In Praise of Star Tuskers: Domesticated Elephants and their Positive Images in Thai Contemporary Songs


  • Direk Hongthong Faculty of Humanities, Kasetsart University


Domesticated elephant; Image; Thai song; Surin province; Ethnic Kuy


Background and objective: Domesticated elephants, the national animals of Thailand,have been stigmatized for many decades. Their status is so low that they have been negatively labelled as “street beggars.” However, after almost a decade of their ways of life presented through online media, an opposite image has interestingly emerged and can be found in the lyrics of online Thai contemporary songs. This research aims to examine the images of domesticated elephants through the lyrics of Thai contemporary songs posted on
Methodology: This article is qualitative research. The data was selected through the above-mentioned website by considering only those songs with 10,000 views or more. Accordingly, 28 Thai contemporary songs posted on in 2021-2022 were analyzed. The images of domesticated elephants included in five songs are presented in this paper.

Main result: The study reveals seven images of the elephants, in descending order of frequency: (1) those that cause viewers happiness and contentedness, (2) as supporters of tourism in Thailand, (3) those that join in prolonging the age of Buddhism, (4) those that cause their mahouts and watchers auspiciousness, (5) those that carry on the elephant legends of Surin province and Thailand, (6) those that open mor al paths for religious followers to fulfill merit gathering, and (7) as shelters for th eir own mahouts and other related ones.

Relevance to Thai Studies: This research not only provides new data and research on the national animals of Thailand, but also academically highlights another aspect of Thai studies in the boundary of present-day Thailand by examining what relates to Thai citizens with different ethnic backgrounds, apart from previous research widely conducted on Tai ethnic groups inside or outside Thailand. Furthermore, this research hopes to amplify the voices of marginal animals and people and bring their obscure images to light in order to reach a better understanding among different ethnic groups of Thai citizens and towards stigmatized animals.

Conclusion: Those earlier-mentioned seven images are all positive and are from the perspectives of composers who pay close attention to the lives of domesticated elephants through online media. They then, through the lyrics of Thai contemporary songs, throw light on the significance of the social, cultural and economic aspects of these animals.



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How to Cite

Hongthong, D. (2024). In Praise of Star Tuskers: Domesticated Elephants and their Positive Images in Thai Contemporary Songs. Journal of Thai Studies, 20(1), 1–45. Retrieved from



Research article