April 8, 2008

Khmer Folk Tale : 11-The Polecat and the Rooster

Once there was a hungry polecat who decided to leave the forest to find food in a nearby village. He soundlessly padded his slender body through the fields, carefully sniffing the air for the smell of food. Through the evening darkness, he soon caught a delicious whiff of some tasty bird. The polecat looked up and there, perched upon a limb of a tree, sat a rooster sleeping with his head tucked into his ruffled feathers.
Now, the polecat wanted to eat the rooster, but he could not climb the tree. So he decided to try to trick the rooster into coming down. The polecat crouched his body close to the tree trunk and gently called up to the rooster. “Hey, dear friend, wake up! I bring you a special message from our Supreme Lord. Our Lord says that from now on, all animals who have hated each other must become friends and never fight again. We must all live happily together in peace and harmony. So let us both begin our friendship now. Come down from your perch so that you and I can embrace each other just like peaceful, loving brothers.”
When the rooster heard the polecat’s voice, he woke up quickly. He looked sharply down upon his cunning old enemy whose slinky body crouched against the tree trunk. Now, the rooster had always been a sensible bird, and he just did not trust that old polecat. He thought a while and then he slowly replied, “My dear brother Polecat, your message from our Lord is very beautiful, Yes, we should love each other and live in peace and friendship. I want to come down and make peace with you, but could you wait a few minutes, please? My friend, the dog, lives together with me here. He went out to the forest to find some food. Let us wait for him to return. Then I will come down from the tree and three of us can celebrate our new friendship together.”
Then the rooster stretched his body and opened his wings. He turned to the north and called loudly into the forest, “Hello-o, dear Dog, hello-o! Come home now! Our friend the polecat is waiting for you here!”
When there was no answer from the forest, the rooster called still more loudly, “Hello, Dog! Can you hear me? Please come right now. Our friend the polecat is waiting”
The wary polecat thought he heard the dog coming. He was fearful because the dog was his old enemy. So he began to slip his soft body away form the tree.
The rooster pouted. “Oh, dear Polecat, don’t go,” he said. “Please wait. Our friend the dog will be here soon.”
But the polecat fidgeted and cringed. “No, I cannot wait any longer. I must bring the message of the Supreme Lord to all the other animals”
And with that, the polecat scurried back into the forest. The rooster watched him go and then, settling his feathers, went back to sleep again.

In Buddhist traditions, people were often reborn as animals. Therefore, animals often talked and behaved just like ordinary people. Cambodian Buddhist monks used this story as an example of how clever reasoning can outwit scoundrels.

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