Chiem Meng Saephan
The ancient people said silly things.
Once a young man was going with a girl and wanted to marry her, but he didn’t have any money to negotiate the marriage. In those times elephant hunting was common among the Mien, and he thought that if he could kill some elephants, he could get money by selling the elephant tusks.
Before he left on his hunt he asked his girlfriend to make a promise. “Whether you are dead or alive, wait until I come back here. I don’t have any money to marry you now so I’m going to hunt elephants. After I’ve sold some tusks, I’ll come back to marry you.”
He was away elephant hunting for years without being able to send any message home. Meanwhile at home, bad luck struck. The girl got sick and within a few days suddenly died. There was nothing the parents could do but bury her.
In the olden times, if a dead person was not the head of the household, the corpse could not be taken out through the doors of the house. A wall would be broken open and the corpse taken out through that hole. But when they tried to take the girl out through the hole in the wall to bury her, they couldn’t. The corpse’s hand would get caught on one side of the opening. When they loosened one side, the other side would get caught. Finally, they gave up trying to take her out of the house. Instead, they had to dig a hole inside the house and bury her there. This event frightened everyone so much that they all fled from the village to find a safer place to live.
After months and years away hunting, the young man was finally on his way home with elephant tusks. As he approached the village, he noticed it was quiet and spooky. When he got to the entrance of the village there was no one within sight except his girlfriend. She was waiting by the front door of her house doing embroidery.
Upon reaching her, he asked, “Where have all the people gone?”
The girl answered, “Everyone has moved away except me because you told me to wait for you.”
She prepared dinner for him, and afterward they went to bed together. But when they were in bed, he began to feel insects crawling all over his body. He looked at the insects and saw that they were blue! He also smelled something terrible. He realized then that his girlfriend must have been a ghost.
He tried to escape but his girlfriend wouldn’t let him. He didn’t know how he could run away from her. He finally said to his girlfriend, “If you’re worried that I’ll run away then hold this string. As long as you feel it moving then you’ll know I have not gone away. If the string is still, then I will be running away.”
Then he went to the water trough and tied the string to the gourd water dipper floating inside. The running water kept the dipper moving therefore there was constant movement on the string. After tying the string to the dipper he started to run away as fast as he could.
After a while when he did not come back, the girlfriend went to check on him. She found the string tied to the dipper in the water trough and not her boyfriend. She was very angry and yelled out, “You lied to me! You told me to wait for you dead or alive. Now you have left me behind and run away. When I find you, I will teach you a lesson!”
The man was very frightened and ran as fast as he could. After he had run until he was almost out of breath, he saw a hollow dead tree. He jumped inside to hide, but as he jumped in, he frightened a bobcat that was hiding there and it ran out. The ghost caught the bobcat, and, thinking that she had caught her boyfriend, she yelled to the captive, “See, you think you are so strong! But now I have got you, and I am going to teach you a lesson!”
The young man managed to escape and went home, but because he had been so frightened by a ghost his soul was scared away from his body and he fell ill and finally died.
This story teaches the Mien that people today shouldn’t say things that are too definite. For instance, they shouldn’t make a promise such as the one this young man forced his girlfriend to make.