Nareepol (or Nareephon - literally "fruit women") fruit maidens are mythical creatures described in Thailand's Triphum Phra Ruang (Three Worlds Cosmology) scripture and other local religious texts. According to the Triphum scripture:
"Beyond this [area of jambolan trees in Himavanta] is a forest of trees that have women as their fruit; the fruits of these trees are very beautiful - they are like maidens who have just reached sixteen years of age. When men see them, they fall in love with them, and when they drop, the birds flock around to eat them like bears eating honey."
However, nareepol play an important part in other local tales. One of many exotic creatures in the legendary Himavanta (Himapan, Himmapan, or Himaphan in Thai), they emerge feet-first as fruit of a tree where they remain attached at the head for only seven days. Various temple murals and carved panels, such as those at Nakhon Phanom's Wat Okat Si Bua Ban, depict ardent young men climbing the trees, sword in hand, ready to cut down the nubile but impassive maidens. These lusty hermits are said to carry off the young women into the forest for their own pleasure.
In the Thai version of the popular Vessantara Jataka, while in exile in the Himavanta forest Prince Vessantara's wife Maddi finds sixteen makkali trees from which hang small, beautiful maidens instead of fruit. The trees were planted by the god Indra as a distraction for men so that Maddi would be safe in the forest while gathering food and water for her family. If a man, such as the reusee (Brahman hermits) who live in the forest, picked and had intercourse with a nareepol, he would lose his magical powers. Highly revered monk, Luang Por Jaran, says the fruit maidens are real and that when they fall to earth and shrivel up they can be collected by humans. However, only highly-attained ascetics are able to enter the Himavanta Forest where the fruit grows. He was given two nareepol while in Sri Lanka, which can now be seen at Wat Prangmuni in Singburi.
There are fake photos and video clips on the Internet of green, female-shaped fruit on what is claimed to be a "Nareepol tree" in Thailand's Petchaboon Province. While this is obviously a hoax (the specific location of the tree is never mentioned) there is a type of tuber or seed-pod found in Laos that is dried, carved into human shapes and sold to tourists, often in male-female pairs. Some of these are used as talismans in Thailand. Both versions of the talisman may be known as Makkaliphon ("fruit of the Makkali tree"), sometimes spelled Makareepol or Makareephon.
Sources: Triphum Phra Ruang, Royal Institute Dictionary, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk.
Copyright © Craig Emmott 2009. All rights reserved.