Laos: A Child of The Woods

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

A Child of The Woods

Deep in the forest of the North there is a large village of jungle people, and among them is one old woman who is held in reverence by all. The stranger who asks why she is honored as a princess is thus answered by her:

Verily, I have much boon, for I am but a child of nature. When I was a young maiden, it fell upon a day that my heart grew hot with anger. For many days the anger grew until it filled my whole heart, also were my eyes so red that I could see but dimly, and no longer could I live in the village or among my own people, for I hated all men and I felt that the beasts of the forest were more to me than my kindred.

Therefore, I fled from the face of man into the jungle where no human foot had ever gone. All day I journeyed, running as though my feet would never weary and feeling no pangs of hunger. When the darkness closed about me, I was not afraid, but lay down under the shelter of a tree and, for a time, slept peacefully, as peacefully as though in my own home.

At length, I was awakened by the breath of an animal and, in the clear light of the moon, I saw a large tiger before me. It smelled of my face, my hands and my feet, then seated itself by my head and watched me through the night, and I lay there unafraid. In the early morning, the tiger departed and I continued my journey. Quieter was my heart. Still, I disliked my own people but had no fear of the beasts or the reptiles of the forest.

During the day I ate of the fruit which grew wild in abundance, and at night I slept ’neath a tree, protected and guarded by fierce, wild beasts which molested not my sleep. For many days I wandered thus, and the nights were secure, for the wild beasts watched over and protected me.

“Thus my heart grew cool in my bosom, and I no longer hated my people and, after one moon had gone, I found myself near a village. The people wondered to see me approach from the jungle, dreaded as being the jungle of the man-eating tiger. When I related my story, the people were filled with wonder and brought rich gifts to me. For a year and a day I abode there, and no more the wild beasts molested their cattle.

But my heart yearned to see the face of my kindred again, so, laden with silver, gold and rich garments and seated in the howdah of an elephant, the people escorted me to my own village, and here have I abode in content these one hundred years.

(500 words)

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