March 21, 2008

Khmer folk tale : 2- The Golden Fish

Once there were an old man and an old woman. They were very poor. Their cottage was on the seashore. They were fishermen by profession.
One day, the old man with his fishing-net on his shoulder went down to the sea. He threw his net into the sea but he caught no fish.
Again he threw the net but there was no difference. On the third time, when he dragged out the net. he found in it a fish of golden colour and because of this he called it "The golden-fish"
"Have pity on me, good old man," said the golden fish, "put me into the sea. I'll offer you something valuable"
The old man was surprised at the fish's words. He did never see any fish that could speak like a man. Now he saw this strange fish which could speak the human language. So he lifted it up carefully and said, "May god be with you. Oh golden fish, I want to have nothing from you."
On saying this, he threw the golden fish back into the water with the words,"Swim away with joy!"
On that day, the old man had nothing for his wife. He went back to his cottage and told his wife of all that had happened.
"How foolish!" exclaimed the old woman, "why didn't you beg something from it? Our two water pots are very old, why didn't you ask it to give us new ones? "
The old man said nothing. He just went back to the sea and called out very loudly,"Oh golden fish! Golden fish! I come to meet you."
He called out and at last the golden fish came to him "What do you want from me, good old man?" asked the fish.
"My wife," said the old man, "is very angry with me; now she asks me to come here for a pair of new water pots from you"
"Do not get worried, good old man" said the golden fish, "God will give you a new pair of water posts, go back to your house, please"
Saying this, the fish was out of sight, and the old man returned to his cottage. He saw a new pair of water pots in his house, but the old woman was still unhappy. She was a bad-tempered woman. She therefore said to him angrily, "What a stupid man you are! What's the use of these wooden pots?" And she went on,"Go to the fish again and ask for a house, because our house is too old to live in.
The old man had nothing to reply. He went wearily back to the sea. This time the water of the sea became rather dirty.
As before, he called out again and again until at last the fish came to him and said"What's the matter with you, good old man?"
"My wife is still angry with me." said the old man "and now she forces me to askfor a house"
"Don't trouble yourself!" said the golden fish "Return to your house, god will give you what you want"
The old man was very happy. He went back to his house. There he saw no cottage but a large building instead. In it, there were many rooms. It was a building made with bricks, surrounded by tall tree and a lawn and a park. The old woman was sitting near a window. From the window, she looked at the old man was wearily approaching the building "You, the dirty beast" she said to the old man when he came near, "why did you ask for such a bad building?" Go back to the fish again and ask it to change me into a charming young rich lady!"
Again the poor old man could not refuse. He moved back to the fish. This time the water turned dirtier. The fish came to him and asked, "what is the matter with you, good old man?"
"Pardon me please," said the old man, "my wife wants to be a charming young rich lady"
"Never mind, good old man" said the golden fish "God will make her a charming and rich young lady, just go back to your house with joy!"
As the old man arrived at his house, he saw that a palace arose at the site of the building. In the inner room, he could see his wife who was now young in fine and costly clothes siting in the middle of servants: On her fingers she wore rings adorned with diamonds. Her shoes were shining.
The old man approaching her said, "Good morning lady; are you now satisfies with these things?"
But the young rich lady frowned and shouted at him "Go to work in the stable, do not come here" and the old man went to the stable.
Two weeks later, the young rich lady had a new desire. She again said to the old man, "My dear" she began, "go to the golden fish again and ask it to change me into a powerful queen"
Being afraid, the old man said to her respectfully "Do not want to be so, please; you are from a humble family, why do you want to get such a high position?" Are you ot ashamed of villagers? Limit your desire, my lady!" But the cruel young lady became more angry. She thundered "Who are you? Don't you know that I am now a rich woman?"
And she ordered him, "Go at once to the fish, otherwise I shall use my power!"
The poor old man fearing his wife returned to the sea. This time the water turned dark and the golden fish said as usually, "God will help her"
On that very moment, the young rough lady became a queen. A splendid palace with all kinds of pomp and amusement was in her possession.
"Are you now happy with your high position?" asked the old man. But the young cruel queen did not give him even a look. Then minutes later, he was driven away by deserve servants. Some of them said unkindly to him "You deserve this for your behaviour; you have to know that you and our queen are not equal in position."
The old man ran away. But after two weeks, the queen had another new desire. She asked one of her servants to look for the old man. Then the old man was brought in front of the who said "My dear, go to the golden fish again and ask it to change me into the queen of the sea so that I can be a mistress of the golden fish itself"
The old man did not deny her command. "He went to the sea and called the fish. This time the sea was in great waves. The storm was going on. The water became very dark.
After some time, the golden fish approached him. And the old man told it what his wife had asked him to say. On hearing that, the golden fish uttered no word. It turned away with its head down into the sea.
The old man waited for it. He waited and waited, but he saw no fish coming back to him. Finally he returned to his wife. But alas! There he saw no palace, no queen and no servant I instead, he saw his old cottage wiht a pair of broken water pots under it. And he saw also his own poor old wife sitting near them.