[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Laos unit. Story source: Laos Folk-Lore by Katherine Neville Fleeson, with photographs by W.A. Briggs (1899).
“To Aid Beast is Merit;
To Aid Man is but Vanity”
To Aid Man is but Vanity”
The hunter drew him out of the pit, and the man said, “I am goldsmith to the head chow and dwell by the city’s gate. Shouldst thou ever want any benefit, come to me, and gladly will I aid thee.”
As the hunter travelled, he met a tiger caught in a snare set for an elephant, and the tiger cried, “If thy heart prompts thee to set me free, thy aid will ever be remembered by me.”
He helped the tiger from the snare, and it said, “If ever thou needest aid, call and I will come to thee.”
Then again the hunter went on his way, and came to a place where a snake had fallen into a well and could not get out, and the snake cried, “If thou wilt aid me, I can aid thee also in the time soon to come,” and he assisted the snake.
“When the time comes that thou needest me, think of me, and I will come to thee with haste,” said the snake.
Now, it had happened that on the day that the hunter had rescued the tiger it had killed the chow’s child, but of this the hunter knew nothing.
And it came to pass that three days after, the hunter desiring to test the words of the tiger, went to the forest. Upon calling it, the tiger came to him immediately and brought with him a long golden chain, which he gave to the hunter.
The hunter took the chain home and, wishing to sell it, sought the goldsmith whom he had befriended. But the goldsmith, seeing it, said, “You are the man who has killed the chow’s child.” And he had his men bind the hunter with strong cords and took him to the chow in the hope of gaining the reward offered to any who might find him who had killed the child.
The chow put the hunter in chains and commanded he die on the morrow. The hunter begged for seven days’ respite, and it was granted him. In the night he thought of the snake he had helped, and immediately the snake came, bringing with him a medicine to cure blindness. While the household of the chow slept, the snake entered and cast of its venom in the eyes of the chow’s wife, and she was blind.
Throughout all the province the chow sought for some one to restore the eyes of his afflicted wife, but no one was found.
It happened on a day that word came to the chow’s ears that the hunter he had in chains for the death of his child was a man of wisdom and knew the merit of all the herbs of the field; therefore he sent for him.
When the hunter came into the presence of the chow unto where the wife sat, he put the medicine which the snake had brought him into the eyes of the princess, and sight, even like unto that of a young maiden, was restored unto her.
Then the chow desired to reward the hunter, and the hunter told him how he had come into possession of the golden chain, of the medicine which the serpent had given him because he had aided it in its time of trouble, and of the goldsmith, who had not only forgotten benefits received, but had accused him so he might gain a reward.
And when the chow learned the truth, he had the ungrateful goldsmith put to death, but to the hunter did he give half of his province, for had he not restored the sight of the princess?