Lao Folklore Story #2 Bamboo & Orphan


We are members of Japanese volunteer group which is researching and translating folklores of Laos, a land locked country in the South-East Asia. (more detail)

This time, we completed English translation of the story, named “Bamboo & Orphan”.

This story has researched by Dr. Taizo Yokoyama, Ms.Suk Suda at Bun Pao village in Luang Prabang province with a voluntary support of translation from Ms.Mei Kuroiwa, Ms. Reika and Ms. Mayako Tsuchiya.

Illustration : Ayaha Funakoshi

A long time ago, there was a poor family of mother, father, and their son. One day, the parents died while catching fish in Nam Pa river.
The son who lost both parents was called “Tao Kampouy” (ທ້າວກຳພອຍ, goong rok in Khmu))in his village. He had neither money, nor home to live. He was just travelling from forest to forest, mountain to mountain, walking and walking from early morning until the sky became dark.

For the whole day, he had no food. He collapsed at his knee, muttering, “Aouy, I am really tired. Aouy, I am really hungry”.

He found a village, which seemed to have many people living. He visited the village, then saw a daughter of “millionaire” (Sedthi)eating rice. He was so hungry that he approached to the Sedthi and said, “Aouy, I’m so hungry. Can I have some rice to eat?”.

When Sedthi noticed the voice and turned back to him, saying. “go away, poor miserable boy! Don’t come close to my house. I am a rich girl who is not suitable for you. You are alone and a wandering begger. Please disappear from my sight right now!”.

When he was forced to go out, he had no idea where to go. He began walking anyway, but soon he felt tired and hungry again. He started crying but no one helped him in the village. He lay down on the ground in the dark, and looked up at the sky.

Mother, Father… Please help me. I’m so hungry, papa, mama”.

Then, he noticed a bamboo forest nearby. He came up with an idea to make a fireplace and to grill and eat bamboo shoots instead of rice. There were a lot of bamboo shoots, so it was not so difficult to find food in the woods.

He made a fireplace by cutting old bamboo, then ate the bamboo shoots he collected. He was able to eat so many bamboo shoots that he felt sleepy. He was exhausted as well, then falling into asleep next to the fireplace.

While he was sleeping, he was dreaming.

In his dream, he met “Miss bamboo” Nang normai. She came to talk to him nearby fireplace.

”Kampouy, can you stay here with me? If you climb up this mountain, there are dangerous bandit. Also, if you go down to the city, there are many mean cheaters and greedy merchants who hurt you. I will make a nice bamboo house for you to stay in. Here is safe place for you. I will also make musical flut by bamboo for you. I can also help you to make kitchen utensils. Do you want to stay?”.

He replied to her.

“Thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness”.

Then, a boy and a girl of almost the same age came out of bamboo, and started talking to bamboo on the ground.

“you are bamboo, always help poor people”.

Many things were coming out from the bamboo. Fishing rod cunbet for fishing. A bamboo strainer which can be used when steaming rice ,also showed up. The sliced bamboo which can be used as a white paper to write down a language also showed up.

He was very happy because it was his dream to study a language. He considered if he could go down to the city from the mountain, he would be able to study the language.

But the only problem was he didn’t have any new clothes to wear. His clothes were very miserable.
Then, Nang normai brought one white cloth made of bamboo with her hands. He was very happy to see it.

“Nang normai, I would like to dance with you, to express my thankfulness and promise to be with you for a long time”.

Then, the boy and girl came from the bamboo and brought two big bamboo trees, then rhythmically beat them on the ground. Nang normai and Tao Kampouy started dancing with the beaten bamboo on the ground.

After dancing, Nang normai said,

“Please don’t eat small baby bamboo until it becomes big enough. Instead, please eat other things. When bamboo gets big and mature in this forest, then you can cut and craft it. You can make many things from bamboo here, then you can go down to the city, then you show your crafts to the people who are walking around. They will give you something to live, instead they will bring your products”.

When he heard that, he replied “oh really Nang normai, I will do it, I promise. I will not eat baby bamboo shoots in these forests anymore, but craft somethingn with bamboos. Nang normai was smiling, saying “goodbye”, then fading away to the bamboo forest.

Let Tao Kampouy sleep in his dream alone.

He felt the sun shining brightly and opened his eye. Again, he noticed he still was poor without mother and father. He realised he watched dream.

But, from his dream he could understand value of bamboo. In order to protect the bamboo forest, he made a sign of bamboo sticks to tell other villagers not to come into the forest to pick up baby bamboo shoots. This sign is now named “Taleo” in Lao language.

And, he crafted bamboo to sell in the village and city. After 5 years, the boy became rich and could have a family.


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