Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lao mythic being: Vanon or Wanon

We've discussed the Kinnali, Nak, Phi, and Nyak here at On The Other Side Of The Eye, but another prominent figure in Lao legends are the Vanon or Wanon. They are perhaps best well known for their role in the Lao Ramakien, Phra Lak Phra Lam.

The most prominent of these is Hanoumane, or Hanuman. But it's important to consider that he belongs to what were classically considered Vanara,  who were typically simian in appearance. But they're really a lot more than just monkeys. They had taken birth in bears and monkeys attaining the shape and valor of the gods and goddesses who created them. They were a forest-dwelling fighting force, who began near Mt. Riskshavat.

They're shapeshifters,  and according to most sources generally amusing, occasionally irritating and childlike, hyperactive, adventurous, but truthful, brave, kind, and loyal. They were formidable foes of the Nyak armies.

These days, discussions of the Vanon aren't terribly sophisticated, but I think they're overdue for a re-evaluation. Hanuman himself has so many interpretations. In some parts of India he's such a fierce warrior that women aren't allowed to worship him. In others, he's a clown. Lao versions seem to opt towards amusing and a romantic at heart as he tries to woo the mermaid princess (or daughter of the Nak king, if you want to be more precise.)

We'll look at them more in the coming months ahead!

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