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Sri Thanonchai

Thai.  Name of a Thai-Laotian folk tale of the Lan Chang era which is also known as Chiang Miang. The folk tale is about a trickster called Sri Thanonchai, who can talk his way out of any situation, and who is good at twisting words and making people believe him. He persistently claims to be innocent and to do exactly what people tell him to do. The story is set during the Ayutthaya Period and describes the intellectual rivalry between this antihero and others, especially Jessada, i.e. the King of Ayutthaya. In that time, peasants struggled under draconian laws and authoritarian government, which Sri Thanonchai time and again subverted using his tricks, which were occasionally sinister or sadistic in nature, and most often through word play or interpreting orders too literally, e.g. when told to tie up his master's cattle, he hangs them from a tree. Eventually, Sri Thanonchai schemes his way into the royal court, where he frequently offends the monarch, yet remains there until his demise. The king several times ordered his execution, but Sri Thanonchai always escapes, either by deceiving his executioners or proving his innocence in court by demonstrating that he never told an untruth, yet was merely following orders. Despite many outrages, the king always pardons Sri Thanonchai, in part in acknowledgment, because no one could outsmart him, and partly in recognition of his service, as many of Sri Thanonchai's tricks also humiliated the enemies of Ayutthaya by turning their pride or greed against them, e.g. when a Burmese bull tamer challenged the inhabitants of Ayutthaya to a bullfight with his unbeatable bovine, Sri Thanonchai accepted the challenge and came to the fight with a calf, which the bull refused to fight, thus forfeiting the match when the bull left the ring. This Thai-Laotian folk tale is depicted in the murals of Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratchaworawihan (วัดปทุมวนารามราชวรวิหาร), a royal temple in Bangkok built during the reign of King Mongkut. See also POSTAGE STAMPS.