Lao Mythology: The Myth of the Toad King

The Myth of the Toad King
The Myth of the Toad King

The Myth of the Toad King

Bang Fai, otherwise known as the Rocket Festival, is celebrated every year in northeast Thailand and Laos. Ask anyone who knows anything about the Rocket Festival and they’ll probably tell you that Bang Fai are launched every year in April to bring rain.

This centuries old tradition is said to have its origins in an ancient story known as The Myth of the Toad King. However, what’s strange about this myth is that it seems to imply the opposite of what Bang Fai is all about. It says that rain brings the rockets. As presented by Yasothon and Nong Khai:

When the Lord Buddha was in his bodhisatta incarnation as King of the Toads, and married to Udon Khuruthawip, his sermons drew everyone, creatures and sky-dwellers alike, away from Phaya Thaen, King of the Sky.

Angry Phaya Thaen withheld life-giving rains from the earth for seven years, seven months, and seven days. Acting against the advice of the Toad King, Phaya Naga, King of the Nāga (and personification of the Mekong) declared war on Phaya Thaen — and lost.

Persuaded by Phaya Naga to assume command, King Toad enlisted the aid of termites to build mounds reaching to the heavens, and of venomous scorpions and centipedes to attack Phaya Thaen’s feet, and of hornets for air support. Previous attempts at aerial warfare against Phaya Thaen in his own element had proved futile; but even the Sky must come down to the ground. On the ground the war was won, and Phaya Thaen sued for peace. Naga Rockets fired in the air at the end of the hot, dry season are not to threaten Phaya Thaen, but to serve as a reminder to him of his treaty obligations made to Lord Bodhisatta Phaya Khang Khok, King of the Toads, down on the ground. For his part Phaya Nak was rewarded by being given the duty of Honor Guard at most Thai and Lao temples.

After the harvest of the resulting crops, Wow thanoo, man-sized kites with a strung bow, are staked out in winter monsoon winds. They are also called Túi-tiù, singing kites, from the sound of the bowstring singing in the wind, which sing all through the night, to signal Phaya Thaen that he has sent enough rain.

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at

7 thoughts on “Lao Mythology: The Myth of the Toad King

    » John Reed King Montessori-Based Dementia Programming

    (May 4, 2009 - 11:48 pm)

    […] Lao Mythology: The Myth of the Toad King […]


    (May 5, 2009 - 11:16 pm)

    Great tale, Carrie. It sounds like an interesting festival.


    (May 12, 2009 - 12:55 pm)

    This photo is awesome. I couldn't find it on your flickr but luckily here I can admire its details.
    Can I ask you where did you find about this legend?
    I don't remember if I told you but anytime I read your blog I get an impression that place where you live is full of cultural events.


      (May 13, 2009 - 2:32 pm)

      Hi K,

      This one isn\\'t on my Flickr account because it doesn\\'t belong to me. It\\'s a photo of an old painting of Naga. As far as where I found the legend, I\\'ll chalk it up to curiosity. I love ancient myth and culture, so I do obscure searches on the Internet every now and then. This month I was interested in Lao mythology after remembering that I had taken that photo during the Rocket Festival.

    […] the entire of downtown was blocked for any traffic since Friday. Friday night was their warm up to Bun Bang Fai, but on Saturday night there were thousands participating and having a joyful mega-party on those […]

    Frank P. Schneidewind

    (November 1, 2010 - 1:48 pm)

    Hi Carrie!
    You have done a good research and your story was selected by us to generate some extra web traffic for you 🙂
    I have authored a trilogy on the biggest Bun Bang Fai in Yasothon, Thailand within my photo reports, covering ethnic festivals in Southeastasia and interesting destinations. Providing some explanations for our readers is helpful to them as well. Good luck with your terrific website.
    Best regards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *