Vern Fey Saephan
A long time ago, there was a man who liked to trick people a lot. Everyone knew that he lied. When he married, he returned to visit his parents-in-law after the wedding.
The father-in-law was very bitter because everyone had been telling him about his son-in-law’s lying behavior. However, he was not convinced that his son-in-law was really a liar.
He wanted to find out for sure so he told the son-in-law, “Son-in-law, people have told me that you are a liar. Is this true? Maybe people just don’t respect you and me. That’s why they are saying this. If you’re really a big liar, then why don’t you try to fool me to see if I believe you? Everyone says that you can fool anyone, but I don’t think you can fool me.”
The son-in-law answered, “No, that’s not true. People are only lying to you.”
He had begun lying to his father-in-law already. He continued, “People don’t respect us, that’s why they say those things. I’ve never tricked anybody. One has to do good deeds; one can’t lie. I might have joked with people, but that’s different. Regardless of how good a trickster a person is, it’s immoral to trick people, especially one’s own parents.”
After his explanation, he told his father-in-law, “Father-in-law, at my house we don’t have any food to eat with rice, any lai* The stream is far from our house so there’s no place to catch fish. While I’m here why don’t we find poison and go poison some fish to eat?”
The next morning the father-in-law went to find some fish poison. Then he and his son-in-law went to poison fish in the stream while the mother-in-law stayed home. At the stream, when the poisoned fish died, they floated to the top of the water, and the father-in-law went to collect them. But the son-in-law didn’t help. Instead, he quickly ran back home.
When he got home, he shouted to his mother-in-law, “Father-in-law has drowned! He is dead! He is dead! Hurry and bring his clothes! We pulled him out and left him on the bank. I must go back now to help take care of things.”
He fooled his mother-in-law into crying and searching for the father-in-law’s clothes. While she searched, he quickly ran back to the river.
When he got to the river, he screamed, “Hurry, hurry! Return home! Return home now! The cows have licked the bird’s nest! Nothing is left; the whole house is gone!”
(Long ago when people told a story and said that cows had licked the bird’s nest it meant that the house was on fire. The ‘cow’ means fire and ‘bird nest’ is the house.)
He told his father-in-law to hurry home. The house had burned down, and he didn’t know whether the mother-in-law was alive or dead.
The fooled father-in-law stopped catching fish and ran home crying. The trickster fooled both the father-in-law and the mother-in-law into thinking that the other was dead. Both of them were crying and running to find each other. Eventually, they ran into each other on the path. The mother-in-law saw that the father-in-law was still alive, and the father-in-law saw that the mother-in-law was still alive. They met and talked and realized what had happened. It was all part of the son-in-law’s trick.
They finally realized that the son-in-law was a master liar.* lai is pronounced like the English word ‘lie’. It means ‘vegetable(s)’ but is also a classifier used for all food except rice and things such as candy. When Mien eat, they have to have rice and lai, so Lai is like a complement to the rice.