Nang Usa and Tao Baros, Their Love and Coffins in Muchroom Rocks

“No fortress is impregnable, nor any prison secure, for the mind can pass through any wall, no matter how strong it might be: and a young girl’s spirit is alive with desire, and old stone cannot think.”

“Thus it was that one fine morning, when the King and his entourage were making their customary parade around the town, an old woman with six fingers on her left hand, called to His Majesty and he turned and saw in her arms the sweetest infant girl that one ever might see.”

“So they called the little girl Nang Usa which means ‘the first light of dawn’; a name suggested by a fortune teller most trusted by the King. And she grew up in the palace, bright and beautiful; a joy to all from the first moment each laid eyes upon her.”

“Time passed and this flower of a child opened to become a darling and daring adolescent. But the King, so proud of his daughter, became fearful: fearful of her flirtatiousness, fearful of the young men whose eyes followed her furtively around the palace wherever she went.”

“At the first light of dawn, the hermit called her, a low croaking call imbued with all the years that the old man had spent with nature. He led her down to a small stream below the tower, and there commanded her to bathe. Nang Usa looked at him uncertainly, but when she saw him turn to avert his eyes, she drew confidence and did as he bade.”

“Nang Usa surveyed the eerie space and forbidding rock. We may surmise what she felt, but we may be sure she made no comment save perhaps a flick of her almond eyes at the old sage who would have seen and remembered. She climbed up to the little chamber, as the hermit watched, and once aloft she turned to look down, only to see him wander away.”

“To Tao Baros, this garland was more than a fragrance, but a scent that he must follow until he found its source.”

“He found Nang Usa’s tower just before dawn and it was with its first rays that he first saw her face. And she saw his, and by their first touch they were united. Thus it was that when the Rishi Chantra called to rouse her, their union was already complete and, in the window high above the hermit, it was Tao Baros’ face that first appeared.”

“The King, broken and friendless, was dragged before his new master and, as was now his right, Tao Baros chose from among his group he who would be executioner. And so, amid the wails of women and the beat of a drum, the King was beheaded.”

“And what of Nang Usa? Was she not both in shock and mourning for her father and bewildered at her sudden marriage to an alien clan? We cannot know, but we may guess that she suffered it all in graceful equanimity.”

“So Tao Baros left for the wilderness, leaving Nang Usa alone to face the vixens in the court. Helpless and friendless she at last could endure no more and so hired a horse to return her to her tower in Phu Pra Bat where at least the Rishi Chantra would speak to her, feed her and care for her.”

“But alone in her shelter she could find no solace, and fell ill from grief for her lost father and lost love. Her sickness became severe and the good Rishi could find no cure, and so, desperate to save her, he called Tao Baros from his forest retreat to come heal her heart.”

“On hearing of her malaise Tao Baros wasted no time. Abandoning his penance in the wilds, he summoned the fastest of horses to race to those ancient hills and her tower. But he arrived only to share her last moments before she died, and there in the mountains of Phu Pra Bat he buried her.”

“And with her gone, he too was consumed both in sorrow for her loss, and fear… for had he not broken his pledge to his father’s astrologers? Mortally cursed… he too passed away, and the old Rishi buried him beside her.”

“But in this Buddhist land no one ever dies. For their debt to Karma now paid, both were reborn, he as Indra, Lord of Heaven, and she as Indrani, his Queen. And in Heaven all is bliss, and within bliss there is no discontent. And, with no discontent, of this next life there is no story to tell.”

All quotes are from The Tale of Nang Usa as told by Julian Wright.


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