Three Brothers Went Fishing

Chiem Meng Saephan

Long ago there were three brothers. The oldest brother was lazy. He didn’t do any work. He only stayed home. His two younger brothers had to go work everyday.

In their village, people caught many fish, and the oldest brother asked the two younger brothers to go catch some fish for him to eat. But the younger brothers didn’t know how to fish.

They said, “You told us to go fishing, but we don’t know what to put on the fish hook for the fish to eat.”

The oldest brother should have told them to dig for worms, but he didn’t say the word ‘worms’. Instead he said, “You need to dig at the roots of the yams. When you see long white things, get them and put them on your hooks. The fish will bite at them, and you just have to swing them up out of the water. That’s the way to catch fish.”

The two younger brothers didn’t know any better, so they dug at the roots of the yams and found yam roots. They put the yam roots on their hooks and fished, but they didn’t catch anything.

When they returned home, the oldest brother yelled, “Don’t you have any eyes? Why didn’t you get any worms to fish with?”

The younger brothers answered, “You didn’t explain to us clearly. You just said to get the yam roots and put them on the hooks. We fished up and down the river, but we didn’t catch any fish. We caught nothing.”

The younger brother was very angry, and he poked the oldest brother’s eye. He injured his oldest brother. He said, “You didn’t explain to us clearly yesterday, and now you blame us. That’s why I poked your eye.”

Then the oldest brother explained to them clearly, “You need to dig near the yam roots. You look for the worms there. When you find worms to fish with, then you’ll catch the fish.”

Soon the oldest brother wanted them to go fishing again.

They went to get some worms. Then they fished down the river. They didn’t catch anything. They were getting hungry, so they cut down a banana tree and took the banana bud to cook and eat. But there was no fire to cook it with. They needed some dry bamboo.

In the old days it was very difficult to start a fire. You need to shave the bamboo finely. Then you hit two flints together. When the sparks from the striking flints landed on the fine bamboo shavings, you blew on the sparks until the shavings caught on fire.

As the youngest brother was walking to get some dry bamboo to start the fire, he frightened a bobcat out of its den. He called his older brother. They ran after the bobcat and caught it.

They started a fire and cooked and ate the bobcat. the bobcat meat had a lot of oil in it so they saved the oil and took it home to apply to their oldest brother’s injured eye. The eye was getting better, but the oldest brother was not satisfied. He blamed the youngest brother for damaging his eye.

”My eye isn’t like it used to be,” complained the oldest brother. He wanted to kill his youngest brother.

The middle brother was very worried. He told the youngest brother, “I don’t know what to do. Oldest Brother gave me a knife and told me to take you to the river and kill you.”

On the way to the river they cut a bamboo tube. As they walked along, they let the leeches bite them. No matter how many leeches got on them, they wouldn’t pull them off. They let the leeches suck their blood until they were full. Then they took the leeches and put them in the bamboo tube.

When they arrived at the river, the middle brother took out his knife and cut the leeches. He wiped their blood all over the knife.

Then he told his younger brother, “I won’t kill you. When I go home, I’ll show Oldest Brother the knife with blood all over it, and then he’ll believe that I killed you. Now that I’ve saved your life, you need to go across the river and follow the mountain range up. When you have traveled for a day, you will come upon a Mien village. At the entrance to the village there will be people doing a ceremony. No matter how nice it is, you mustn’t go in there. At the head of the village, there’s a hut where a widow lives. Her husband has been dead for two years. She has many children and can’t raise enough food to feed them. They’re starving. They’re strong, and you work very hard at home. Now you need to go feed those children. When those children grow up, they’ll worship you and burn incense to you.”

When he arrived at the Mien village, there were many people with good houses. They invited him to go in, but he refused. Instead, he walked to the widow’s house.

The widow asked, “Young man, have you come to my house by mistake? Down in the village, there are many good people with good houses. Rain doesn’t leak in. Look at my house; you can lie down and see the sky. Sitting here you can see the stars. Why would you want to enter my house?”

He told her, “The reason is that we went fishing, and my oldest brother didn’t give us clear instructions. He told us to dig the yam roots to fish with. We dug the yam roots, and we caught no fish. He said that I have no eyes. Even though I have eyes, I can’t see. I got mad, so I poked his eye and injured it. So my oldest brother wanted my middle brother to take me to the river to kill me. But my middle brother saved me. On the way, we took a knife and a bamboo tube. We let leeches suck our blood, and then we put the leeches in the tube. We cut the leeches with the knife so the blood would stain it, and my oldest brother would think I was killed. That’s how I was saved. My middle brother told me to come here to help you raise your children. He told me not to enter anyone else’s house.”

So that night the widow let him stay with her.

Toward the middle of the night, they heard people hitting drums down in the village. The youngest brother couldn’t sleep.

He said to the widow, “There are people doing a funeral ceremony in your village. This is a big village. Who could it be for?”

The widow answered, “Before you arrived people told me that the king’s daughter died earlier today. I’m a widow and don’t have any time to help them. But now that you’ve come to live with me, you should go see the king in the morning.”

Following the widow’s advice, he went to see the king the next morning. When he arrived, the king asked what village he came from. He told the king and said that he had to leave his village because his brother wanted to kill him. He was running for his life. His middle brother told him to come to this village to marry the widow. Last night he heard the drums and he couldn’t sleep.

“The widow told me that you’re doing a funeral ceremony because your daughter died recently. She told me to come to see you,” he said.

He brought along the bobcat oil that he had used to help cure his oldest brother’s eye. He asked the king, “Your honor, may I see your daughter for a minute? I’m going to try to bring her back to life. If I can do it then it would be great. If I can’t, please don’t get mad at me. Can you please open the coffin and let me see your daughter?”

The king agreed, and he opened the coffin. The youngest brother took the bobcat oil and applied it to the girl’s body, eyes, and mouth. She breathed again and came back to life.

The king said, “If you want money, I’ll give you money.” The king offered him money, but he refused.

The king said, “You’ve brought my daughter back to life. If you want to marry her, you may. Or if you want to marry the widow then that’s fine, too.”

The youngest brother told the king, “I don’t know what to do. My brother advised me to marry the widow. I’ll have to go ask her. If she lets me stay here then I will. Otherwise, I’ll have to marry her.

The king told him, “Then go ask the widow.”

He went home to ask the widow, but she wouldn’t let him go marry the king’s daughter. She said, “Your brother told you to come marry me. If you marry the king’s daughter then I’ll always suffer like this. The king wanted to give you money because you saved his daughter’s life. You shouldn’t take the money. But in the corner of the king’s house, there’s an old, broken chicken basket. If they let you have it then bring it home and give it to me.”

He went to tell the king. The king said, “I offered you money, and you wouldn’t accept it. And you wouldn’t marry my daughter. You only want an old chicken basket! Well, if you want it then go ahead and take it.”

He took the chicken basket home. The widow told him, “Go ask the king if he will let us build a house over there on that grassy hill.”

He went back to the king, and the king said, “If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t let them. But you have saved my daughter. You can build anywhere you like.”

When he returned home to tell the widow, she said, “Then let’s go there and look for a place to build a house.”

They went to the grassy hill to look for a place. They looked around and found three dead tree stumps close together. People had cut the trees down and had taken them away to use. But they had left the tree stumps standing there like a tripod.

The widow said, “We have to build the house here. Tomorrow night, take this old chicken basket and cover this stump. Stand against this stump and cover the middle one with the basket. Wait here all night with your eyes closed.”

The next night he went and stood against the old stump. It rained all night. Tigers came to frighten him. Ghosts came to frighten him. Elephants came to frighten him. Deer came to frighten him. Snakes came to curl around him.

The widow had already told him not to be afraid regardless of what happened. He didn’t open his eyes. In the morning the rain stopped. When he opened his eyes he was standing inside a big beautiful house.

He married the widow and lived in the big beautiful house and raised the children.

Later, unfortunately, the king died. So he became king and ruled that country.