Siam's folk epic of love, war, and tragedy The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen is one of the most famous works of old Thai literature. The plot is a love story, set against a background of war, and ending in high tragedy. This folk epic was first developed in oral form for popular performance with lashings of romance, adventure, violence, farce, and magic. It was later adopted by the Siamese court and written down, with two kings contributing. This first-ever translation is based on Prince Damrong's standard edition of 1917-18, with over a hundred passages recovered from earlier versions. The English translation is written in lively prose, completely antated, with over four hundred original line drawings and an afterword explaining the work's historical background, social context, and poetic style. The main volume presents the entire poem in translation. The companion volume contains alternative chapters and extensions, Prince Damrong's prefaces, and reference lists of Thai terms. The volumes are available separately or as a slipcased set. According to the leading Thai linguist William Gedney, If all other information on traditional Thai culture were to be lost, the whole complex could be reconstructed from this marvelous text.
Chris Baker formerly taught Asian history at Cambridge University and has lived in Thailand for over thirty years. Pasuk Phongpaichit is professor of economics at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. Together they have written several books including Thailand: Economy and Politics, A History of Thailand, and Thaksin. The illustrator, Muangsing Janchai, is trained in Thai painting and has executed mural paintings in several temples. He is a native of Suphanburi, Thailand.