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Mahakap Thao Hung Thao Cheuang [Thao Hung Thao Cheuang Epic], vol. 1, edited and adapted into modern Lao prose by Douangdeuane Bounyavong, Othong Kham Inxou, & Somphay Vilaysack

Vientiane: Ho Samut Hêng Chat [National Library] & The Toyota Foundation, 2000, viii+402 p.
Frédéric Maurel
p. 152
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Mahakap Thao Hung Thao Cheuang [Thao Hung Thao Cheuang Epic], vol. 1, edited and adapted into modern Lao prose by Douangdeuane Bounyavong, Othong Kham Inxou, & Somphay Vilaysack, Vientiane: Ho Samut Hêng Chat [National Library] & The Toyota Foundation, 2000, viii+402 p.

Texte intégral

1This is the first volume of the Thao Hung Thao Cheuang epic, edited and adapted into modern Lao prose. It is based on a manuscript discovered in the National Library in Bangkok by Maha Sila Viravong (a prominent figure of Lao historiography and philology), who published a transcription into Thai script on the occasion of a funerary ceremony in 1943. The manuscript was later transcripted into Lao script and published in 1988 by the National Research Institute for Art and Culture (Ministry of Information and Culture, Vientiane).

2The Thao Hung Thao Cheuang is generally considered one of the greatest texts of Lao literature. It recounts the life and battles of a part-historical, part-mythical character, Thao Hung or Thao Cheuang (thao means “king” or “lord”), son of Khun Chomtham, a ruler of the Suantan or Nakhong kingdom. From a philological viewpoint, this text is important because it contains data on early historical and religious structures and on origin myths of the Tai people. For this reason, this new edition in modern Lao is very welcome.

3This first volume includes a short introduction in Lao (pp. 1-11) and English (pp. 12-16), the foreword by Maha Sila Viravong to the 1988 edition, in Lao (pp. 17-30) and English (pp. 31-41), various maps and tables (pp. 42-59), an update on the question of pronouns and personal names (pp. 60-67), the text of the epic, with the Lao transcription and its modern adaptation on opposite pages (pp. 69-378), and a useful selective glossary including words now obsolete in modern Lao and Thai (pp. 380-401).

4The Lao transcription is virtually the same as that published in 1988—apart from a few changes and minor adjustments—and is correctly transliterated. I must express one major reservation, however, about the overall procedure used in this first volume: There is no systematic critical apparatus. I assume that the critical notes usually found accompanying such a text have been transferred to the forthcoming second volume. As for the adaptation into modern Lao prose, it is really a tour de force, as the interpretation of such texts is made difficult by numerous terms and phrases that very often are opaque, polysemous, and ambiguous. This is why the authors, like other scholars having had to deal with such problems, present their work as “paraphrase” (pp. 15 et seq.). Indeed, despite numerous dictionaries and glossaries dealing with Tai languages (Lao, Siamese, Thai dam, etc.) and published during the last few decades, there will never be a consensus on the meaning of some archaic terms and phrases.

5Although for a definitive assessment it will be necessary to wait for the release of the second volume, this edition, on the basis of what is offered here, promises to be a valuable contribution to the ever-expanding universe of Thao Hung Thao Cheuang studies.

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Frédéric Maurel, « Mahakap Thao Hung Thao Cheuang [Thao Hung Thao Cheuang Epic], vol. 1, edited and adapted into modern Lao prose by Douangdeuane Bounyavong, Othong Kham Inxou, & Somphay Vilaysack », Moussons, 5 | 2002, 152.

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Frédéric Maurel, « Mahakap Thao Hung Thao Cheuang [Thao Hung Thao Cheuang Epic], vol. 1, edited and adapted into modern Lao prose by Douangdeuane Bounyavong, Othong Kham Inxou, & Somphay Vilaysack », Moussons [En ligne], 5 | 2002, mis en ligne le 08 juillet 2014, consulté le 25 mars 2017. URL : http://moussons.revues.org/2794

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