Thais Celebrate Sunthorn Phu, ‘Shakespeare of Thailand’ (Photos)

Students dress up as characters from Phrai Aphai Mani, an epic poem by the 19th century poet Sunthorn Phu. Photos: napac2519, Daranee_61142 / Twitter

BANGKOK — Monday marks the birthday of one of Thailand’s canonical figures of poetry and literature – and Thai netizens are composing tweet-length poems in his honor.

In recognition of Sunthorn Phu, Thais on Monday took to Twitter, making #SunthornPhuDay the top trending hashtag with posts of his poems, fanart, fan poetry – even student cosplay – as a tribute to the 19th-century poet.

In Phetchaburi province Friday, residents and local government officials held a merit-making ceremony for Sunthorn.

Sunthorn, who lived from 1786 to 1855, was a poet who served as a scribe in the court of King Rama III. He is best known for his epic fantasy poem Phra Aphai Mani which follows the adventures of piper prince Phra Aphai Mani – who wields a magical flute, escapes ogresses and romances mermaids.

To read Phra Aphai Mani in English, check out an abridged translation here.

The epic poem has been adapted into feature films numerous times, including the 1979 cel-animated film “The Adventure of Sudsakorn,” whose animator Payut Ngaokrachang’s vision was impaired from working on it. There’s also the 2006 live action film, Legend of Sudsakorn.

Known as the Shakespeare of Thailand, the Rattanakosin-era poet’s short, proverbial poems are well known to most Thais. Statues of characters from “Phrai Aphai Mani” can be found throughout Thailand. There’s a sculpture of the titular character and the mermaid at Sai Kaew Beach on Koh Samet, and statues of the ogress at both Koh Samet Port and Puek Tian Beach in Cha-Am district, Phetchaburi province.


@prince_tok quotes Sunthorn Phu’s Nirat Phukhaothong which recounts his journey to a temple in Ayutthaya.

A statue of Sunthorn Phu with offerings during a merit-making ceremony Friday in Phetchaburi province.
Students at a merit-making ceremony for 18th century poet Sunthorn Phu Friday in Phetchaburi province.
A statue of Phra Aphai Mani blowing his magical flute in the Sunthorn Phu Monument in Rayong. Photo: Matichon
The statue of Phra Aphai Mani and the mermaid on Koh Samet. Photo: Aviva West / Flickr

A statue of the ogress on Koh Samet Port, Rayong. Photo: Google Maps

Earlier in June, tourism officials and residents clothed the statue of the ogress on Koh Samet.

Statues of the ogress and Phra Aphai Mani, left, at Puek Tian Beach in Phetchaburi. Photo: Google

In this music video for the song “Ocean Butterfly (Can’t Stop Loving You)” Mintra Nanchao sings from the perspective of the ogress, who is spurned by Phra Aphai Mani after he sees her in her true form.