We illuminate some of the lesser-known accomplishments found in The Glass Palace Chronicle, one of Myanmar’s most important historical books. Let’s give an ogre-sized round of applause to…
By JARED DOWNING | FRONTIER
Hardest worker: Bedayi (6th century BCE)
After a Sakiyan prince-turned-hermit accidentally conceived a daughter (a doe drank his urine and bore a human baby, apparently), he was embarrassed at having a woman in the house. So the hermit sent young to fetch water at the river using a gourd with no hole cut in it. There she would stay until nightfall, day after day, trying to draw water.
Longest title: Alaungsithu, a.k.a. Siritaribhavanadityapavarapanditasudhammarajamahadhipatinarapatisithu (11th century CE)
Worst son: Atitra (1st century CE)
When King Atitra, a “doer of evil” came to his pious mother’s house to “sin against her”, he was transformed into a monkey and summarily stoned by his own subjects, serving as a warning to all monkeys thereafter.
Luckiest break: Nyaung-u Sawrahan (10th century CE)
Nyaung-u Sawrahan, a lowly farmer, mistaking him for a cucumber thief, struck and killed the king of Bagan. But by legal loophole he was summarily crowned by right of conquest (and he was actually pretty good at the job.)
Best elbow-drubber: The stone statue (10th century CE)
During the reign of the farmer-king Nyaung-u Sawrahan, a stone statue roamed the palace and “drubbed with its elbows” anyone who doubted the king’s claim. But when the king grew too boastful, the statue came out and gave Nyaung-u Sawrahan a drubbing of his own.
Biggest opportunity blown by translator:
Not calling the stone statue “Livingstone”, “Gladstone”, “Stonewall” or “Rockwell”.
Best death omen: Hkanlaung (3rd-2nd century, BCE)
Earthquakes, irregular movements of the stars, the appearance of an extra sun and visitations by ogres are common omens that accompany the deaths of kings. When King Hkanlaung passed, a giant shellfish dropped from the sky.
Runner up: Hkanlat (6th century CE)
“…About the time of his death an ogre wandered laughing over the whole country for full seven days; and the people who heard the ogre’s laughter durst not sleep.”
Best reincarnation: Nga Tinde and his sister (4th century CE)
When the queen’s brother Nga Tinde, a blacksmith of miraculous power, was burned alive by the envious king, his sister failed to pull him from the flames. When she died the two were reborn together as a brother and sister spirit (mahagiri) of a saga tree. (On the other hand, the spirits would kill any livestock that wandered under the tree, so maybe they weren’t great people after all.)
Most romantic man: Thubarit (12th century CE)
When King Narapatisithu took his sister to court with him, her husband Thubarit was “one dazed and lunatic for a full half a month”. The king offered him the pick of his household damsels, but no one maiden could replace Thubarit’s true love. (It took two damsels to satisfy him.)
Worst death: Tannek (9th century CE)
King Tannek loved horses and would slip down to the stable in the dead of night to gaze at them. One night the groom (with the help of Tannek’s concubine, probably jealous of the horses) shoved the king into a pit of burning dung.
Best prankster: Alaungsithu (11th century CE)
When King Alaungsithu, in his golden years, learned that his ministers thought him weak and washed-up, he sent them after a bandit that had been harassing the countryside. Alaungsithu then dressed up as the bandit and literally rode circles around them until the ministers thought he was a literal demon.