Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is Love is Worth a Bit of Pain. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Pain. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Pain. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story comes with a warning! It is a horror story and it’s pretty scary, if I can say so myself. It comes from Thailand. As I mentioned before, I’m trying to include more myths and legends from around the world, and as Thailand is one of the highest visitors to our website, I thought I should include a story from there. What I found, though, when looking up Thai myths and legends is that a lot of them are horror stories. There are just a lot of them about monsters and ghosts and demons and all those kind of things.
I know that in Southeast Asia horror is a very popular genre. There are a lot of famous horror films from Japan, for example, that often get adapted into an American version, for example, The Ring. And I know these kinds of films are very popular in Thailand.
So it was interesting adapting this story. I didn’t know that much about the history that gives context to the original version, so I just tried to adapt it into a more, sort of, general, uh, medieval, old cultural background. So there are no specific references to Thai culture here.
Actually, the original story is just kind of a folk tale about this monster, but various details have been added in later versions to develop it into more of a story. So again, I looked at several versions and added my own touches. This monster in the story is originally Krasue in Thai, or Kasu in Cambodia, but I decided to change the name to make it easier to understand if you don’t know about this creature.
So, as I said, this story does come with a strong warning: if you don’t like blood, if you don’t like internal organs going in places where they shouldn’t be, please do not listen to this story, because it is quite gory.
I have to say, I usually hate horror films. I’m really not a big fan of horror. My sister made me watch one when I was younger called Cabin Fever and I hated it so much! It scared me so much. And after that I kind of just stopped watching horror films. I never wanted to watch them. Because even if I felt comfortable and, you know, not too scared while watching them, they would always keep me awake at night afterwards. I have a very active mind, which is not good for this genre.
Although I hate horror films, I do find horror actually quite fun to write. And it’s unusual that I enjoy reading horror stories quite a lot as well. I think not having the strong visual element really helps, because I’m not a very visual person. If I read a description I find it hard to picture how it looks, which probably makes horror a lot less scary. And generally, I’m more interested in psychological horror and that kind of existential horror, rather than scary, jumpy, slashy horror. When you can’t see it, it doesn’t give you nightmares!
There is a horror film I do really like, however. It’s called Cabin in the Woods. So the one my sister showed to me that I hated is Cabin Fever, but the one I really like is Cabin in the Woods. And the reason I like it is because it’s a very unusual horror film. It doesn’t actually follow the normal format and it makes fun of a lot of the conventions of the horror genre. I don’t want to spoil what happens in the film, because it is a really great surprise, but I really recommend you watch it if you haven’t. So that’s Cabin in the Woods.
Also, a horror novel I read recently that I really enjoyed was Misery by Stephen King. It’s about an author who gets caught in a snowstorm and crashes his car and he breaks his legs horribly, but instead of being taken to the hospital, he is rescued by his biggest fan, who adores his books, and she keeps him in her house and won’t let him leave. It’s very scary and very interesting as a writer myself.
OK, so I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
So, sneak. Sneak is a way you move very quietly and very slowly so that people don’t hear you. So if you’re a thief, sneaking into people’s houses at night to steal from them, obviously you don’t want them to hear you, so you sneak very quietly.
Intestines, so that’s I-N-T-E-S-T-I-N-E-S, are a part of the body that are inside of us. They’re like long snakes curled up in our stomach. And when you eat food it goes through the intestines, and the intestines break down the food. So they’re a very important part of our body, but they’re also a bit disgusting, because they also produce gas which makes us fart and things like that. Again, if you like intestines staying where they should be, and not coming out, don’t read this story, or don’t listen, rather.
Spine. The spine is a long collection of bones. I think it’s actually the most complicated part of the human skeleton. It goes down from your neck, down your back, and it connects to the ribs. So the spine is a really important part of the body. It actually contains a lot of nerves that control our body. If you break your spine you will probably die. If we something is “spiney” it means it’s sort of shaped like a spine. So it’s long and it has lots of bumps.
A nobleman is a person who is at the highest level of society, more or less. Noblemen aren’t as important in modern society, but hundreds of years ago noblemen were a very important class of people. They are below the rulers, so the kings and queens, but they usually have a lot of money and they own land, and then often have servants and they’re quite powerful.
Cicada. A cicada is an insect. They’re found a lot around warm parts of the world, so Southern Europe, and especially in East Asia. They’re insects that make a very particular crying sound in the evening. This is how it sounds:
And of course, cicadas are well known because they remove their shells. So in countries like Japan and Thailand you often find cicada shells everywhere at a certain time of the year.
A witch is an evil woman who does magic.
And a spell is a piece of magic. So, for example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, one of the first spells that they learn is Wingardium Leviosa, which is a levitating spell. It makes things float. But of course, Ron Weasley is very bad at pronouncing this spell properly, so he can’t quite make his feather float.
Finally, “relieve yourself” is a phrase that we use to mean “to go to the toilet”, usually to urinate. I mentioned in a previous episode that we have a lot of these phrases in English because we don’t like to talk about doing things on the toilet. It’s not very polite. So there are lots of phrases that we use instead. So “relieve yourself” is when you go and, uh, do your business! That’s another way we say it.
OK, so remember, if you’d like private one-to-one online classes with me, you can go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click “CLASSES” at the top. These classes are really fun. What we’ll do is we’ll create characters together. So I will ask you questions and we will write up the character, and then with the characters we will improvise stories. And if the stories are really great, we can put them on the podcast. I would really love to make stories with some of you. I think it would be great fun.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
Love is Worth a Bit of Pain
She knew what she was doing was wrong. She had known the moment she saw him. But love didn’t care about what side of a wall you were on, even if she was on the side of the palace gardens and he was stood in the ruined fields.
The war had gone on for years, but it only took a moment for her to lose to his eyes. They stared at her through a hole in the wall. She knew he was from the other side. He had the eyes of the Others, the Enemies. They were so bright that she could see her reflection in them.
They came together the night before the end of the war. He sneaked through the back entrance of the palace, and found every door in his path unlocked. The corridors led up through the wooden intestines of the place, right up one of the spiny towers, into the princess’s bedroom and into her heart.
The announcement of defeat came at midday. Soldiers had invaded the palace at night, finding the doors unlocked, and surrounded the king and his wife in their beds. They were killed like pigs, and the princess was brought kicking and crying before the winners.
Her lover was nowhere to be seen, and in his place stood a thin, tall man with a moustache like a rat’s tail and a smile like a snake’s tongue. A nobleman, one of the greatest of his kingdom. He was to marry her, and bring together their peoples after the war.
She could not refuse, but she could rebel. That night, when the palace grounds were silent except for the crying of the cicadas, she sneaked out the window. They had taken care to remove anything from her room that she might hurt herself with, but they had not removed her nails. They were long and beautiful, and strong. She stabbed them into the wood, climbing down into the gardens.
She wandered along the paths, hiding in the shadow of trees, until a warm hand pulled her into the bushes.
‘Your fingers are bleeding,’ he said, looking at her ruined nails.
‘It is only a bit of blood. Love is worth a bit of pain.’
Their second night together was twice as passionate as the first, but they were so lost in each other’s eyes that they did not see the guards approaching.
They were dragged into the palace, and the sleepy nobleman was brought before them, dressed in red silk pyjamas. His snake-like smile had turned poisonous.
‘Burn them both, at sunset tomorrow.’
The princess was locked inside her room. She cried and screamed and begged. Eventually, the nobleman came in, and she fell silent.
‘I know you are hopeless. Your parents are both dead. I cannot forgive you for what you did, but nobody deserves to die alone. I will allow you to see one person tonight, aside from him.’
She thought for a moment, and then said, ‘The old woman, who lives alone, several streets from here. She is called Dok Rak, and has always been like a grandmother to me.’
So they brought the old woman before her, who was really a witch.
‘Dok Rak, you must help me. Tonight they will burn me and my lover. Please, use your magic so that we may live.’
Dok Rak agreed, and in exchange for her help, took the princess’s fingernails. They were bent and broken, but the witch insisted.
The next day, they had built a great wooden construction in the palace gardens, to burn the princess and her lover on. She was tied to it, but her lover was nowhere to be found.
She heard whispers around her. It sounded like he had escaped. Her heart was filled with joy, but also fear. For if he was not here, he would not be protected by the witch’s spell.
Dok Rak, waiting for the man, did not begin her spell until the fire had already been lit. She whispered the words quickly, but the princess had already started crying in pain. Her skin turned red, and her hair curled up, and the witch spoke as fast as she could.
Just when it looked like the princess would die, she disappeared.
The crowd cried out. The fire was put out, and the palace guards searched everywhere for the princess, but she had completely vanished. The witch smiled, and returned home.
The princess’s lover had escaped in the morning. The men guarding him drunk themselves into a stupor, overjoyed with their victory, and fell asleep. He turned away from the city and didn’t look back. He ran until he found a horse, and then he rode. He tried to forget about the woman’s eyes, and his own guilt as he imagined her burning to death, alone.
Eventually, he reached an inn where he was confident they would not have heard of him. He begged for room and board, in return for labour, and the innkeeper agreed. He drank until he forgot about the fire. Before climbing into bed, he went outside to relieve himself.
He swore, and turned around. It was quiet, but he was sure he had heard a voice. A woman’s voice.
Eventually he made out a shape in the darkness. But there was something wrong with it.
His heart stopped. It was the princess.
‘Do you still love me?’ she said.
‘I… of course.’
He fell forward, and reached out with his hand. He still couldn’t see her properly. But he held her, and she felt warm. Far too warm.
He pulled away his hand, and it was wet with blood.
‘It is only a bit of blood,’ she said.
‘I don’t understand. How did you escape?’ He could see her eyes now, shining in the darkness.
Behind him, the innkeeper approached, carrying a torch. And slowly, he began to see the princess.
The man screamed and fell to the ground. He scratched at his eyes, but he could not remove the image.
Before him, she floated in the air. Her black hair was still long and beautiful, and her face was like a china doll, but the rest of her body was gone. Trailing from her neck was her spine, and underneath it, a beating heart. Intestines hung below, waving in the night breeze.
She smiled at him. ‘What’s wrong, dear? It is only a bit of blood. Love is worth a bit of pain.’
The last thing he saw was those eyes, and the last thing he felt was the beating of her heart pressed against his chest.
I hope you enjoyed the story. You can support the podcast by leaving a review on iTunes. Search for Easy Stories in English, give us a star rating, and say what you like about the show. It would really help us grow. Thank you for listening, and until next week.