Laos: One Woman

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

“One Woman
in Deceit and Craft
is More Than a Match
for Eight Men”

Chum Paw was a maiden of the south country. Many suitors had she, but, by her craft and devices, each suitor thought himself the only one. Constantly did each seek her in marriage, and upon a day as one pressed her to name the time of their nuptials, she said, “Build me a house, and I’ll marry you when all is in readiness.” To the others did she speak the same words.

Each man sought the jungle for bamboo for a house, and it happened while they were in the jungle that they all met.

“What seekest thou?” they asked one another. “What seekest thou?” The one answer was, “I have come to fell wood for my house.”

And as they ate their midday meal together, each had a bamboo stick, filled with chicken and rice. Now it happened that Chum Paw had given the bamboo sticks to the men and lo, on investigation, they found the pieces in their various sticks were the parts of one chicken, and with one accord, they cried, “Chum Paw has deceived us. Come, let us kill her. Each has she promised to marry; each has she deceived.”

All were exceedingly angry and vowed they would kill the deceitful woman.

Chum Paw, seeing the men return together, knew her duplicity was known and realized they sought to kill her. “I entreat that you spare my life, but take and sell me as a slave to the captain of the ship lying at the mouth of the river.”


Relenting, the suitors took her to the captain. She, however, running on before, privately told the captain she had seven young men, her slaves, whom she would sell him for seven hundred pieces of silver. Seeing the young men were desirable, the captain gave Chum Paw the silver, and she fled while the seven lovers were placed in irons.

Chum Paw fled to the jungle but, frightened by the wild beasts, she sought refuge in a tree. And it came to pass that the suitors escaped from the ship and they, too, sought refuge in the jungle. Unable to sleep and also frightened, one of them climbed a tree that he might be safe from the wild beasts and lo, it was the same tree in which Chum Paw had taken refuge.

“Be silent; make no noise, lest the others hear us,” whispered Chum Paw. “I love you and knew you were wise and would escape from the ship. I only desired the silver for us to spend together.”

The unfortunate man believed and sought to embrace her, but as he threw up his arms, Chum Paw threw him down, hoping thus to kill him. The others, hearing the commotion, feared a large bear was in the tree and hastily fled. Uninjured, the suitor whom Chum Paw had thrown from the tree fled with them.

Chum Paw, seeing that they all fled, ran behind, as she knew no beast would attack her while there was so great a commotion. As the suitors looked back, they saw her, but mistook her for a bear and ran but the faster, and finally they all — the seven suitors and Chum Paw — reached their homes.

Knowing the suitors would again seek her life, Chum Paw made a feast of all things they most liked and bade the young men to come. All the food was prepared by Chum Paw and poisoned. “I want but to make me boon [merit] before I die, so I beg you eat of my food and forgive me, for I deserve death,” said the maiden, as they sat in her house. All ate, and all died.

Chum Paw carried six bodies into the inner part of the house, and one she prepared for the grave. Weeping and wailing, she ran to the nearest neighbor, crying, “I want a man to come bury my husband. He died last night. As he had smallpox, fifty pieces of silver will I give to the one who buries him.”

A man who loved money said, “I will bury him.” When he came to the house, Chum Paw said, “Many times has he died and come back to life. If he comes back again, no money shall you have.”

The man took the body, made a deep grave, buried the man and returned for his silver.

Lo, on the mat lay the body! He made a deeper grave and again buried it.

Six times he buried, as he supposed, the body and, on returning and finding it a seventh time, he angrily cried, “You shall never return again.” Taking the body with him, he built a fire, placed the body on it and, while it burned, went to the stream for water.

When he returned, lo, a charcoal man was standing there, black from his work.

Filled with wrath, the man ran up to him crying, “You will come back again, will you? You will cause me this trouble again, will you?”

The charcoal burner replied, “I do not understand.” Not a word would the man hear, but he fought the burner, and as they struggled, they both fell into the fire and were burned to death.

Chum Paw built a beautiful home and spent the silver as she willed.


(900 words)









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