Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Might makes right!

As do cultures vary, so do some have brought to my attention lately ;) I know this, but I'm not always sure how though.

As I encounter various incidents on my own and read a variety of learning Thai materials, this is reinforced on a regular basis . Catherine’s post on the Sunflower is a perfect example of what I’m talking about...the way in which we can look at the same situation, but see it differently.

The other day I bought a children’s book. I wasn’t quite sure what it was until I got it home. After a quick flick through, I just knew that it had both Thai and English and it was for kids. So, should be easy enough for me to digest and appropriate to pass on to a young Thai/English friend of mine, once I am done with it.

It turned out to be a book of morals. One of them is ‘Might makes right’, an expression which is usually used in a less than favourable light. The moral, to me translates to: However unjust it may be, if you have enough power, you can demand, coerce, buy or extort the entity of ‘right’.

The story goes a little like this-

The Lion King and the wild ass decide to capture as many animals as they can. Not sure why the ass is in on the deal, because he's a herbivore. Anyway, guess who? uses his might and the other his speed, and together they collect quite a few forest creatures. Conveniently they fit into three sacks. The Lion King takes possession of the first bag of prey, and the ass, the second. When it comes to the third, the big cat says “I’ll take the third group too, because I’ll kill you if you don’t give it to me.” The story ends there, but I’m sure the ass says “okie dokie”.

A little harsh I thought, although it does clearly illustrate the meaning behind the moral. Nothing is lost in the translation...I is what it is.

Next is ‘Birds of a feather, flock together’, which pretty much equates to ‘like minded people are drawn to each other’. No! Not in this little book. Because according to this tale, the stork who broke his leg in the net intended to catch the cranes which are destroying the farmer’s crops, and the culprit cranes themselves “must die together”. Charming! Guilt by association.

Possibly a little disturbing for small children?

I know old English nursery rhymes and tales are full of hideous and depressing thoughts and notions, and even more so if you know their origins, like:

Jack fell down and broke his crown – referring to Louis XVI who was beheaded followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette (who came tumbling after). And, if the grapevine has it right, in one version, Jill was reported as giving an evil grin when setting her eyes upon Jack’s vinegar and brown paper.

Then there’s the shattering death of Humpty Dumpty, babies in cradles plummeting to the ground, beating starving children who are unfortunate enough to live in a shoe and people throwing heathens down flights of stairs...the list goes on.

The book is quaint, and Kestutis Kasparavicius does a wonderful job filling it with old world illustrations. I’m not sure where Scudder Smith gathered the compilation from and to be fair, only these two, out of six, are a bit ‘how ya goin’. The other four are good to middling. It also contains repetitive key vocabulary and sentence structures in the back, so, as far as it being a learning resource, it’s not half bad.

I’m pretty sure positive I wouldn’t have chosen these stories for my own children, even twenty odd years ago or my grandbaby, now. So, do I pass it on to some unsuspecting child and his/her parents...have I made another cultural faux pas, or am I over reacting?

Cheers! สเมป
See what else we're up to at Cooee!


  1. I'm with you there. I wouldn't give books like that to my grandchildren (or anyone's kids) but I have known of kids with rather 'adult' tastes. They get it from their parents (obviously).

    When my son was in first grade (5 years or so) his 'girlfriend' was in the next grade up (so she was 6ish). I took them to the local movie outlet and said that she could pick out a few movies for them to watch that weekend.

    I was shocked because the movies she chose were too much for me even. Violence, blood, guts, gore... scary.

    When I asked she said that's what she watched at home all the time. Truth? Or no?

    So it's culture by country and family I guess.

  2. Snap, As you said all childrens stories have a less than friendly history. The Brothers Grimm made a living out of it.

    I wouldn't be too concerned with passing it on as children don't think as we do they seem to skip over the implications.

  3. @ Catherine...that's quite a funny story. My eldest would have preferred those type of movies too, but I wouldn't let her watch give you an idea, she pierced her own ears in primary school, with a cork and needle and no ice. So as far as gore factor goes, I figured she didn't need any encouragement ;) I won't tell you about the day she put a large goanna out of its misery.

    @ Talen, I might just run it past the parents first, just to make sure. It just took me by surprise, what with the world being so political correct these days.

  4. "the day she put a large goanna out of its misery"

    Please do!


  5. Catherine, trust you to bring that up. Long story short, we had a wounded goanna that needed putting out of its misery. Number 1 daughter couldn't wait until her father got home, so offered to do the deed herself. Off she goes down the yard, with a sledge hammer...all I could hear were thuds from the hammer, each of which was followed by a yell. Turned out it wasn't as easy as she thought it was going to be.


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