Every night before bed. Every single night – my girls and I read a story. The current set of stories we are going through is a very large volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Reading it with them I realized that there are a ton of these old stories that I never heard growing up, some probably for the reason that they spring from and speak to another world. The world of early 19th century Germany was very different from 1980’s America, and [now I find it] really interesting to see a little bit into the mind of my ancestors; what kind of stories entertained and influenced them (LOTS of ghost stories that I either skip or have to clean up a bit…many of the stories were considered not really suitable for children even back in Grimms’ day). So recently I was asked to translate some old northern Thai folk tales. I found them fascinating in the same way I do the old folk tales of my own culture, and thought some of you would as well. Any of my readers who read Thai or are familiar with the story in it’s original, feel free to offer any thoughts on my translation. Yes, I know I took some liberty with the title, and in English the story flow is a little clumsy.
Long ago, there was a princess under her lord the king. When she grew to be an adult, she fell head over heels in love with a young man, and he fell madly in love with her. They loved each other deeply, despite having come from different stations in life. This was a great hindrance to their love, and they had difficulty even sending letters to each other.
The young man was the son of a lowly court official. The love of the two young people was not allowed to continue. Yet this was no ordinary love. No wall was so high that it could keep them apart. And so the two continued always looking for a way that they could at last be together.
Finally one day, the two made a plan to get a horse and run away together. When the day to run away arrived, the young man went to get the princess at the agreed upon place outside the city. They fled together until late into the night. But they were unable to escape, because the king had learned of their plan, and sent men on horseback to follow them. The riders pursued the young couple until they arrived at a great cliff. When the two saw that there was no where left to run, they were certain they would face severe punishment, perhaps even death for what they had done. As the sound of hooves drew near, the young man didn’t know what to do. The princess then took his place at the reigns, and drove the horse to run off the cliff, causing them to fall to their deaths.
That is how that place came to be known as “Runaway-Love Cliff”.
This story teaches us to remember the young couple – how they loved each other to the point that it ended their lives at the cliff that day. When we think that we don’t have freedom, and that our customs are too strict – consider how much more the cliff restricted their freedom than their customs did.