Impoverished Son

Fouta Saepharn

Once upon a time, there was a mother and her son who didn’t have any money and lived in poverty. One day, however, the son saw the king’s daughter, and he told the king he wanted to marry her.

The arrogant king, trying to get rid of him, said, “If you can get enough gold and silver to fill up my house then you can marry my daughter.”

Upon hearing the king’s words, the son returned home trying to find a way to get enough silver and gold to fill up the king’s house. Finally, he decided to trap birds and squirrels to sell.

Every evening he set traps all over the mountains and valleys, but every morning he came home empty-handed. All his traps had been sprung yet nothing was trapped. For several days the same thing happened so he decided to wait and see what was springing the traps.

As the Earth spirit went to each trap, he announced, “Birds, squirrels, don’t pass through here! If you pass through here, traps will kill you!”

After the Earth spirit warned the animals, he sprung the traps. One after another he sprung all the traps. But when the Earth spirit came close to the bush, the poor son jumped out and started beating him.

The earth Spirit begged him, “Why are you hitting me? Please don’t hit me anymore.”

The poor son said, “You sprung all my traps. I want to marry the princess, but I don’t have any money so I came here to trap birds and squirrels to sell.”

So the Earth spirit told him, “Don’t worry then. Just don’t hit me anymore. I’ll tell you how you can get silver and gold if you don’t hit me.”

When the Earth spirit was released, he advised the son, “If you want gold and silver, go make a steel cage. Take the cage and go to the top of this mountain where there is a rock cliff. Under the cliff, there is a shiny hole. On the morning of the new year, wait there with your cage. When you hear the golden rooster crow and peck at the lock—ting, ting—quickly put your steel cage in front of the hole. When the door opens and the golden rooster comes out, you can capture it.”

After receiving this advice, he let the Earth spirit go and began to search for the rock cliff. He went up to the mountain top where he found the cliff with a hole. He returned home and paid a blacksmith to make a metal cage.

On New Year’s Eve, he went up to the cliff. He waited there that night. Early the next morning, he heard the golden rooster begin to crow. It crowed “ka lae, ka lae, ka lae.” Then he heard the rooster peck at the lock—“ting ting” He quickly opened his cage and put it in front of the door. The rooster up and entered the cave.

Inside he found gold and silver piled everywhere. He began carrying it to the king’s house and piled it up. He covered the king’s house with it until it began to make cracking noises. Fearing that his house might break, the king gave his word to the man, “This is enough! If you want my daughter, go ahead and build a house to receive her.”

The son asked the king, “How big should the house be?”

The king responded, “Just build it as big as Yien Wai’s house.

Yien Wai was a very important politician. His house was twelve arm spans long. The son went to measure Yien Wai’s house. But every day by the time he measured just the front door, it was already dark.

After several days, suspicious Yien Wai asked, “Why are you measuring my house every day?”

The poor son told him, “I’m engaged to the princess. The king wants me to build a house as big as yours to receive her after our wedding.”

Unconvinced, Yien Wai jokingly told him, “If you really are marrying the princess then you can just use my house. I’ll move out and let you have it.”

The man wanted to make sure so he asked again, “Do you promise?”

Yien Wai said, “Yes.”

After he asked him three times, Yien Wai still answered affirmatively.

So the poor son went home and told the king, “I have the house now. Yien Wai agreed to let me have his house.”

The king summoned his servants to get a chair and carry his daughter to Yien Wai’s house. As they approached, frightened Yien Wai and his wife squeezed through the back window and ran away into the bushes where they turned into birds. The wife became a little red bird that comes out in gloomy weather and says, “Pun, pun.” The husband became a bird the size of a fist that usually stays in the bushes. It makes a “za’law, za’law” noise. They say that this bird is Grandfather Yien Wai. He says, “Za’law, za’law.” And his wife scolds him, “Song, song, pun, pun.”

The poor son married the princess and lived in Yien Wai’s house thereafter.