Ramakien, “Suphanamatcha”

translated from the Thai by Frederick Goss

Meanwhile, a company of yaksa on watch, walking along the edge of the water, saw the gathered krabi in a great commotion, carrying blocks of stone, hurling them down in the sea like torrential rain, creating a causeway rising up just above the water across from the opposite shore. All four asura leaders were in a panic. Together they quickly went to Phichai Longka.

They bowed their heads and informed Thao Rapphanasun: “At this time Phra Ram Chakri has the krabi bringing stones that are thrown into the ocean to build a causeway, a very hustling, bustling activity. Within about another eight thousand wa, they will reach the coastline here.”

The fearless, ten-headed one sat and thought deeply: ‘Damn these human beings, so capable, brazenly piling up a causeway with stones. If they cross over and reach Longka, the people will be troubled throughout the realm. I must have the shoals of fish in the sea destroy this stone causeway. I think then this foe will be left at wit’s end.’ He immediately ordered Mahothon: “Go to the sea and find Suphanamatcha Thewi. Invite my daughter to come here.”

Mahothon took the order, bowed in obeisance and went to the seashore.

At the abode of the lovely young lady in the middle of the wide ocean, he informed her: “Your father had me come to invite you, lovely maiden.”
Informed by the courtier, Nang Suphanamatcha quickly went.

She bowed her head in reverence to His Majesty, her father, amidst the court ladies and waited to hear his command.

The twenty-armed lord saw his lovely daughter as if he was in the celestial heavens: “My adored one, beloved star of my eye, at this time, those bold, daring human beings have marched out an army of wanon and come to the seashore. They are having the krabi carry rocks to fill in the sea. They will cross over to fight with Father. You can help put an end to this threat and bring peace to all your family and clan. Order your fish followers to carry away the stones and throw them into the great gulf so that this causeway will not be built. Father will reward you, lovely one with anything you want, not to worry.”

Nang Matcha raised her hands in reverence to accept the command: “This problem is a mere trifle. I gladly agree. I will not disappoint you. Father, please stay in peace.” She paid reverence to the feet of the yaksa lord and gracefully returned to her residence. 

At the middle of the sea, she ordered her retinue to pick up the blocks of stone in their mouths and throw them into the great gulf.

The entourage of fish took the order from the lady and swarmed away to pick up the stones in a furor.

They swam about, flopping and flipping chaotically, weaving and winding in a noisy bustle. The waves splashed all over the sea as they destroyed all that was there in the deep waters. The schools of fish energetically picked up the many blocks of stone that the wanon had placed there and took them away in their mouths, even as the krabi were cheering loudly and throwing more in. 

The son of Phra Athit saw that the blocks of stone were thinning out and strangely disappearing. He examined for a long moment: ‘Gosh, I think there is something amiss.’ So he said to Hanuman: “I am quite baffled. Why do the stones that are thrown in not seem to stay put but disappear? Even though nearly the whole mountain has been brought here and a great pile thrown in, I see them shift and move beneath the sea. It was nearly full, but now where have the stones gone? What could make this happen? How can we figure out what is going on in the ocean?”

Hanuman replied: “Uncle, I am also confounded and confused at seeing this strange phenomenon that you have pointed out. I think there must be some cause under the sea. I will dive down to look.” He made a display of his great might, causing all directions to thunder and shake, and slipped into the great ocean with his prodigious power.

Looking around the sea, he saw the fish swarming about, carrying the stones away in their mouths. Enraged like the epoch-ending fire, he pulled out his diamond trident, flourished it about and stormed through the water to attack.
Many died all around in the sea from the great fighting might of the krabi. As the son of the wind pursued them, the schools of fish in the waters dispersed to escape the confusion. Looking around, he saw a mermaid, a maiden with the tail of a fish and the body of a lovely human woman. Her figure and face were as sweet and graceful, slender and delicate as a heavenly being. Furiously incensed like the epoch-ending fire, he gnashed his teeth and shouted out: “Hey, see here, you damn finned fiend, why have you brought your gang of guppies to gather up and carry away the stones? Do you not fear death? Do you not know that Narai has incarnated to come and fight the yaksa.” He shouted out and attacked her in a furor.

Seeing the mighty krabi, Suphanamatcha was terrified and shook with fear. Face ashen, body shaking and trembling, she quickly swam away into the school of fish to escape.

The brave son of the wind chased closely behind and was able to seize the lovely fish maiden.

Petrified, nearly out of her mind, Nang Suphanamatcha screamed, begging for her life.
The son of Phra Phai raised his diamond jeweled trident and angrily questioned her: “You, here, what is your name, bold being? What is your lineage, you damnable scaly scoundrel? Why are you leading your entourage of fish to pick up these stones so they will not become a causeway? Who had you come here? Speak only the truth, damn despicable damsel, or else you will lose your life.”
Fearing that the wanon would kill her, Nang Matcha raised her hands in reverence and informed him: “My name is Suphanamatcha, the daughter of Thotsakan. My supreme father had me come and have these fish pick up the blocks of stone and throw them away so there will be no causeway. He is afraid Phra Ram will cross his army over to fight at the island of Longka. I have done this out of fear. Punish me with execution. But, if you will grant me my life, I will order the fish to pick up all of the stones and quickly bring them back. I beg of you, one of great might, have pity on me.”
Hanuman heard the mermaid beg for her life with such polite words, so sweetly uttered. He felt a thrill of lustful attraction encircle his heart. His anger dissipated as his harsh thoughts dissolved. He studied her face, then spoke:
“Lovely, oh lovely lady, pretty and charming, beautiful young, most adorable one. Do not fear. I will tell you of these matters, open up my heart. Just now, I came here in a rage, out of control, intent on striking you down dead here in the great sea. When I saw you, lovely young one, with a face like a celestial maiden, graceful and deliciously delicate, with such soft, silky smooth skin, I had a feeling of affection for you. I must have met you because of past merit. We two are surely meant to fall in love, share our sorrows, share our joyful happiness until the end of our lives.” 
Hearing this from the son of the wind made Nang Suphanamatcha feel shaken and abashed. She gave him a cold stare: “Why do you come flirting with me like this? You ought not to have any feelings of love for someone who should be punished with their life. I have done nothing to absolve my wrongdoing. I cannot even foresee that I will be alive much longer. Do not play tricks to fool me. I will be disgraced and could not escape being slandered. Being intimate with a being of a different race is not something to discuss. Please, I greatly apologize, but do not be upset.” 

“Loveliest, oh loveliest sweet one, you are most bewitchingly beautiful, most engagingly endearing. The words you speak are so adorable. Where could one find such a lovely maiden, beautiful in all conduct and manners, charmingly courteous, keen and clever, with a beautiful figure, beautiful body, beautiful face, that makes my affection for you blossom, lovely lady. Although we are of different species, you and I can be like the venerable ascetic and the kinnari who joined in joy. We two ought to be intimate and join in joy as well.” With these words, he embraced her: “My beloved, do not reject my feelings.”

Nang Matcha, looking askance from the corner of her eye, slapped his hands away and averted her face in disdain: “Alas, the more I say, the more you take liberties. How very rude and insulting. Have you no pity? Thinking about it makes me exceedingly upset. Because you are a man, you have no shame about doing this.” She pinched and scratched him wildly and pushed him away mercilessly.
“Most, oh most beloved, most miraculously marvelous maiden. I adore you as my own life. Do not pinch and scratch trying to hurt me. These are my deepest feelings, beautiful one. I myself know how to treat you gently. I will not deceive you, most lovely lady. Sweetest one of mine, have mercy.” While saying this, he snuggled close to her and kissed her cheek and nose with affection, as he gently fondled her breast with his hand. A raging, turbulent wind blew making the ocean thrash into foam. Waves crashed on the shore in a clamorous commotion while clouds obscured the sky in every direction. A celestial rain showered the flowers making the bud of the lotus blossom open to release pollen. Those two closely enjoyed their passion together in joyful bliss.

Having tasted the joy of joining in passionate intimacy with the son of the wind, Nang Suphanamatcha snuggled close to him in a daze, bedazzled and befuddled with the feeling. Such extreme intimacy took her breath away. The lovely lady forgot her fear of her father, forgot about the activity in the sea, forgot about her finned entourage, forgot about her shyness, forgot about herself. Such was the overwhelming feeling. 
Hanuman, feeling tremendous attraction for the beautiful woman, was entranced with joy. He embraced her, stroking and kissing her face: “Sweetest, most beloved one, at this time, the lord of all three worlds has ordered me to finish piling up this roadway within seven days. If this is not done in time, I will be punished. Order your fish to carry the stones from the gulf. Bring them to place in the sea-bed so they can serve as the causeway as before. I will then escape punishment. My beloved, have pity on me.”

Hearing Hanuman, Nang Matcha took leave and swam off.

In the gulf, she ordered her fish retinue: “Carry the stones back to where they were before.”

Having given this order, she swam with grace and beauty back to him.

The flock of fish took the order of the lovely lady and swam forward immediately.
In the gulf, they took all the blocks of stones in their mouths and swam through the water in a great and noisy commotion. 

All the fish busily placed the stones in rows along the causeway. There was a great bustling confusion in the sea until all the stones were carried back.
From the middle of the ocean, Hanuman watched her fish followers bring back the stones, which made him delighted as if receiving a treasure from Phra In. The krabi leader tightly hugged the lovely lady and said sweetly: “Most beloved one of mine, my love cannot be expressed in words.

However, our karma means we must be separated. If I did not have to carry out my royal duties, I would stay and enjoy this bewitching bliss. However, if I were to tarry, I fear the punishment since the Garuda-mounted lord will be angry. Remain here, lovely woman, most beloved one of mine. When the war is finished in Longka, I will return to find you.”
Hearing this, Nang Matcha felt as if a fierce flame had come to burn her body to destruction. She pined greatly for the son of the wind. In sorrow, her spirit disconsolate, she lowered her face and hugged the feet of the krabi as she wailed: “Alas, if you had real affection for me, you would not toss me away. Oh, this is pitiful, fooling me with tricking words so I have been dishonored. I will be disgraced forever. 

Of all the women who have been born, none are the same as me at this time. My careless heart expected too much from this man. I fell in love, but he quickly grew tired and ran off. What a waste to be born as a woman, tricked into being ruined after preserving myself for so long.”
The son of the wind saw that Nang Matcha was sad enough to pass away. He lifted her onto his lap, kissed her face and embraced her: “Please, do not be so sad and weep with such sobbing sorrow. It is not that I am tired of you, most beloved one, but it is necessary that I be separated from you. Lovely lady, take care of yourself.” 
Nang Suphanamatcha turned her face, unable to speak. She slid down from his lap, gave him a cold stare, then turned away and pushed him off, not letting him touch her body: “Do not waste time saying you understand. Please, do not pretend that you care about me. No one will criticize you. Who can be blamed for the karma? Leave and do not come back.”
Hearing the lady pour out her grief, Hanuman felt his affection redouble. He hugged her, stroked and kissed her face: “Young one, do not be angry with me. I would never intentionally abandon you. Take care of yourself and wait for me for I must take leave.” He made a display of his great might, stirring the sea in turmoil. He rose up from the great ocean and went straight to the causeway.
He raised his hands in reverence to the son of Phra Suriya and described all the events about meeting the mermaid.
Phaya Sukhrip was delighted and quickly had the krabi troops come together to complete the great causeway. Those who were laggardly were beaten. There was a noisy uproar throughout the sea as the wanon worked together in a great ado.

Translated from the Thai by Frederick Goss. Edited by Chris Baker. Copyright © 2024 by Frederick Goss. Used with the permission of the editor and translator.