BANGKOK — Chatchai Wisedsuvarnabhumi, the author behind some of Thailand’s most famous adventure stories and classic songs, died on Tuesday, his family said. He was 89.
Chatchai, known to his fans by his pen name “Panom Tian,” died at a hospital from a heart disease, according to an online announcement, ending the long writing career of an author who drew inspiration from sources as wide as Indian mythology and his own experience while hiking in Thailand’s uncharted jungles.
Chatchai was born in Pattani in 1931, but later moved to study at Bangkok’s prestigious all-male school, Suankularb.
It was in the high school years that he discovered a love for writing, and he picked up a hobby of writing fictions and showing them to his classmates under his chosen penname, which means “tip of a lit candle.”
After completing his high school, Chatchai went to study languages in India, where he was enchanted by its rich cultures and its plethora of gods and goddesses. The theme would go on to inspire much of his authorship, leading to his hit novels “Chula Trikoon” and “Shiva Ratri.”
A firearm and hiking enthusiast, Chatchai’s other works were crime, hunting, and detective stories. He was also a prolific songwriter, having worked with the Suntharaphon band – widely regarded as the definition of Thai oldies.
But perhaps his most popular work is “Petch Pra Uma” (Diamonds of Goddess Uma), a string of newspaper stories later compiled into a 48-book series.
The epic tale of adventures – a Thai retelling of “King Solomon’s Mines” – follow three siblings and their crew of hunters who ventured into a mysterious jungle in search of their long lost brother. The young man was last seen following a treasure map purported to lead to a trove of diamonds guarded by an evil sorceress.
Although much of the story involves adventures and dangers in the crew’s pursuit, modern readers may find the characters’ rampant hunting of wildlife animals described clashing with the present-day sensibilities.
Following a controversy related to a tycoon’s alleged hunt of rare animals in 2018, Chatchai himself said the treatment of animals depicted in the book belonged to a long-gone era.
“The stories were from the past,” Chatchai said. “It doesn’t mean people have to go hunting after reading Petch Pra Uma.”
Citing his contribution to Thai literary cultures, the government named Chatchai a “National Artist” in 1997.
Chatchai is survived by his wife and daughter. His funeral is currently put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Cultural Promotion, which assists families National Artists, said funerary rites will take place when the situation improves.