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Laotian legend: Champa Si Ton, the four frangipanis

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Every civilization has its myths and legends transmitted from generation to generation. Laotian culture is no exception to the rule. Deep in the Buddhist tradition, the stories are about love, divine spirits, fights or nature. At ORLA tours, we believe that they are very important to Laotian culture. That's why we make a series of articles about it. Hold on because this legend is full of twists ! Enjoy the reading…

© Soumsanouk Mixay & Fleur Brofos Asmussen

We have chosen to tell you the legend of the four Frangipanis.

Do you know this tree? It is one of the strongest symbols of Laos. Its flowers adorn the hair of women during ceremonies and its sweet perfume fills the city of Luang Prabang. This tale tells the life of four young men with a “difficult” childhood. Born, abandoned, burned, resurrected, turned into a tree, burned, resuscitated, here are the few main steps.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, Chulani was reigning on a very powerful kingdom.

Like any good lord at the time, he had two wives, very beautiful. In this special family, jealousy persisted between the two queens. The second one was doing everything to discredit the first in the eyes of their beloved man.

While one day the king had gone hunting wild elephant, the favorite women gave birth to 4 pretty boys. Ideal opportunity for her competitor to make a dirty move, right? Well, yes ... She took the chance, replaced the babies with puppies and threw them to the river on a raft.

The surprise was great when the king saw that his newborns looked more like Labradors than humans. Disgrace and shame took precedence over astonishment. He decided to ban the new mother in a cave where she will have to raise pigs to survive. What about the puppies ? The legend does not say it ...

The four children were now sailing on the water. Strange fact: their raft was going upstream. A real snub to Newton and its gravity. A couple of peasants saw the raft and adopted the four babies. The rural cooking style did them well as they became handsome and strong boys.

4 young men, extremely intelligent and beefy, it makes people talk ... And the news reached the ears of the wicked queen. She went on-site and quickly understood that these were the babies she had put on a raft a few months before. How did she react to your opinion? Umh ... not very good. She opted for a rather radical way to solve the problem. She waited for the adoptive parents to go away to give poisoned cakes to the boys, which led to their immediate death.

Back in the house, the parents discovered the lifeless bodies of their children. Desperate, they dug 4 graves. The years passed and four frangipanis grew out of it. But not just any trees! These gave off an extremely delicate and strong perfume.

Like any strange thing at the time, the news spread like wildfire and quickly reached the ears of the evil queen. How did she take it? Umh, let's say she was quite annoyed by having to deal with their case again. She uprooted the trees, lashed them with stones, and threw them into the river. This time, the laws of physics were respected and they sank. Which deities live in the waters according to beliefs? The Nagas, spirits in the shape of snakes. Their king discovered the four trees at the bottom of the river. In his wisdom, he decided to free them from their shackles. They came to the surface and began to defy Newton again by going upstream.

© Soumsanouk Mixay & Fleur Brofos Asmussen

Their aquatic adventure ended when a monk and a hermit saw them. It must be said that it is rare to see frangipanis go upstream. And even more still with their beautiful flowers. The novice decided to cut one for his master. Surprisingly, it is not sap that sank but blood. Strange, right? The hermit understood that it was not quite "standard" trees. Moreover, it should be noted that the hermit was not quite standard neither. Indeed, he just had to look at the frangipani trees to burn them to ashes.

He then took some sacred water, poured it on the ashes to restore the human form to the princes. Like phoenixes, the four boys reappeared fresh and fit. We can say that they are in good health :) Because, as a reminder, they were thrown to the river, dead poisoned, transformed into trees, uprooted, sunk to the bottom of the water, saved by the Naga king, reduced to ashes for finally go back to their original form.

However, the novice, by cutting the flower of one of the trees, deprived one of the princes of his little finger, once in his human form. The hermit took care to replace the missing finger with a diamond. He also gave them the power to fly in the air as well as a whole arsenal of weapons to face demons. Well equipped, they went to the conquest of three kingdoms then joined their father’s one.

They asked him to bring their mother back to the palace. Do you remember that she was banished in a cave ? And that her only activity was raising pigs? Despite this precarious situation, she refused to return to the palace. Matter of pride with no doubt. The four princes decided to go see her directly. What a surprise for her when she first met her four children. As a reminder, she had never known them before.

Finally, she agreed to forgive the king and return to the palace. The princes took their quarters there too. What about the queen with her unhealthy jealousy ? She was banished from the kingdom, condemned to live in an isolated place to raise pigs.

That’s it for this legend. Moral of the story ? Umh, with no doubt, you reap what you sow. This conclusion is, moreover, entirely in line with Buddhist philosophy. The good karmas, related to the good actions, bring happiness and chances. While acts of wickedness always end up turning against you. If these good words interest you, stay tuned. Because we will soon tell you the legend of Bachieng! See you soon…

#legend #myth #story #tale #tradition #culture #laos #frangipany #champa

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