CULTURAL TRAVEL,  Laos

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.

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!

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