Tuesday, November 04, 2014

7 Treasures of Lao Literature

Back in 2000, Somsanouk Mixay presented a very rough synopsis of seven Lao epic poems in "Treasures of Lao Literature." His pitch was: "Discover seven immortal epic poems of Laos, dating from the 17th century. They were engraved on palm leaves, kept in temple libraries and transmitted from generation to generation. The poems are read or chanted on festive occasions or wakes and taught at school." It was put out by the Vientiane Times.

The seven epics in question are:

1. Kalaket
2. Sithon and Manola
3. Nang Phom Hom
4. Nang Taeng Orn
5. Thao Phoutthasaen
6. Champa See Ton
7. Sinxay

The artist Savanh provided illustrations.

It would be interesting to see if there was a way to do a seven-night or seven hour festival for the community to take on each of these stories in a way that was updated for modern audiences. We must ask ourselves what will be the best way to continue transmitting these tales while making them clearly Lao, as several have complicated roots connected to Khmer, Thai and Indian traditions.

There are several other epics that are not included here, so it will be interesting to see how well our community can recover those and render them into something readable because frankly there are many obvious narrative gaps in the stories presented here, with much, if not all, of the poetry lost in rendering it into blunt prose.

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