries to dislodge him with the end of his bow. Phra Ram awakes and immediately recognizes the monkey with its diamond pelt, brilliant earrings, and jeweled teeth as the talented Hanuman. The Son of the Wind for his part looks down at Phra Ram and sees that he has been recognized, thinking to himself, "This fine prince knows who I am, so it must be the god I’ve been instructed to serve, Phra Narai." Delighted to have met his future master, Hanuman swings down out of the tree and prostrates himself before Phra Ram, while that favorite of Isuan, no less pleased to have at last encountered the able monkey, strokes Hanuman’s back. When the formalities have been observed, Hanuman fetches and introduces his uncle Sukreep to Phra Ram, explaining that it has been ordained that as Phra Narai he shall end the life of the unrighteous king of Keetkin, Palee, and elevate Sukreep to the vacant throne.

Phra Ram agrees to help Sukreep, and it is arranged that in the course of a fight between the two brothers, Phra Ram - as the divine Narai - shall shoot Palee from ambush with the arrow Promat.

Sukreep flies to Palee’s palace in Keetkin and loudly and with many insults challenges his brother to single combat. Palee, with burning ears, seizes his sword and flies at Sukreep. Near at hand, in the guise of a hermit, Phra Narai waits for a chance to end combat, but the brothers are so similar in appearance that he cannot distinguish between them. The outcome is that Palee gains the upper hand and, unwilling to kill Sukreep on account of the affection he still feels for him, disarms his brother and throws him down to earth in the vicinity of Mount Jakrawan.

Little the worse for wear but extremely put out, Sukreep makes his way back to Phra Narai and asks him why he failed to keep his promise. The god explains his difficulty and, having bound an armlet to Sukreep’s wrist so as to be able to distinguish between him and his brother, tells him to return to the palace and challenge Palee once more.

This time Palee determines to end the matter once and for all. Grasping his sword, he flies out of the palace window and straight for his brother. The swords flash in the air, and the combatants rain blow after blow on each other, Sukreep pretending to give ground but in fact leading Palee to the place where Phra Narai lies in ambush. When he sees his opportunity, the god bends his bow and lets loose the Promat arrow, but Palee sees the shaft coming and plucks it from the air. Turning to Phra Narai, he shouts angrily, "Hermit, what has this quarrel to do with you that you should try to kill me?"

Phra Narai holds his bow aloft in his four hands and says, "I am Phra Ram Jakri, and I have come to earth to vanquish the demons. Think of the wrongs you have done, Palee, and accept your punishment."

When Palee hears this, he knows his end has come. He takes his leave of Sukreep and charges him to serve Phra Ram faithfully. "As king," he says, "you must do no wrong. Banish hatred and be governed by good intentions. To your people be as a father and to your enemies a scourge."

Then Palee stabs himself with Narai’s arrow, and his soul leaves his body to be received into paradise. When the news of his death reaches Keetkin, the court and the people are united in mourning for their king. A procession leaves the palace, headed be Dara, Palee’s wife, Ongkot who is his son by Nang Monto, and Chompooparn, Hanuman’s childhood companion. They make their obeisances to Sukreep, who is now their lord, and pay homage to Phra Narai, who rejoices when he sees what fine soldiers these little monkey people will make.

The funeral ceremonies are quickly arranged. With one arrow shot from his bow, Narai creates a diamond cremation sala (a type of small Thai pavilion) and crystal urn to hold Palee’s remains; with a second, he lights the funeral pyre. Sukreep, Dara and the sons of the king throw flowers and ornaments of gold into the fire, and soon the flames have consumed Palee’s corpse.

Sukreep, the new king of Keetkin, is borne back to the city by the people.