Stamps

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These stamps were issued for National Children’s Day in January 2011. The cuteness of the drawings is in line with much graphic work targeted at children, and hence not surprising. But what is being shown is baffling.

The stamps depict four key characters. Khun Phaen (top left) is shown in the outfit which has become the standard way to depict a soldier in the Siamese past. He is leading his horse, Color of Mist. The background rather beautifully evokes the forest through which Khun Phaen rides Color of Mist in several passages of the tale.

But why are they going up a staircase?

Nowhere in the tale does Color of Mist ascend a staircase. Staircases are not usually found in forests. This particular staircase clearly belongs to a house not a forest path. Where did this idea come from?

Khun Chang (top right) looks chubby and cuddly rather than fat, ugly, smelly, and devious. He is shown at leisure, and the background hints at his house in representations elsewhere. This is the least ambitious but also most understandable of the four.

Phim Philalai (bottom right) is shown in the scene inside Wat Palelai where she is so moved by Novice Kaeo’s recitation of the Mahachat that she removes her uppercloth and presents it as an offering. Khun Chang is shown shadowly loitering in the background, about to copy her offering, which creates an incident.

Phim’s uppercloth is surprisingly voluminous but otherwise the drawing represents the scene well. But what an extraordinary choice of scene for a stamp for Children’s Day! This is the first point in the story where the sexual tension in the plot becomes explicit. The scene takes place inside a wat during a ceremony—in keeping with the transgressive tenor of this part of the plot. Phim’s removal of her uppercloth is just the most obvious element of the sexual symbolism permeating the scene.

Do the people choosing the scenes for these stamps understand the story?

Goldchild (bottom left) is flying through the air like a superhero. But who is his tousle-headed companion, also flying through the air, almost in formation? There is no hint in the tale to associate him with a particular companion (like Khun Phaen with Color of Mist). He often appears with crowds of other spirits, but generally spirits are not depicted as tousle-headed ladies. Has Medusa wandered into the story? Where in the tale does Goldchild have a playmate or a girlfriend?

 

 

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