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Cambodian Folk Tales (in English)Posted: 2009-09-17 15:04:50   Replies: 0
The Trial

The Trial
retold by Tony Shapiro

A long time ago in the kingdom of Cambodia, a young man fell in love with a young woman and so he set off to ask her parents for permission to marry her. "If you want the hand of our daughter in marriage," said the parents, "then you must first undergo an ordeal. Your legs must be bound and you must be submerged up to your neck in the water of a lake for three days and three nights. However cold you may be, you must not move to warm yourself. If you survive this trial of your courage then you may have the hand of our daughter in marriage." The young man agreed to the ordeal and so he was tied up and submerged in the water.

After he had been standing in the lake for two days and two nights, he looked up and saw a fire burning on top of a hill some way off. By now he was tired and cold. He lifted his hands out of the water and held them up towards the distant flames. At that moment the girl's parents came down to the water and saw what he was doing. They decided that he was trying to warm himself with the flames from the distant hill and so he had not fulfilled their conditions. They refused to give him their daughter in marriage.

The young man was very angry about this and went off to lay a complaint before a Magistrate. The official invited the girl's parents to come and be judged. The parents agreed and because they were rich, they were able to give the Magistrate several presents. However, the young man was poor and gave nothing to the Magistrate, who then pronounced the judgment. "The young man broke the conditions of the ordeal by warming himself. He has lost his case. He cannot marry this girl. In addition, he must repay the defendants by preparing a banquet for us all." When the young man heard this judgment he was very angry and upset and went off complaining bitterly. On the way home he ran into Judge Rabbit. "Why are you so miserable, Brother?" asked Judge Rabbit. The young man told him the whole story as it had happened. "Where are you off to now, Brother?" asked Judge Rabbit. "I have to go and prepare the banquet," replied the young man. "Ah" said Judge Rabbit, "Go ahead and prepare the feast; then come and fetch me and take me along to the meal as well. I will win the case for you for sure if you do what I say. When you prepare the meal, make the soup without any salt in it. Put the salt by itself in a separate dish."

The young man was very happy when he knew that Judge Rabbit would help him. He went off to prepare the banquet, making sure the soup had no salt as he had been told. Then he went along with Judge Rabbit, to offer food to the Magistrate and the parents. The Magistrate saw Judge Rabbit coming and asked him: "Brother Rabbit, what have you come here for?" "I have come to help you with this trial" said Judge Rabbit. "Ahh," said the Magistrate, "Then why not stop and have a meal with us?"

When the banquet was served, the Magistrate was the first to start the meal. He took two mouthfuls of the soup and then called out, "Well, why is it that this soup is not salted?" Judge Rabbit quickly answered him,"The fire burning on top of the hill, far away from the young man was supposed to warm him up. How is it that the salt for the soup, which is placed far from the soup does not flavor the soup?" The Magistrate was embarrassed and was silent. The case was reversed and the young man was declared to have won his action and married the couple's daughter immediately.

"The Trial" in Cultural Context

In this story the judge is bribed by a rich family to give a verdict in their favor. This reflects the corruption which many Cambodians feel is found throughout their justice system. Also, the story does not mention how the daughter of the family feels about this man who wants to marry her. The story just mentions the wishes of her parents and also the young man who wants to marry her but it does not mention her.

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