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Phra Abhai Mani

Part Three : The Giantess's Revenge


S ILARAJ's ship set sail, its motley cargo comprising passengers and crew of many races and nationalities. The Prince had arranged things well. His own suite was amidships, while ladies and gentlemen of the court were in the bow and Phra Abhai Mani and the other men in the stern.

Sin Samudr, of course, was with his adopted "mother." But every now and then he found opportunity to come and see his father. On these occasions, Phra Abhai Mani eagerly asked him how he was faring and avidly enquired news of Suvarnamali. He learned that she had noticed his attentions and the fact that he had "a sharp eye" for the ladies; but otherwise she appeared to be favourably impressed. This encouraged him to confide in his son that when they reached land he would offer her his services. He also discovered that Suvarnamali had given his son one of her scarves. This he borrowed of him, saying that he would keep it to remember the sweet lady by.

When Sin Samudr returned to Suvarnamali's cabin, she called him to her couch and embraced him. At once, she noticed that he was not wearing the scarf and asked him what he had done with it. Sin Samudr replied that he had put it in his box. She would not believe him and told him not to try to deceive her. So he confessed and told her all that his father had said, including the offer of his services.

Suvarnamali was deeply touched, but said : "Do not say such things. If other people hear of it, there will be a scandal. Besides, it is impossible for me to accept his offer, because as soon as we get back, I am to be married to the son of the King of Lanka, according to the wishes of my father. But you may tell your father how much I esteem him and would wish to regard him as a brother."

Sin Samudr was angry. With childish temper, he cried, "Why should you be made to marry a foreigner? I will not let you! I will fight for you! I want you for my father!"

Suvarnamali had to calm him down. "It is late," she said softly. "Do not speak so loudly and stop boasting!" With that, she made him lie down on her couch and he fell fast asleep.

The next morning, Sin Samudr rose with a heavy heart, took leave of Suvarnamali and went straight to his father. He told him what Suvarnamali had said the night before. Phra Abhai Mani was full of grief and could scarcely restrain his tears. He recoiled at the thought of losing the only real normal woman he had ever loved. There and then, he made up his mind to woo and win her, to fight for her, to elope with her if necessary. He told his son to go to Suvarnamali to plead his cause.

Sin Samudr obeyed his father's instructions. In the presence of Suvarnamali, he wept as if his little heart would break. Suvarnamali, amazed and frightened, asked: "What is the matter with you? Stop crying and tell your mother everything. She loves you as much as life itself, and will grant your every wish."

Sin Samudr answered through his tears: "It is because you are so hard-hearted that you will kill Father and kill me too."

Suvarnamali wondered, and questioned the boy further.

"Father's heart is broken," he explained, sobbing without shame. "He does not know what to do. You have rejected his proposal and prefer to accept the love of the Prince of Lanka. So he no longer has any desire to live. We have decided to jump overboard together at sunset."

Suvarnamali in her innocence believed the boy and was alarmed by what he had said. Her fear overcoming her modesty, she begged him to go and tell his father not to commit such a rash deed. "Tell him," she said, "that I was only saying what was true. But if in spite of that he still has affection for me and is importunate, you may say anything comes into your clever little head, but whatever you do, do not jump overboard." Sin Samudr was pleased beyond measure and stopped crying immediately. "I shall tell Father what you have said," he exclaimed. He jumped up and ran to his father. When he had heard all, Phra Abhai Mani was filled with joy. He took from his finger a diamond ring of seven carats, and handed it to his son, saying : "Give this to the Princess, and beg to let me have in exchange the necklace that she wears."

Sin Samudr, the busy messenger, carried out his father's instructions. In a short while, Suvarnamali was wearing the diamond ring, and Phra Abhai Mani, in possession of the necklace, felt as happy as if he had the Princess herself.

All the while that Phra Abhai Mani and Sin Samudr were on the enchanted island, Pisua Samudr the Giantess lived in despair and waited only for the day when her erring human husband might again fall into her clutches. She set her sea sprites and hobgoblins to keep close watch on the island for any attempt he might make to escape.

Accordingly, when Silaraj's ship set sail, her minions went post-haste to inform her. Pisua Samudr lost little time in setting out to intercept the ship which carried her husband and her son, now no longer under the kindly protection of the sorcerer-hermit. She called together her train of sea ghosts and devils and scattered them before her to comb the ocean.

It was on the fifteenth day that they made contact. Silaraj's ship had thus far made an uneventful voyage with favourable winds and calm seas. That evening, an island came within sight on the horizon, capped by a majestic peak resembling a cloud. But as soon as shades of night fell, a fearful storm arose and engulfed the ship. The wind howled in the rigging and waves lashed the decks. The vehemence of the tempest increased with the lateness of the hour. The vessel tossed helplessly with its rudder out of control. On top of this, the first of Pisua Samudr's ghosts and devils began to arrive and hovered round the ship. The passengers and crew were mortally afraid and fell to their prayers. The ghosts and

devils remained at a distance, mocking them by making their eyes bulge and putting out their tongues.

Shortly before dawn, the towering figure of the Giantess herself appeared beside the ship. She was shouting and gesticulating. At this, her ghosts and devils were emboldened and approached the ill-fated vessel. Members of the crew stood up and fired their muskets, but to little purpose. The invulnerable Giantess drew close and seized the rudder. Under the weight of her grasp and the lashing of the waves, the ship capsized, throwing all on board into the sea. The ladies of the court, the gentlemen-in-waiting, the seamen, were all struggling in the water. Those who could not swim sank from sight. Others immediately fell prey to sharks that collected round the swirling mass in anticipation of a feast. The more fortunate ones got on to the backs of porpoises. As for Suvarnamali, she was rescued in the nick of time by Sin Samudr, who bore her away to safety.

Phra Abhai Mani seized hold of a door panel that was floating above that waves. With the aid of this, he made his way towards the island and reached it just as the sun was rising. Pisua Samudr had missed him in the general confusion. She had tried to catch her son; but Sin Samudr, who inherited the dexterity of his father and the aquatic skill of his mother, successfully evaded her. Now she saw her husband on the beach of the island, and was coming towards him with tremendous strides. Phra Abhai Mani did not hesitate. He ran towards the mountain whose peak he had seen the evening before. He reached it and began to climb. Pisua Samudr followed in hot pursuit, but slipped and fell, and so Phra Abhai Mani just managed to escape her reach. She was unable to climb the mountain because it was too slippery for her. So the unfortunate Giantess remained at the foot of the mountain appealing to her unwilling husband to come down.

"My husband, my handsome husband," she cried piteously, "why are you afraid, and try to hide yourself from me? I have been trying to follow you all this time. Come to your wife. Do not neglect her or be angry with her." Phra Abhai Mani was too preoccupied with the question of his own safety to pay any attention to her. He climbed up as high as he could, and then sat down to pray to deliverance. He was soon joined by a hundred other fellow-travellers who had also escaped both the sharks and the Giantess.

When he saw that his position was secure, Phra Abhai Mani stepped to the edge of the precipice and looked down on Pisua Samudr. They held a long parley together, he persuading her to give up the pursuit, she begging him to descend from the mountain.

In the end, the patience of the Giantess was exhausted. Seeing that pleadings no longer served her ~urn, she decided to resort to other weapons. Summoning up her supernatural powers, she caused a heavy shower of rain to fall on the mountain, until Phra Abhai Mani and his followers were soaked through to the skin. As if that were not enough, she also caused hailstones to fall on them.

Phra Abhai Mani hurriedly took counsel of his followers. His love and pity for Pisua Samudr were at an end. He came to the conclusion that the best course would be for him to play his magic flute, which he always kept on his person, until the Giantess was overcome. His followers immediately agreed with him, and he ordered them to stop up their ears while he played.

Taking up the flute in his hands, Phra Abhai Mani again went forward to the edge of the precipice and, after uttering the appropriate prayer, began to play. The melody that he played touched and stirred the heartstring of Pisua Samudr. To her it was at once ecstasy and agony, sweetness and bitterness, joy and despair. As she listened, she fell into a swoon. When the last notes re-echoed in the hills, the Giantess died of a broken heart, and her body turned into stone.


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