Wasinee Sutiwipakorn Topoonyanont (PhD) is a Lecturer at the Integrative Center for Humanities Innovation, Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University. She obtained her PhD degree in Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies from SOAS University of London. Her research focuses on human-nature relationships in Thai literature, as well as on ecological concerns represented in Thai, Laotian, Burmese, and indigenous oralities. E-mail: wasinees.topoony@cmu.ac.th


“Sudhana and Manohara”: The Influence of Eastern European Folklore on Ecological Worlding in Mekong River Literature

Abstract: This study, taking intertextuality and ecological worlding into the analysis, examines the relationship between humans and nature as represented in the Thai folktale “Sudhana and Manohara.” The story revolves around the romance between a human prince and a bird-like ethereal being. Stories of animal maidens appear across Arctic seas, from Siberia to Alaska and Northern Scandinavia down to the interior of northern continents and India. These routes reveal the compelling natural phenomenon involved in bird migration. This story of love, loss, and redemption manifests the cosmovision of how humans associate with natural phenomena, which guide them during celebratory seasons. A similar theme is shared from Europe to India and has reached Thailand in the form of Pannasa Jataka. In this tale, ecological worlding is turned into a Buddhist pedagogical narrative, reworking the “national geo-body” towards nature and more-than-human worlds within the borders of the state. As part of a society with globalized connections, the story has undergone transformations and re-articulations in fanfiction culture. The “Sudhana and Manohara” story has thus become a hypertext, constituting a liminal space between mainstream narratives and new conceptualizations of the natural environment. This paper argues that these folktales are worth exploring since they could contribute to reviving peaceful coexistence between humans and nature. Moreover, new forms of digital culture help diversify audiences and open new markets for individual authors to explore natural phenomena.
Keywords: Sudhana and Manohara, ecological worlding, bird migration, intertextuality, fanfiction