Laos: A Boy of the City Streets

This story is part of the Laos unit. Story source: Laos Folk-Lore by Katherine Neville Fleeson, with photographs by W.A. Briggs (1899).

“The Wisest Man of a Small Village
is Not Equal in Wisdom
to a Boy of the City Streets”

Once a boy of the city, watching a buffalo outside the gate of the largest city in the province, saw three men approaching. Each was the wisest man of the village from whence he came. The boy called to them, “Where go ye, old men?”

The men angrily replied, “Wherefore dost thou, who art but a child, speak thus to us who are old and the judges of the villages whence we come?”

The boy replied, “There is no cause for anger. How was I to know ye were wise men? To me, ye seem but as other men from a country place — the wisest of whom are but fools.”

The three men were very angry, caught the boy, and said, “We will not enter into the city, but will go to another province and sell this insolent boy because he neither reverences age nor wisdom.”

The boy refused to walk, so they carried him. All day they walked along the road, carrying the boy, and at night they slept by the roadside. In the morning, when they craved water and bade the boy go to a brook, he refused, saying, “If I go, ye will run and leave me. I will not go.”

Thirst drove one of the wise men for the water, and the boy drank of it freely.

Several days’ journey brought them to a wall of a large city, and night was spent at a sala near the wall. Seeking to rid themselves of the boy, they bade him go to the city for fire to cook food. Realizing their motive, he answered, “Should I go, ye will leave me. I will not go, though if ye let me tie ye to the posts of the sala, then will I go.”

With one accord they agreed, saying, “Do thou even so. We are weary carrying thee and cannot go for the fire.”

Tying them all, the boy ran to the city, where he met a man whom he asked, “Dost thou wish to purchase three slaves? Come with me.”

The man returned with the boy, saw the men, and gave him full value for each.

Having thus disposed of his captors, the cunning little fellow joined some men going to his native city, and as he walked along, he thought, “I was ever wanting to see other places, and now I have been carried a long journey, and have silver to last me many days ... surely, I have much boon.”

(400 words)

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