Laos: The Boys Who Were Not Appreciated

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 Boys Who Were Not Appreciated

Once there were two brothers. The elder watched and tended the younger during the day, while their mother went to labor for food. It had happened that the father had died, and the mother had taken another husband who ever sought to teach the mother to dislike and neglect the brothers.

And it fell upon a day that the children waited and watched for their mother’s return until they were hungry, for all day had they had no food. When the eye of day closed, they sought food and found some green fruit. This they ate and then lay down to sleep.

Long after darkness had settled came the mother and her husband home, and the mother cooked rice which they sat down to eat.


Awakened by the odor of the rice, the children heard the talking, and the elder led his younger brother to his mother and begged food, but the husband said, “Do not give them of our food,” and the mother beat them and drove them from home. The elder brother carried his little brother back to sleep under the house, but even thence were they driven.

At last they sought and found shelter with a neighboring widow, who gave them mats to sleep on. As the eye of day opened, the two children set out to find a new home. For many days did they walk, and upon an evening they found a sala near the chief city of another province. There they slept.

In the morning the elder boy sought food and behold, he saw two snakes wrestling under the sala. Both were wounded. One, however, killed the other and then left it and ate some grass growing near and, lo, immediately the snake was whole as before. Waiting only until the restored snake had gone, the boy gathered some of the grass, and put it in the mouth of the dead snake, and forthwith it came to life and blessed the boy. Gathering more of the grass, the boy returned to his brother, and they both ate of it and were strengthened.

Not long after, a servant of the chow of the neighboring province came to the sala, and the boys asked, “For whom is the mourning in the city?”

The servant replied, “The young daughter of the chow; and the chow mourns. If any one will restore her unto life, the chow declares, unto him will he give half of his province and goods.”

Eager to try the wonderful grass, the boy carried his young brother and some of the grass even unto the chow’s house, where he sought permission to restore the child with the grass. Gladly the chow consented. The boy placed the magic grass in the maiden’s mouth, and immediately she came to life. Full of joy, the chow shared his province and goods with him and even gave his daughter in marriage, as promised.

And upon a day after they had lived happily a long time in that province and had grown wise and strong, the two young men thought of their mother and said, “We will go and visit her and her husband.”

They made ready joints of bamboo and closed them, after having filled them with gold, in such a way that no one could see the gold. When all was ready, with a great number of elephants and servants, they returned to their native province.

On reaching their home, they gave of the bamboo joints to their friends and relatives, one each, but to their mother and her husband, gave they five of the largest joints, and two of the largest gave they to the kind widow.

“The bamboo makes fine firewood,” they said to their mother. “Cut it up and burn it.”

The mother and her husband were angry and would not speak to the sons who had brought but wood as a gift, and sorrowfully they returned to the other province.

Upon a day the widow visited the mother and urged that she cut the bamboo joints.

“Your sons say that the bamboo makes a good firewood. Where is yours?” the widow asked.

The mother replied, “It is outside. Our children came from a great distance and brought to us but this firewood. We shall never touch it.”

But the widow urged, “I would believe and trust the love of my children. I beg that you cut up the wood.” At last they did so, and when the husband cut into the joints, lo, he found them all gold. Then ran they both to find the sons to thank them, but they were already too far distant.

Unable to endure their remorse, there the mother and her husband died on the wayside.


(800 words)











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