Bryan Thao Worra’s Exploration of the Nak

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This isn’t a direct behind-the-scenes entry, but it’s pretty close. In Bryan Thao Worra’s poem “Stainless Steel Nak” in issue #1, he explores the Lao supernatural entity through a number of fascinating comparisons. In this blog entry from a year ago, he also does so through the Lovecraftian figure of Nyarlathotep:

In the glossary of On The Other Side Of The Eye in 2007, I explained that a nak is “Sometimes synonymous with Naga. Typically depicted as a many-headed giant serpent, as a river creature, and sometimes as a subterranean being. Nak are believed to help the Lao during wars, floods and are associated with fertility. Some say the Lao are descendants of a giant Nak living in the Mekong. To some, Nak are snake deities who converted to Buddhism and now protect the Buddhist Dharma. In art, they appear on the balustrades of temple causeways and platforms (“naga bridges”), personifying the rainbow, bridging the earthly and celestial worlds.” The Tibetan parallel is Klu, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Nyarlathotep is an “Outer God” known by many names and forms, including the Crawling Chaos. It first appearing in Lovecraft’s 1920 prose poem of the same name, he was later mentioned in other works by Lovecraft and by other writers of the 20th and 21st century. The form above is often referred to as the Howler In The Dark.

[…]

The Nak are not entities a Lao writer would present as villainous, because they are historically protectors of the Lao. (Of course, nearby mythologies take a different view of the Nak/Naga due to politics, etc. but that’s not necessarily germane to this discussion.) However, if we were to postulate how Nyarlathotep appears, it might come as Nak Dam, the Black Nak, which would be a parody of the traditional form of the Nak.

If we were keeping consistent with prior appearances, Nak Dam would most likely appear with a tri-lobed eye, black scales, and numerous tentacles protruding from a number of obscene, terrifying heads. Based on Lovecraft’s poem, we can speculate Nyarlathotep’s aspect of Nak Dam would do similar things it does in Europe and America, wandering the earth, gathering devotees by demonstrating strange, almost magical technology that eventually causes them to lose awareness of the world, of the passage of time, eventually leading to insanity and plunging the world into madness. A protagonist in Laos or a Lao expatriate community might possibly be trying to fight Nak Dam by turning to the dham, the truths and lessons of the Buddha and Lao customs to retain their sense of sanity. But would they succeed?

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