Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lao Halloween Costumes?

Tomorrow I'll be featured on the Horror Writers Association Halloween Haunts Blog, discussing elements of Lao supernatural beliefs and traditions and why writers ought to consider Southeast Asia as an interesting setting for their tales of terror. Laos, Land of a Thousand Smiles, Realm of a Million Elephants, and as many ghosts and spirits. Be sure to check that out.

Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao recently posted on "Halloween and Lao Learning" at the Twin Cities Daily Planet and she briefly touched on the issue of what Lao Americans wear for costumes during this season. Very rarely have we seen traditional monsters or heroes and heroines presented. But what are some ideas we could consider?

Of course, there's everyone's favorite, the Monkey Warrior King Hanoumane, drawn from the classic Lao drama Phra Lak Phra Lam, a variation of the Ramayana. You could certainly go with a traditional (and complicated) interpretation but consider an update instead. Using what's available at your local costume shop's selection for gorillas, chimpanzees, or discounted Planet of the Apes merchandise, there are certainly some interesting options.

Other classic figures you could try include a green-skinned Nyak. Just grab some tusks and remember that that they're shape-shifters, so you could combine it with anything else you really want to be. Of course, I'd root for a steampunk Nyak just to see what it looks like, but overall, you have many options and it's relatively easy to do with available materials in a mainstream costume shop.

Instead of a winged fairy, you could also go with a Kinnaly. The half-women, half-birds are classic figures of Lao folklore, and most would agree that it's a question of getting the wings right. You would also debate whether you want to go all of the way and make the bird legs for yourself. The downside is that if you include the tail, it will be very hard to sit down and you may wind up whacking many people with it before the night is done. Zombie Kinnaly would certainly get a few interesting responses.

Lao legends are also filled with stories of the man-tigers, or weretigers, especially in the highlands. This is always a classic and very easy to do. There are many ways to do this effectively. Of course, there are also ways to do it badly, too:

For some reason, research doesn't turn up many results for a phi pob or phi krasue costume, but if you wanted to go for something really scary, I'd certainly put those on the table. But what are some your favorite ideas for Lao-inspired Halloween costumes?

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