"The Princess of the Bird People,"
a retelling of "Manora, the Bird Woman," from Thailand, by Cathy S. Mosley,

Many years ago, more years ago than can be counted, there lived a noble Thai prince, and his name was Prince Suthon. He was strong, wise, and handsome; he excelled in both the arts and in warrior's skills, and was considered one of the greatest archers in the land.

He was the treasure of his parents' hearts, and his people loved him greatly. All wished that a bride would be found that was worthy of him.

Decrees went out across the land for all nobly-born women to come, but none were graceful enough, wise enough, or gentle enough for Prince Suthon. Yet he was young, and none were in despair.

One summer day, long into his travels in the northern realms, Boon, the famous hunter, came upon a sparkling bathing pool, and secretly observed seven glorious maidens. As he watched they stepped to the water's edge and laid aside their multi-hued wings so they could bath. Boon knew who he had found - the daughters of King Tumerat, the King of the Northern Bird People. More silently than a shadow the hunter slipped away, carefully marking his path with secret signs, and went to see the Naga of Champoo Chit. For Boon wished to use the Naga's magical noose.

Soon the hunter followed his marks back to the hidden pool and waited for the bird maidens to return.

As swift as a cobra he struck and ensnared the youngest, most beautiful, bird woman, Manora.

With great care he traveled back with his frightened prize, and presented the bird princess to the King, Queen, and Prince Suthon. All were delighted with Boon's surprise, and while Suthon could hardly take his gaze from her beauty he could tell that she was frightened by her strange adventure.

"Sweet lady," he said, "I would wish you for my bride. Wish it with all my soul, but if you desire to return to your home I would order that you be carried back to your father."

And with those words and concern he won Manora's love. She shook her head and said, "I would willingly be your bride."

A great wedding was held, with days of feasting, and Manora lay aside her multi-hued wings so she could be the wife of Suthon. For days on end they stayed together in the gardens of the palace - joyful in each othe's company.

But one day word of invaders came and the Prince knew he would have to ride to battle. For he was young and his father old. He explained this, with great sorrow, to Manora, and charged his dearest friend to watch over the Princess. Then Suthon rode away to battle.

With each passing day the whole court delighted in Manora's presence - so wise and gentle was the Princess; with a laugh like water and the grace of a reed. And while the King and Queen greatly missed their son, they welcomed his bride, and welcomed her intelligent counsel.

Yet, as is the case in the world, one was not pleased by Manora's influence, and that was the old Royal Counselor.

One morning the King seemed worried, and the old Counselor worked and urged until his ruler told what troubled him.

The King had dreamt that his own intestine had coiled out from his body, and had begun to strangle the whole of the kingdom.

Oh, now the old Counselor, felt like dancing, but he managed to look wise and concerned. "My Highness," he said sadly, with much shaking of his gray head, "It is a dire warning...the threat is near and threatens us all!! But what and who....?" He sounded even more sad as he said, "The Princess...she is a strange creature...from a far kingdom...

The King would not hear, nor believe, such of the gentle Manora. But when the dream came again he began to worry, and finally listen to the Counselor. For the Counselor whispered that Manora's gentleness was but a guise for something unnatural and dark. That she might even be plotting revenge for being stolen away.

Finally the King, nearly ill with worry and grief, ordered that the Princess was to be sacrificed in order to drive away the evil that was to fall upon the kingdom. Nor would he listen to the Queen's words of protest, but instead, locked himself away.

The Queen's heart told her that Manora was a pure being of truth and gentleness, and soothed the young Princess. Nor did the Queen waste time in having Manora's wings brought to them.

So, on the day of the sacrifice, when the gates were opened to reveal the pyre, Manora stood free. The Queen had made sure the Princess had not yet been bound, and the girl wrapped her glittering wings about her.

Wings that gleamed with fires all their own!

The light of the pyre glittered off Manora's feathers as she leapt into the air, and took flight.

"Go safely!!" the Queen called.

The King, watching from his window, felt relief that the girl was free - for he had no heart to sacrifice her. Instead he banished the old Counselor for urging such a cruel, and unworthy, coarse of action.

When Prince Suthon returned from war, and learned that his bride was gone, he swore that he would seek her; even if it meant that he would be wandering for all of his life. Nothing his parents could say would stop him, and so they gave him provisions and sent him off on his quest. He set off, following Boon's instructions, and headed towards the North.

The Prince came to a hermit's hut, which sat not far from the Bird Women's bathing pond.

The old hermit invited the tired young man in, and asked about his travels.

After hearing the Prince's tale the hermit pulled out a ruby ring, and said, "The Princess Manora left this for you, and begged me to teach you the prayers that would protect you from harm. I will also teach you to know the speech of birds and animals, for this too will aid you on your journey."

The Prince nearly cried with relief that his Manora loved him enough that she wished him to find her, and listened well to all the hermit had to say.

Seven years and seven days Suthon walked; through deep jungles and over mountains.

At the peak of the highest mountain a monstrous Yak reared up, blowing blue fire from his mouth, and lifting up great, clawed paws.

Suthon began to pray and the terrible Yak knelt before him.

Down the mountain the Prince went, until he came to a river of boiling fire. He knelt at its banks, oblivious to the heat, and began to pray.

From the churning flames rose a giant boa constrictor, which carried him across in safety.

That night, wearied and smoke covered, Suthon settled himself in the branches of a giant tree, which had blocked his path. He had not been sleeping long when he heard sweet voices, and opened one eye - above him perched two giant birds; the plumage of one was of silver, and the other of gold.

"I am hungry," the golden one said.

"Tomorrow we will feast," the silver one answered.

Suthon realized that the hermit had been right - he could understand the words of the birds!!

"True," said the golden bird, "No one leaves hungry from King Tumerat's feasts, particularly one in honor of his youngest daughter's return."

Suthon pretended to be still asleep, but when the giant birds tucked their heads under their wings in slumber he crept up the back of the golden one. For that night, and the rest of the flight north, he hid under the bird's gleaming feathers.

Once in the palace of King Tumerat the Prince hid himself near the well, and listened to the servants.

He heard one young girl say that she had been sent to carry water for Manora's bath. While she filled her jug he slipped from his hiding place and dropped the ruby ring into the golden jug.

When Manora saw the ring and learned where the girl had gotten the water she dressed herself in all her finery, and hurried to the well.

The Princess was delighted to see her husband, but saddened with the knowledge that her own father was angered by how she had been treated. Even if it hadn't been Suthon's fault he would now have to prove himself worthy. So, she ordered the Prince bathed and readied, and took him to meet King Tumerat.

King Tumerat studied the young man, and though he was still angry he was also impressed by the Prince's devotion. "If you wish my daughter as your bride," he said, "You must perform three tasks."

"I have traveled for seven years and seven days," Suthon answered, "I will perform any tasks you set in order to win her."

"Lift the stone bench in the garden," the king ordered.

The Prince went out to the garden, knelt in prayer, and when he stood he lifted the bench upon his shoulders.

King Tumerat nodded his approval.

He ordered the Prince to shoot an arrow through seven fig wood boards, seven palm boards, seven plates of copper, seven plates of iron, and
seven carts filled with sand. And though Prince Suthon was the greatest archer in the land he said his prayers.

The arrow hit true.

Again the King nodded. And said, "One last test remains...You must recognize your bride."

Prince Suthon almost declared he would recognize her in any guise, but wisely kept his lips sealed.

Seven identical girls were led out; each as beautiful as the stars.

After a heartfelt prayer Suthon watched a golden butterfly land in the sevenths hair, and it was this girl that he chose as his Manora.

King Tumerat held a great wedding feast for the couple, and sent them back to the Prince's home laden with gifts.

Where, when the time came, they ruled wisely and well.

Dubois, Pierre. _The Great Encyclopedia of Faeries_. New York: Simon and
Schuster. 1999.

Oxford Family Encyclopedia. London: George Phillip Limited. 1997.

Toth, Marian Davis. Tales From Thailand. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle
Company. 1971.

Web Sites

The Faerie Realm: Nature Spirits of the World. April 2000.

Thailand Information at Mahidol University, Thailand. Mahidol University. May 2000