Laos: The Magic Well

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 Magic Well

The chow of a large province lay ill. All the doctors of many provinces were summoned, but none could aid him, nor could any understand his malady.

Lying in his house one day, an old man begged he might see him, saying he had a message from the spirits. Brought into the presence of the chow, the old man said, “Last night, as I lay on my bed, I had this vision. A spirit came to me and touched me and led me to the river’s brink. There I saw a boat prepared for my use. I entered the boat, and it was rowed swiftly by unseen hands down the stream. After a little time, it stopped at the foot of a tall mountain. Up this the spirit led me, and through which was no path. We journeyed until we reached the mountain’s top. On its summit were two great walls of rock, and between the walls was a gate, looking like a gate which led into a city. Leading me to the other side of the mountain, the spirit bade me ascend the rock where the foot of man had never before trod, and, far up in the face of the rock, I saw a small opening, like the mouth of a well. I lay down and stretched my arm to its full length, but failed to reach the bottom of the opening. By the side of this opening, on looking more closely, I beheld a cup tied to the end of a staff. With the cup I dipped pure water from the well. About to drink of the water, the spirit restrained me and commanded I should come to thee and tell thee this water, and this water alone, would heal thee. Therefore have I come, O prince, to lead thee unto this place.”

The prince did not doubt him but commanded the boats be prepared for his use. Taking with him a large retinue of servants and guided by the aged man, they departed in search of the health-restoring well.

After just such a journey as the man had described, at his bidding, the boats landed at the foot of a tall mountain where he led them unerringly upward, although no path could be seen; the chow, leaning on the arms of two strong men, followed.

There indeed were the walls of rock and the gateway as the guide had described, and, after a long and weary climb, they reached the opening in the rock.

Taking the staff of the chow and binding his golden drinking-cup thereto, the aged man dipped from the well and gave it to the prince to drink. Having drunk of the water and having poured it on his head and hands, the chow was healed of his sickness and was as a new man. And to this day, the water is used for the healing of the people.

(500 words)

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