Preah Ream Ka Thnal - Preah Ream Building the Road

Big shadow theatre - Lakhaon Sbek Thom.
An episode from "Reamker"
Wat Bo Shadow Puppet Troupe supported by Cambodian Living Arts, 2010

Vocabulary Explanation

"The Ramayana" is an Indian epic tale known throughout Asia.
"The Reamker" is Khmer version of the Ramayana.
"Pethi Sampeah Krou" is a respectful greeting ceremony to deities, spirits, and teachers.
"Preah Ream or Rama" is the king of the Akyuthyea kingdom in the Reamker.
"Hanuman" is Preah Ream's monkey general in the Reamker.
"Krong Reap or Rawana" is the king of the ogres in the Reamker.
"Indrajit" is one of Krong Reap's warrior sons in the Reamker.
"Akyut Thyea" is the kingdom of Preah Ream in the Reamker.
"Langka" is the island kingdom of the ogre Krong Reab in the Reamker.
"Maha Eysei" is a Mythical sage and supreme guardian of the arts.
"Neang Seda" is the queen and Preah Ream's wife in the Reamker.
"Preah Leak" is the prince (Preah Ream's little brother) in the Reamker.
"Hor Ra" is a person who tells the future and knows things that simple people can't know.


Tonight the performers have chosen a small part of the Ramayana/Reamker story. The chosen episode is called "Preah Ream Ka Thnal" in Khmer and means "Preah Ream Building the Road" in English.

Before performers start any Khmer art performance, they need to do the "Pethi Sampeah Krou" ceremony first.

Steps of the Pethi Sampeah Krou:

All the performers come to the front of the cloth screen and stand in two rows facing the screen.
One of the performers standing in the front row lights the candles/incense sticks or both, and offers them together with a bunch of bananas or other kinds of fruit to the deities, and/or spiritual ancestral teachers.
Then a shout comes from the mouth of each performer, while the coconut shell pile behind the stage is lit.
While the fire behind the screen lit, two gods dance to represent the creation of the universe. Afterwards a fight between a white monkey and a black monkey symbolizes the conflict between good and evil. The black monkey is captured and taken to Maha Eysei. He is advised to change his way.

After the "Pethi Sampeah Krou" ceremony, the performance of the "Reamker" story begins. But, as stated above, tonight's performance is just one part of the story.

Tonight's episode depicts the conflict between the hero, Preah Ream of Akyut Thyea city and the villain, Krong Reap of Langka city. Several months before the story depicted tonight, Krong Reap from Langka city kidnapped Queen Seda of Akyut Thyea. Following the kidnapping, the armies of Akyut Thyea try to retrieve Queen Seda. The climax of the episode is the attack on Krong Reap's faraway island kingdom of Langka where Queen Seda is captive. The attack is lead by Preah Leak, the little brother of Preah Ream and General Hanuman, the leader of Preah Ream's monkey army.


Tonight's story depicts the first of the efforts to recapture Queen Seda.

Act 1 : Preah Ream and his monkey subjects plan an attack on Langka. They build a massive road that will enable them to reach Langka city. Unfortunately, before the bridge is complete, the soldiers of Krong Reap see what is happening and rush to alert Krong Reap.

Act 2 : Krong Reap asks his son prince Indrajit to rage a war against the monkey army. The soldiers of Krong Reab make loud cries to alert the monkey army of their advancing attack.

Act 3 : Back in the Akyut Thyea kingdom, after he heard this shout, Preah Ream orders to invite Hor Ra to tell what is happening. Then he orders Preah Leak, the younger brother, to prepare his armies for war against Langka armies, and Preah Leak leads his forces into battle.

The first fight is between the Langka soldiers and Akyut Thyea monkey army. The second is between Preah Leak and Indrajit.

Act 4 : Preah Leak fights against Indrajit until Indrajit has little strength. Finally Indrajit looses. Unfortunately Preah Leak does not get close enough to the city to save Queen Seda. Indrajit flees back to the kingdom of Langka and shouts over his shoulder that Preah Leak and his monkey troops are nothing but a bunch of girls and that he would rather fight Preah Ream himself. After that both armies return to their cities promising to have a fight again in 7 days.

The End of the Episode...

Several months later Preah Ream's army defeats Krong Reap's soldiers and frees Queen Seda.