[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).
A Wise Philosopher
“Come,” said the trader, and as they journeyed, they came to a place where there were many stones; indeed there was naught else to be seen.
“Here are there no stones,” said the poor young man.
“You are right, here are no stones,” replied the trader.
Soon they reached the shade of a large forest, and the young man said, “Here are no trees.”
“You are right, here are no trees,” the trader assented.
When they reached a large village, the poor young man said, “Here are no people.”
“You are right,” spake the trader, but he wondered what manner of man might he be who knows nothing and has neither eyes nor ears. However, as he returned home and the poor young man begged to accompany him, he agreed and took him with him.
And, as they approached the trader’s home his daughter called, “O father, what have you brought?”
“Nothing but this foolish young man,” answered the trader.
“Why do you call him a fool?” asked the daughter. “By his appearance and manner, I would judge he were the god of wisdom come down in man’s form.”
“I can see no wisdom in one who, when he can see but stones, says, ‘There are no stones here,’ or, when he is in the forest, says, ‘Here are no trees,’ or, when in the midst of a populous village, says, ‘There is no man here,’” replied the trader.
“He meant where the stones were all about that none were precious; where the forest was that there was no teak, no wood good for man’s use; and where the village was there were no people, as the people had all fallen away from the religion of Buddha, living but as beasts and making no merit for the future life,” argued the daughter.
“If you esteem him so highly, take him for your husband,” said the trader.
“If your daughter will have me as her husband, ever will I endeavor to make the path on which she treads smooth and beautiful for her feet,” cried the poor young man.
They were married and lived happily, and, upon a time, the head chow summoned the trader to come watch his house during the night. Greatly was the trader troubled. “I shall die this night,” cried the trader.
“Why shall you die, my father?” asked the son-in-law, in great concern.
“The chow has called me to watch this night, and for some time past he has killed all who have watched for him; an evil spirit has possessed him, and he loves to punish with death the watchmen, for he falsely says they sleep and he has them killed but to satisfy the spirit in him,” answered the trader.
“I will watch in thy stead,” said the son-in-law. And fearlessly did he go to the chow’s, and when midnight was come and the chow descended secretly to see if the watchman slept, lo, the young man prayed aloud for the god of wisdom to come teach him what to do.
The chow, hearing the sound of voices, listened, and heard one voice say, “The brave and the strong govern themselves; then have they the power to govern others. The wise make themselves loved because they are good and true, and are served by others through love and not through fear,” and another voice steadily repeated the words.
Three times during the night came the chow. Each time the voice was speaking and being answered and, lo, when the eye of day opened in the East, the chow was found possessed of a kind and loving spirit and no longer desired to destroy his people.
The young son-in-law of the trader was made a leader of the people, for the chow declared unto all that the spirit of the god of wisdom dwelt in the young man’s heart, and it came to pass that the whole land was blessed because one young man had learned of the god of wisdom.