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Title: Shan Folk Lore Stories from the Hill and Water Country
Author: Griggs, William C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Shan Folk Lore Stories from the Hill and Water Country" ***

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                           TO MY FRIEND
                J. N. Cushing, D. D., F. R. A. S.
 _Principal of the American Baptist College, Rangoon, and Senior
           Shan Missionary, the greatest authority upon
            Shan literature, and the translator of the
                  Bible into that language, this
                   little book is dedicated by_
                            THE AUTHOR


The following stories have been taken from the great mass of unwritten
lore that is to the black-eyed, brown-skinned boys and girls of the Shan
mountain country of Burma what "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Cinderella"
are to our own children.

The old saw as to the songs and laws of a country may or may not be
true. I feel confident, however, that stories such as these, being as
they are purely native, with as little admixture of Western ideas as it
was possible to give them in dressing them in their garment of English
words, will give a better insight into what the native of Burma really
is, his modes of thought and ways of looking at and measuring things,
than a treatise thrice as long and representing infinitely more literary
merit than will be found in these little tales; and at the same time I
hope they will be found to the average reader, at least, more

It may, perhaps, be not out of place to say a little of the "_hpeas_"
who appear so frequently in these stories. The _hpea_ is the Burman
_nat_, and is "a being superior to men and inferior to Brahmas, and
having its dwelling in one of the six celestial regions" (Doctor
Cushing's "Shan-English Dictionary"). They are universally worshiped by
the inhabitants of Burma. If a man has fever, the best thing to do is
to "_ling hpea_," that is, to feed the spirits, and the sufferer
therefore offers rice, betel-nut, painted sticks, etc. Some kinds of
_hpeas_ live in the sacred banyan trees, and frequently have I seen men,
after a long day's march in the jungle, sit shivering on the ground when
within an arm's length lay good dry fire-wood. It had fallen, however,
from a tree in which lived a _hpea_, and not a man would dare touch it.
Big combs of honey may be in the nests of the wild bees, but it is safe
from the hungry traveler if it is sheltered by such a tree. Some watch
over wells, tanks, and lakes, and it is notorious throughout the
Southern Shan States, that a promising young American missionary, who
was drowned while shooting, met his death by being dragged to the bottom
of the lake by the guardian spirit, who had become incensed at him for
killing a water-fowl on his domains.

In Shan folk-lore the hero does not "marry and live happy ever after,"
but he becomes the king of the country.

         BHAMO, BURMA, 1902.


 A LAUNG KHIT                                       9

 HOW BOH HAN ME GOT HIS TITLE                      19

 THE TWO CHINAMEN                                  32


 HOW THE HARE DECEIVED THE TIGER                   57

 THE STORY OF THE TORTOISE                         66

 THE SPARROW'S WONDERFUL BROOD                     78

 HOW THE WORLD WAS CREATED                         85



 "_Each year at the Feast of Lights ... she prayed_"                   10

 "_The man standing at the top of the tree was the long-lost
 brother_"                                                             37

 "_Again the cunning hare deceived the tiger_"                         63

 "'_I am nothing but a tortoise swimming in the lake_'"                68

 "_On his way he saw what seemed to be a bed of flowers_"              79



Once upon a time there was a woman who lived in the State of Lai Hka.
She was a very pious woman and always gave the best rice and _puc_ to
the priests as they walked, rice _chattie_ in hand, through the city in
the early morning. Every year when the girls and boys went to the river
and filled their chatties with water to throw over the pagodas and idols
to insure a good rainy season and abundant crops, she always had the
largest bucket of the clearest water and threw it higher than anybody
else. She carried the sweetest flowers to the _zayat_ every evening, and
on worship days took rice in the prettiest of cups made of banana leaves
and offered to the Gautamas in the idol-house.

But she was not happy. When her neighbors went to the pagodas they had
their little ones tied upon their backs or running at their sides, but
she had no child whom she could take with her, none to whom she could
tell stories of the great Lord Sa Kyah who rules over the spirits in the
_hpea_ country, and so she was sad. She was getting old too, and often
envied the women who lived near who had bright boys to run errands and
girls to help in the house. Each year at the Feast of Lights, when she
sent her little candle floating down the river, she prayed for a child,
but in vain.

At last she made a pilgrimage to a pagoda where folks said was a _parah_
who would give anything that was asked of him. Bright and early she set
out, and on her head as an offering she carried an image of a tiger and
one of a man, and when she arrived at the pagoda she offered the images
and prayed for a son.

While she was praying at the pagoda, Lord Sa Kyah heard her, took pity
on her, and promised her a son. But, alas! when he was born, to his
mother's great sorrow, instead of being the beautiful boy she hoped for
he was nothing but a frog.

Lord Sa Kyah in order to comfort her, however, told her that her son was
really a great _hpea_, and that after one year and seven months he would
change into the most handsome man in all the hill and water country.

All the women scoffed and made fun of the poor mother, and all through
the village she was called Myeh Khit, or "Frog's Mother," but she bore
their jeers in silence and never reviled in return.

Now the king of the country had seven daughters. All were married except
one, and one day Myeh Khit went to him to ask for this daughter in
marriage for her son. The king was of course very angry that she should
ask that his only remaining daughter should marry a frog, but he spoke
deceitfully, called his daughter and asked her if she would be willing
to accept a frog for a husband. Like a dutiful daughter she told him
that she would "follow his words" and do as he wished, as she had no
will apart from his.

[Illustration: "Each year at the Feast of Lights ... she prayed." Page 10.]

The king then called the woman and said: "O woman, I will give my only
remaining daughter to your son, but I make one stipulation. You must
build a road, paved and properly built, from the market-place to my
palace; the sides must be decorated with painted bamboos, and the work
must be done within seven days or you shall die. Now go, and prepare for
the work, and at the end of the seven days I will make ready the
marriage feast for my daughter or order the executioner to take off your

In great distress Myeh Khit returned to her home and sat down on the
floor of her house and wept. All day long she bewailed her hopeless
condition. In vain her son asked her the cause of her sorrow. Afraid of
grieving him she would not tell him; but at last when six out of the
seven days had passed, and knowing the fate that awaited her on the
morrow, she told him how she had gone to the king with her request, and
the time being almost expired, that she must make ready to die on the

"The executioner's sword has already been sharpened, my son," she said,
"and to-day in bazaar they were talking of it, and promising to meet one
another at the palace to-morrow when the sun should be overhead."

As a last resource she made ready food and sweetmeats. She took paddy
and placed it over the fire till the heat broke the husks and the pure
white grains appeared. These she mixed with the whitest of sugar, and as
she was too poor to own plates, she went into the jungle to where the
new bamboo was bursting through its green prison, and taking the broad
coverings of the new leaves she fashioned them into dishes and offered
them with many prayers for help to Lord Sa Kyah.

"Our lord knoweth that my son can do nothing," she cried. "He has not
even hands to help, and what can our lord's slave do to avoid the great
trouble to which I have arrived?"

That night in the lovely _hpea_ country the mighty Lord Sa Kyah reclined
on his golden throne of state. By and by the velvet mat became so hot
that he could sit upon it no longer, and looking down he saw, squatting
before him on the floor, a frog.

"O our lord," said the frog, "I come to remind our lord that he is his
slave's father. My mother, our lord's slave, has arrived at great
sorrow, and unless our lord pities us and takes compassion on our lord's
slave, she will arrive at destruction to-morrow. Graciously do this act
of kindness, O chief of all the _hpeas_."

Lord Sa Kyah took pity on his son and promised to help him. The four
strongest spirits in his kingdom were four _hpeas_. They were twins and
the name of the first two was Nan Ta Re and that of the second Hte Sa
Kyung. These powerful spirits he ordered to complete the road during the

The next morning when the king arose he looked forth from his palace
and a most wonderful sight met his gaze. He rubbed his eyes, for he
believed they deceived him. He pinched himself to see whether he was
really awake or whether he was dreaming. For a wonderful thing had
happened during the night, so wonderful, in fact, that one cannot be
surprised that he thought it unreal.

From the bazaar to the very gate of the palace was a broad, smooth road.
On each side were brick walls covered with the whitest of cement, and
decorated with the heads of lions, and two large griffins, built of
brick and covered also with cement, guarded the entrance. They were more
than twelve cubits high; their mouths were wide open and showed their
terrible fangs, and their eyes looked upon the king with a stony glare.
The road was paved with blocks of stone cut as smooth and laid as true
as the cells of a honeycomb. There was one road for men, one for oxen,
and yet another for horses. _Zayats_ had been built here and there so
that travelers aweary could rest and be thankful, and over all was a
wide canopy of white cloth that extended entirely from end to end and
from side to side to protect the king from the sun when he should move
along the road to observe its wonders more closely.

In utter amazement he beat the gong that hung ready to his side with
such vigor that _amats_, soldiers, attendants, and the people from the
city, came rushing out of their houses to the palace gates expecting at
least that the neighboring prince with whom they had long been at war
had taken the city by surprise; but they, like the king, stood
transfixed and speechless with wonder when they saw the road with its
carvings and _zayats_ and the canopy with the golden border spread above

The king called Myeh Khit. She came, and hidden in her turban was her
son. The king had thought to punish this presumptuous woman by giving
her an impossible task to do with a penalty that put her beyond the
power of offending again, and was of course angry and disappointed that
his scheme had been unsuccessful; but the occurrence had become the
common talk of the market-place, and so he was obliged to carry out his
part of the bargain, although it had gone contrary to his expectation
and desires. So, much against his will, he called his daughter and gave
an order that for seven days there was to be a feast in honor of the
marriage of the princess.

But when the rejoicings of the people were finished, Khit was not given
permission to live in his father's palace but was sent with his wife and
mother to live in the old house where he had been born.

Six days after the marriage there was a feast at the pagoda, and the six
daughters of the king went in state.

They rode upon royal elephants; dancers danced before them; the golden
umbrellas protected them from the sun; and everybody fell upon their
knees and clasped their hands as the august personages went along. Their
retinue filled the street when they stopped at the little house where
their sister lived.

"O sister," they called, "are you coming to the feast?" but the poor
girl in great shame told them she could not come, and when they had
gone, she sat on the floor with her face in her hands and gave way to
her grief.

While she was sobbing, her husband approached and told her not to be
sorrowful. "My father is the great Lord Sa Kyah," said he, "and he will
give me anything I ask, so do not say, 'I am ashamed to go, as I have
only a frog for a husband.' You shall yet see your proud father and
unkind sisters bowing before you and offering you presents as they offer
to gods."

Seeing how distressed the poor girl really was, the Lord Sa Kyah took
pity on them and descended to earth. He brought with him wonderful white
clothes such as the _hpeas_ wear. They were brighter than the stars that
shoot across the sky at night, or the lightning that flashes over the
heavens during the hot season. He also gave them a magic stone, which if
placed under their tongues, would enable them to fly wherever they

The next morning was the last day of the feast when the boat races would
be rowed, when the horses of the king and his chief _amats_ would race
for prizes, when the best jugglers would show their most wonderful
tricks, and the best dancers would dance under the booths. In the midst
of the fun and excitement a great shout rent the air: "The mighty Lord
Sa Kyah is descending!" and right in the middle of the feasting there
was a flash of brilliant light and two wonderful beings alighted. They
were clothed in dazzling white, and flew swifter than when a kingfisher
darts from a tree toward its prey in the water.

Every one came crowding around as near as they dared, and upon their
knees offered presents of food to the wonderful beings.

First and foremost came the princesses, who bowed till their foreheads
touched the dust; they lifted their clasped hands over their heads and
turned away their faces while they offered the sweetest and most savory
food to the visitors. But it was noticed that although the spirits ate
the food offered by the _amats_ and common people, they would not eat
that given by the princesses, but wrapped it up and placed it on one

The next day the princesses came to their sister's house and derided
her. "O wife of an animal," they cried, "you would not come to the
feast, and so you lost the chance of seeing the mighty Lord Sa Kyah
descend from the _hpea_ country," and then they told of the wonderful
sight, and again made fun of their unfortunate sister.

Khit's wife smiled at them and then she said: "It is you who are
unfortunate, not I. My husband is not the ugly animal you think him to
be, but is a great and powerful _hpea_. It was not the Lord Sa Kyah who
descended yesterday, but his son, my husband, and myself, and to prove
my words, whose are these?" and she produced the very bundles of food
that her sisters had offered the day before to the supposed ruler of all

The sisters were surprised to see that she had the food there, but they
laughed her to scorn when she told them of her husband.

In order that his son should become mighty and famous, the Lord Sa Kyah
sent one of his attendants to the king, and caused him to give an order
to his children that they should have a boat race. The one who reached
the winning post first and carried away the flag on its rattan pole was
to be king in his room, and the one who came in last was to be slave to
the fortunate one.

There were great preparations among the servants of the six princesses,
and many wagers were made as to who would be successful, but none wished
to wager as to who would come in last, as all knew it would be the
youngest sister.

"She has no boat," said they, "and has no servants to make one, or money
to buy one. Even if she had, what could she do? Her husband has no
hands, how could he row against and defeat the swift boatmen who have
been called by the princesses?"

The king gave seven days in which his daughters were to prepare for the
race, and during that time the shouting of the various crews as they
practised on the lake was heard from early morning till the sun dropped
behind the mountains, but only six boats were seen.

The race was to take place on a lake at the outskirts of the city, and
on the morning of the seventh day, when the six princesses took their
stations they were surprised to see that there was a seventh boat there,
but they did not know that it was a magic boat sent by the Lord Sa Kyah
from the _hpea_ country, and that the sixteen rowers were not men, but

The course was over a thousand cubits to a post, around it, and return,
and so fast did the magic boat glide through the water that it had
covered the entire distance and the captain had laid the flag at the
king's feet before any of the other boats had reached the first pole
that showed half the distance.

But something even more wonderful than that had taken place. During the
race, the time set apart during which the son of Myeh Khit was to have
the form of a frog had expired, and, lo! he was now the most handsome
man in all the hill and water country. He had a crown of gold upon his
head, and the magic white clothes such as only _hpeas_ wear were on his
person. His wife was clothed in as beautiful a manner, and the king, at
last seeing the mistake he had made in treating him so badly, knelt on
the shore and asked: "Which lord is the son of his slave?" by which he
meant, which of the lords was the one to whom he had given his daughter.

But the Lord Khit, as he was now called, did not take a mean revenge on
his unkind brothers and sisters, and when they came on their knees
begging for their lives, and asking the privilege of being his slaves,
he took compassion on them, and instead of ordering them to immediate
execution, made them his _amats_.

This is why the Shans who live in the hill and water country worship Sau
Maha Khit.

[1] "'A Laung,' one who is progressing toward a divine state; an
incipient deity."--_Cushing's "Shan Dictionary," p. 586._


Boh Han Me was one of the greatest generals who ever lived in the hill
and water country. Just what his original name was nobody knows now, but
this story tells how he gained his title.

One day he went into the jungle with his wife and his two children to
gather _nau_, which is a kind of _puc_ made from the young bamboo
shoots. They were very successful in getting it, and were just on the
point of going home with their loads, when right before them appeared a
large black bear. The bear opened wide his mouth and roared, showing his
immense white teeth and great throat, and came ambling toward them
growling all the while in the fiercest kind of way.

Now as soon as the man saw the bear he just threw away all the _nau_
that he had in his hands and ran for his life, calling on his wife to do
the same. The two children followed their father and left their mother
to get out of her trouble as best she could. She, however, was as brave
as her husband was cowardly, and instead of running away, she took a
handful of the longest of the shoots and thrust them down the open
throat of the bear and killed him. She then took the short sword that
they had brought from home to cut the shoots, and with it she skinned
the bear, cut him up, and made the skin into a sack in which to carry
the meat.

Meanwhile her cowardly husband did not stop running till he reached the
city in which he lived, and then he told all his neighbors how he had
been in the jungle and a great bear had attacked them; how he had fought
bravely for a long while, but at last it had killed his wife and eaten
her. The neighbors were very sorry for him, but advised him to get home
and fasten all the doors and windows before the spirit of his wife would
have time to get in, for they said, seeing that she was killed when he
was with her, her ghost would without doubt try and gain admittance to
the house and haunt it. Once in, it would be very difficult to get her

The man, more frightened than ever, ran home as fast as he could and
called his children to bring all the rice that was already cooked into
the house, and then they fastened up the two doors and the one window
with bamboos and rattan. There was to be a feast in the city that night,
and the two children wanted to go and see the fun, but their father was
in such a fright that he would not give them permission to go, or even
to look out through the holes in the sides of the house where the bamboo
matting had come unfastened and bulged away from the posts.

By this time the sun had set and it was just getting dark, and the man,
tired with the hunt in the jungle and the excitement after, was just
going to sleep when he heard a voice that he recognized as his wife's
calling to be let in.

"Husband, _oie_!" it called, "open the door and let me in. I am very
tired and hungry, and want rice and sleep. Get up quickly. Why have you
fastened up the window and doors with bamboos and rattan? There are no
bad men around; any one would think you were afraid thieves were coming

The man was frightened almost to death when he heard his wife's voice,
for he felt sure it was her ghost coming to haunt him, so he called out:

"Ghost of my wife, _oie_! I will not let you in. If I did I would never
be able to get you out again. You want to haunt this house. I will not
let you in. Go away, go away!"

In vain the woman told him that she was indeed his wife, that she was
not a ghost at all, but had killed the bear and had his skin on her back
with the meat in it, and begged to be let in; the man would not believe
her and so she had to wait outside. All night long she called and begged
her husband to let her in, but in vain. When the sun had risen, however,
he felt a little braver, and so he put his head out through the thatch,
and saw that it really was his wife and not her ghost. With great joy he
ran down, opened the door, and let her in, but when his wife told him
how she had killed the bear, he again became frightened.

"We have arrived at great trouble," said he. "When the people hear that
you have killed a bear, they will most surely kill you. What shall we do
to escape and be freed from the impending punishment?"

But his wife was a clever woman, and when the neighbors came in to ask
how it was that she had not been killed, she told a wonderful story, how
through the bravery of her husband she had been saved; that he had seen
the bear, and by his bravery, that was so great it was good to marvel
at, it had been driven off. The neighbors were very pleased that so
brave a man lived in their quarter, and he became famous, people calling
him Gon Han Me, or "the man who saw the bear."

Gon Han Me was very proud of his title, as many other vain people have
been proud of titles they never earned, but it came near costing him his
life, and this was the way it led him into great danger. One day a large
cobra fell into the well that was in the yard before the chief door of
the king's palace, and everybody was afraid to draw water because of it.
When the _amats_ told the king that a cobra was in the well, he gave
orders that it was to be taken out, but nobody was brave enough to go
down the well and kill the snake. The chief _amat_ was in great
distress. He feared the king would deprive him of his office if the
snake were not killed immediately. He was not brave enough to descend
himself, and money, promises, and threats were of no avail to induce any
one else to go. Everybody declined to take the risk, and said: "Of what
use is money, or horses, or buffaloes, to a man bitten by a cobra? Will
that free him from death? Nay, go yourself."

The poor _amat_ was at his wits' end, when at last one of the attendants
told the king that in the quarter of the city where his sister lived,
was a man so brave that he was called Gon Han Me, and said he: "If a man
is brave enough to see a bear in the jungle and not be afraid, surely
he will dare go down the well and kill the cobra."

The king was much pleased with the attendant for showing a way out of
the difficulty. "He surely is the man we want," said he; "go and call
him immediately to come and destroy the snake."

The attendant of the king came to Gon Han Me and said: "Brother, _oie_!
the king has heard that you are a very brave man, so brave, in fact,
that your neighbors all talk of you and you have arrived at the rank of
being called 'Gon Han Me.' Now in the royal well there is a snake, a
cobra, which as you know is called the worst snake that lives. It is a
very wicked snake and everybody has arrived at great trouble because of
it. Nobody dares draw water there, and the king has given orders that it
is to be killed. However, no one at the palace is brave enough to
descend the well and kill the snake, but when his majesty heard of your
great bravery, he sent me to order you to come immediately, descend the
well, and kill the cobra. He will give you great rewards, and besides
will make you a _boh_ (officer) in the royal army."

When Gon Han Me heard this he was in great distress and called his wife.
"Wife, _oie_!" he said; "this unlucky name will certainly be the cause
of my death. It will truly kill me. The king has called me to descend
the royal well and kill a wicked snake that is frightening everybody in
the palace. I am not brave enough to go. If I do not go, the king will
have me executed. I shall be killed whichever I do. If I go the snake
will kill me, if I do not go the king will kill me. I shall arrive at
destruction, and all because of this miserable name."

The wife pondered awhile and then advised her husband to get dressed in
his best clothes and go to the palace, look down the well to see what it
was like, then make some excuse to come back home and she would tell him
what next to do.

The man was soon dressed in his best clothes, and was already going down
the steps of the house when his wife called out that he had left his
_hsan_ behind him. Now when the Shans go into the jungle, or on a
journey, they carry with them a rice-bag, or _hsan_. This is a long
narrow bag, more like a footless hose than anything else, and when
filled with rice it is worn around the waist, where it looks like a big
snake coiled around. Now Gon Han Me was very proud of his rice-bag, for
instead of being made of plain white cloth, as is the custom, it was
embroidered all over with different colored wools, and was so long that
it went around his waist several times.

He was so excited and terrified that when he reached the well he did not
notice that one end had been unfastened and was dragging on the ground,
and as he went to the well to look over, it caught around his legs,
overbalanced him, and he went head first into the well with a tremendous
splash. The next instant the snake lifting its head darted at him, and
all that the men above, who were waiting with breathless interest to
discover how the battle would end, could hear, was an infinite amount
of splashing, yells, and hissing. Gon Han Me never knew how it was, but
in the fall his _hsan_ became twisted around the neck of the snake, and
in a few minutes it was choked to death.

The man for a while could hardly believe that the snake was really dead.
It seemed too good to be true, but he came to the conclusion that his
_kam_[2] was good, and he would yet be a great and famous man. He
therefore assumed a heroic air, and at the top of his voice called to
the men at the mouth of the well:

"Brethren, _oie_! I have killed the snake and thus freed you from the
great danger from which you were suffering. I will now throw up the end
of this long rice-bag. Do you catch it and pull me and the dead snake up
to dry ground." He thereupon threw up the end of the embroidered _hsan_,
the men caught it, and the next minute he appeared with the dead snake
in his hand.

The king was very pleased with Gon Han Me for his brave act. He gave him
great rewards as he had promised, and also gave order that in future he
should be known by the name of "Boh Han Me," or "the officer who saw the

Some time after this there was war between the king and the ruler of the
next province. There was a great council called and it was unanimously
agreed that as Boh Han Me was the bravest man in the country, he should
be appointed as commander-in-chief.

When the message came to his house, however, it caused him great
distress, for as he told his wife, he did not want to be killed in the
least; he did not wish to run the risk of being killed or even hurt.
Besides he had never been on horseback in his life. He had a buffalo
that ploughed his fields, and it is true that occasionally, tired with
the day's work, he had ridden home on its back when the sun sank into
the west, but he was sure that if he got on the back of a horse it would
immediately divine that he was ignorant of the art of riding, did not
_mau_ as he said, and he would be thrown to the ground and hurt, killed
maybe. Who could tell?

Again his clever wife came to the rescue. "You must go to the fight
whether you want to or not," said she. "The king has given orders and he
must be obeyed. To disobey the king is more dangerous than seeing a bear
or even fighting a snake, so go you must. As to riding, that is easily
managed. Bring your pony here and I will show you how to ride without

On the never-to-be-forgotten day when the whole family went into the
jungle to gather _nau_, they were very poor, but since the fight with
the snake in the well, they had become rich, and so now the _boh_ had
servants to do his bidding, and he therefore called one of them to
saddle his pony and bring it to the door of his house. This was soon
done. He took his seat, and then his wife took long pieces of rawhide
and fastened his legs, from ankle to knee, on both sides to the stirrups
and girths. She knotted them securely so that there would be no chance
of his falling off his steed. He was very pleased that he had such a
clever wife, who could help him out of every trouble into which he might
fall, and rode away well pleased with himself, and soon reached the
place where the soldiers were assembled awaiting his appearance before
beginning the march.

To have seen him nobody would have thought that he was frightened sick.
He sat up bravely, and you would have thought that he was the best
horseman in all the hill and water country, but all the time he was
turning over in his mind the advice given by his wife when they talked
it over the night before. This was what she said to him: "Now, when you
get to the soldiers, see them start off. Give all the orders in a very
loud, pompous tone. Talk high, and they will think you _mau_ very much
(are very clever). Then you can easily find some excuse to get to the
rear, and you must stay there till the fighting is all finished."

There was one party to this arrangement, however, that they had both
failed to take into account when making their plans, and that was the
pony. They neither remembered that there was a possibility of the pony
taking it into his head to carry his master where the latter did not
want to go, but that was just what happened, for, when the pony saw all
the other horses and the men marching off, he too commenced to move
forward. He was a fine big pony and was accustomed to head processions,
not to come at the tail end, and so he started off of his own accord.
Now we have said that his rider had never been on horseback before, but
had often ridden his buffalo from the paddy field when the day's work
of ploughing was over. When a man on a buffalo wishes to stop, he jerks
the rope that is fastened to the animal's nose, and obedient to the
signal, it stops. So, when the _boh_ found his steed forging ahead a
little faster than suited him, he jerked the reins, expecting the pony
to stop, but to his consternation, he found it go all the faster. He
jerked harder, the pony broke into a quick trot. He jerked again, the
pony began to gallop. He was now thoroughly frightened and called out at
the top of his voice, but this only frightened the pony more and it
began to gallop just as fast as ever it could, and worse than all, it
headed straight for the enemies' soldiers, whom he could see in the
distance getting ready to receive him. He cursed his wife with all his
heart. If he could only fall off! She had taken too good precautions
against that. He pulled and tugged, but the rawhide was strong; the
knots were too tight; and every minute brought him nearer to his
enemies. He could hear the shouts of his friends in the distance getting
fainter and fainter as the distance increased, calling him to come back.
How he wished he could! He swayed from side to side, first on one flank
then on the other. The pony now had its head down between its knees, the
bit between its teeth, and was tearing along like the wind. It would be
hard to say which was the more frightened, the horse or its rider; each
frightened the other. But there was a lower depth yet to be reached. In
jumping over a hole the saddle slipped to the side, the next instant
away it went, turned, and saddle, rider, and all slipped clear around,
and Boh Han Me found himself still securely lashed to the saddle,
squarely under his horse instead of on it.

Meanwhile in the camp of the enemy a council of war was being held. "Can
any one tell me," asked the king, "who commands our foes?"

"Our lord," said one of the _amats_, "it is a man who has been picked
out of the whole army, and is the bravest man who ever drew a sword. He
is called Boh Han Me because he conquered a great fierce bear in the
jungle. He also went down a well in the royal palace and killed the
largest and fiercest snake ever seen in all the hill and water country."

The king was much disquieted when he heard of the prowess of this man,
and was pondering whether it would not be better to fight with silver
than steel, and offer a great reward to any man in the enemies' camp who
would bring to him the head of this doughty soldier, when he heard a
great shout. He sprang to the tent door and looked anxiously out. All
eyes were bent in one direction and a look of intense wonder, not
unmixed with fear, sat on each face. The king naturally expected to see
the whole army of the enemy approaching in overwhelming numbers, but he
shared the wonder of his soldiers when he saw, not an army, but one
single man dashing toward him. The next instant the rider disappeared
entirely, but the horse came on faster than before. Next instant there
was the rider again, arms tossing in the air, hair streaming behind,
only to disappear the following moment in the same mysterious way.

The face of the king blanched with terror as he asked in a whisper, "Who
is this man?"

A hundred voices cried: "It is Boh Han Me, the bravest man alive! He has
some charm that makes him invisible whenever he wishes, and he cannot be
hurt by sword or arrow."

Nothing spreads so quickly as a panic, and almost before the king was
aware of it, he was carried away in the fierce rush to escape. His men
were blind with fear; they threw away their arms; men and officers fled
for their lives, their only thought to flee from that horse and its
terrible rider who disappeared and reappeared in such an awful fashion,
and in a few minutes the field was deserted and the whole army in full

The horse by this time was exhausted. It stumbled, but regained its feet
only to fall again immediately. It made another effort to struggle to
its feet, but this time unsuccessfully, and then lay still on its side,
its flanks heaving and its breath coming and going in quick sobs. Very
cautiously Boh Han Me drew a knife and slowly cut one knot. The horse
did not stir. Another followed, and soon one leg was freed. This made
the task easier, and soon both legs were cut from their bonds and he
sprang to his feet, bruised and sore, it is true, but no bones broken,
and only too glad to be on solid earth again, and he vowed he would
never from that day forth ever get on anything that moved faster than a

What the king said when he reached the place where the foes had encamped
may be imagined. He declared that a man as brave as his general had
never lived in any age or country. For one man to charge a whole army,
and, what was more, drive it off too, was a thing good to marvel at, and
Boh Han Me did the wisest thing he ever did in his life, he just held
his peace. When they had gathered together the spoil they returned home
with the hero by the side of the king. The latter gave him a grand
palace with gold, silver, oxen, buffaloes, elephants, and slaves in
abundance, and also the rank of Boh Hoh Sök, which is the highest rank
of general in the army, and means, "head of all the troops." The happy
man lived many, many years, but he kept his promise, and whenever he
wished to travel he rode upon an elephant and never again as long as he
lived got upon the back of a horse.

[2] _Kam_, luck, or fate.


Ages ago, when this world was new, having been created but a short
while, two Chinese boys left their native country and started out on
their travels to discover things new and strange. After wandering for
many days they came to the hill and water country where the Shans live.
Here they found a monastery, where lived very wise and learned priests,
who instructed them in many ways.

They lived here some time and won the esteem of the head priest to such
an extent that he showed them a magic sword and bow that had lain in the
monastery many years waiting for somebody to carry away. The law was
that the man who could bend the bow or could draw the sword from its
sheath should keep it.

The elder brother went to the sword and tried to draw it. He pulled, he
tugged, he strained, till the sweat ran down his face, but in vain. He
could not draw it out one inch.

Seeing the ill success of his elder brother, the younger thought it
impossible for him to draw the magic sword, but at his brother's command
he took the handle in his hand and pulled with all his might. To
everybody's surprise out came the magic sword, and the Chinaman walked
away in triumph.

The elder brother now made up his mind that if he could not get the
sword he would try for the bow, and he might have more success with
that, so he exerted all his strength, and slowly, slowly bent it, till
the cord was taut and the bow all ready to shoot.

The people of the city were amazed that the two brothers should have
such strength and good luck, and many envious eyes followed them as they
again set out on their journey, carrying their trophies with them.

They traveled on and on till they gave up counting the distance, it was
so great, till one day, as they were resting on the banks of a large
river in a far country, they saw a great fish swimming in the water. It
was so great that nobody heretofore had been able to catch it, and it
was in fact the king of all the fishes. It broke all the nets and
smashed all the traps. It snapped all the lines that were set for it,
and nobody was strong enough to pull it ashore when it did take the
hook. The Chinamen saw it, and the elder brother instantly strung his
bow, put on a bolt, and shot the great fish as it was swimming in the
shallow water. In a few minutes he had it on his shoulder, and they
commenced to cross the bridge to the other side of the river.

Now the river was very wide, the current was very swift, and the bridge
was not at all strong. It was only made of bamboos and rattan and swung
from side to side as the men crossed it. When they got to the middle it
began to creak and strain till the two travelers were in great fear it
would break. The one who had killed it turned to his brother and said:

"O brother, the fish is so heavy I am afraid the bridge will break.
Please draw your magic sword and cut it in halves, and then we will be
able to get to the other side in safety."

The younger brother therefore drew his sword and cut the fish in halves;
but he did not yet know how sharp the sword was, for he cut the fish in
halves, it is true, but not only that, but the whole bridge as well, so
that his brother fell into the water and was immediately swept from his
sight. On his part he could not of course cross, now the bridge was
down, so he returned to the same side of the river and ran along the
bank looking to see whether his brother would be swept ashore in some
shallow place; but although he ran till he was exhausted and then
traveled for many days by the side of the river through the jungle, he
could discover no trace of his lost brother.

Swiftly down the stream his brother was carried. He tried to swim first
to one bank and then to the other as the current swept him along, but in
vain. At last he gave up trying. Nobody knows just how long he was in
the water, but for many days he floated, and when he was on the point of
dying from exhaustion, cold, and hunger, his feet touched bottom, and,
more dead than alive, he crawled up the bank to dry land.

He found that he had landed near a garden, and, on climbing over the
wall, he discovered that it belonged to the king. He was too tired to
climb back again, however, so sank on the ground and the next instant
fell asleep from sheer weariness.

Now it happened that the king of that country had just died, and his
_amats_ had taken out the royal chariot and were drawing it around the
city looking for the proper person to become king. As they went along
they saw this young man sleeping in the royal garden with his magic bow
beside him. He had come from nobody knew where. He was so strong that
the river even could not kill him. Above all, he had a wonderful magic
bow which none of the _amats_ or nobles could bend, so they came to the
conclusion that he indeed was the man who should be king of the country,
and he was crowned with great pomp and magnificence.

The other brother had been left standing on the bridge when the elder
fell into the water, as we have said, and for many days he followed the
river bank till he too arrived in a far country. It was a very strange
country. There were no men there, only monkeys, but they were the very
cleverest monkeys that ever lived, and were ruled over by a _nang me
prah_, that is, a queen, just as men are ruled. This queen of the
monkeys fell in love with the Chinaman and married him, so that he
became king of Monkey Land. They built a palace for him on the top of
the highest tree in the jungle. Every seventh day they brought him food.
Some brought plantains, some mangoes, some rice, and some fish fresh
caught in the river.

The elder brother had now been king of the country where he had landed
for some years, and one day he remembered his younger brother, whom he
had left standing on the broken bridge with the sword in his hand. He
therefore called his _amats_ and told them he was going on a long
journey, and that they must rule well and justly till he returned. He
then called his favorite servants and set out to discover his brother.
They had a great store of provisions carried by coolies. He had his
royal elephants, on which he could ride when traveling over the steep
mountain roads and to carry his chief queens, and ponies for riding over
the plains.

One night, however, he became separated from his followers and lost his
way. He shouted and called, but shouted and called in vain. He could not
find a trace of them. Servants, horses, elephants, and goods were all
gone, and he was in great fear that he would die in the jungle. When
morning broke he was much surprised to see that he had arrived at a
city, but that the houses were all built on the tops of the trees, and
on looking closer, he discovered that instead of people living in these
houses the inhabitants were all large monkeys. Not a man was to be seen,
and the monkeys were very fierce and screamed at him in anger from the
top of every tree. One especially he noticed as being more fierce than
any of the others, and he accordingly leveled his magic bow and shot it
dead. As it fell from the tree to the ground he heard all the friends of
the dead monkey come rushing out of their houses on the tops of the
trees calling to one another that a man had killed one of their
brethren, and asking that their friends would come to kill the man who
had been guilty of the deed.

[Illustration: "The man standing at the top of the tree was the long-lost
brother." Page 37.]

After a little time the king came to a tree that was taller than any
other in the jungle, and upon it was a palace. Stairs led from the door
of the palace to the ground, and as he looked more closely he saw a man
up there. In great joy he called out to him, asking to be directed. "I
am the king of a far country," he said, "and I am on a journey to search
for my brother, whom I have not seen for many, many years. Last night I
lost my way. Will you take pity on me and show me the way and I will
give you a great reward?"

"Who was your brother?" asked the man in the tree.

"He was a Chinese student," returned the king, "and he had a wonderful
magic sword. One day as we were traveling he cut a great fish in two,
but such was the virtue residing in the magic sword that he not only cut
the fish in halves but the bridge as well, so I left him standing on the
end of the bridge."

You may imagine how pleased the king was when he discovered that the man
standing at the top of the tree was the long-lost brother for whom he
was searching, and he made ready to ascend to his house in the treetop.

At that moment a little monkey ran down the tree toward him, and he
kicked it aside, saying, "Out of my way, little monkey."

The small monkey in great anger said: "I am not a monkey, but your

"My nephew!" exclaimed the king in great astonishment. "What do you mean
by that?"

His brother, the monkey king, then explained to him that he had married
the queen of all the monkeys and that this was their child, that he
ruled over all the monkeys, who had built this palace for him and every
seventh day brought him tribute of food.

"I am sorry to say, then," said the elder brother, "that I have killed
one of your subjects," and at the same moment the wife and son of the
dead monkey approached their king.

"Our lord," said they, "the man yonder has been guilty of a great crime.
He entered the domains of our lord and although we did nothing to him,
yet he raised his bow and killed one of the servants of our lord.
Therefore our lord's servants demand that he shall be killed too."

"I am very sorry," said the king of the monkeys, "that you have killed
that special monkey. He was very clever and brave. He was also one of my
chief _amats_, and his friends will assuredly kill you."

The monkeys were now assembling by hundreds and calling to each other
everywhere. Every treetop appeared alive with angry figures all calling
for vengeance on the man who had killed their friend.

The king, however, who had taken sides with his brother, was not afraid,
and said he could kill all the monkeys in the country; and he drew his
sword and cut in halves the monkey nearest to him. To his great
surprise, however, the two halves of the monkey he had killed each
became a whole monkey and attacked him again, so that he now had two to
fight instead of one. If he cut off the hand or leg of a monkey with
his long sword, it immediately turned into two, and he soon saw that
unless he devised some other way of fighting them they would soon kill
them both.

He therefore rushed off to the jungle and got a great hollow bamboo. He
then went to a bees' nest and swept all the bees into it, and caught a
great many scorpions and centipedes, snakes and spiders. When the
monkeys came toward him to renew the fight, he opened one end of the
bamboo and the insects and reptiles, swarming out, very angry at being
kept prisoners in the hollow bamboo, soon drove the monkeys off so that
the two brothers were able to escape. Shortly afterward they found the
escort of the king and together returned to the city where the good
elder brother made the younger his chief _amat_.

Now when the younger brother became _amat_, he of course saw what a
great king his brother was. He saw his subjects kneel before him; he saw
the royal elephants, oxen, horses, and buffaloes; he saw the riches in
money, jewels, and goods that belonged to him; that his queens were the
most beautiful women in the land; and he became jealous. Then he coveted
all these things. The next step was easy; he determined to kill his
brother and become king in his stead. Then he began to ponder and plot
how best he could destroy the brother who had been so good to him. He
did not remember how that same brother had left all these things to come
and hunt for him; how he had given him riches and honor and position,
so that now he was chief minister and next to him in power. No, he did
not think of any of these things, but like the ungrateful man that he
was, thought only that his brother had more than he.

He soon came to the conclusion that he could not kill his brother in the
city, for everybody loved the king, and he feared that his crime would
be discovered, so he was obliged to wait until they should be alone in
the jungle together. The opportunity soon came. One day the king was out
hunting and had gotten separated from all his followers. His brother the
_amat_ was a short distance ahead when he saw, just in front of him, a
very deep hole, so deep in fact that it was impossible to see the
bottom. In great excitement he turned and beckoned to the king as fast
as he could, calling out in a loud voice that he had something very
wonderful to show him.

The king thought that at least he had discovered a mountain of rubies
and came running up. He knelt by the side of the hole but could see

"There is nothing down there," said he.

"Let our lord lean a little farther over," said the cunning _amat_. "He
will then see the most wonderful thing in the world."

The king bent farther over and his wicked brother gave him a push that
sent him headlong to the bottom.

He had now succeeded in all his plans; he had reached the height of his
ambitions, but although he became king he was not happy. He had trouble
all the time. It is true he had his brother's riches, that he rode the
royal elephants, wore the royal robes, and lived in the royal palace,
but he had trouble with his _amats_, with his soldiers, and his people,
and therefore instead of being happy as he expected he would be, he was
unhappy and miserable.

If he had only known what was happening in the jungle he would have been
more anxious still. His brother was not dead as he thought. The fall to
the bottom of the hole did not kill him and he was only a prisoner. His
followers had all gone back to the city with his wicked brother. He
called, but called in vain. He heard nothing but the echo of his own
cries, and he was about to give up in despair, when it happened that the
mighty Lord Sa Kyah coming through the jungle heard his cries and
inquired the cause. The king did not know that this was the Lord Sa
Kyah, but told him all that had happened. Lord Sa Kyah was very angry
with the king's heartless brother and created at the bottom of the hole
a lily of the kind that has a very long stalk. The king sat upon the
blossom of the lily which then began to grow very rapidly, and as it
grew carried the king up toward the mouth of the hole.

As he gradually rose toward daylight he saw that a tree was growing at
the very edge of the pit, and that some of the branches hung over. He
saw also that a monkey was busily engaged in feeding on the leaves and
fruit. The lily, of course, made no noise as it pursued its upward path;
the king also kept quiet so as not to frighten the monkey, and when he
was near enough suddenly put forth his hand and caught it by the tail.
The monkey screamed and kicked, fought and scratched, but in vain; the
king held on, and at last the monkey climbed down the tree taking the
king with him, and the latter was speedily standing once more on solid
ground and able to offer up his thanks to the mighty Lord Sa Kyah.

The king was not long in reaching the city and when he arrived, to his
great sorrow he saw, as he expected, his ungrateful brother reigning,
while the people all sorrowed for their old king. He determined to wait
awhile before he declared himself, feeling that the Lord Sa Kyah who had
already once helped him when in trouble and danger would aid him in
regaining his lost kingdom; so he went into the poorest part of the
city, put on the poorest and most ragged clothes that he could find, and
sat near the gate of the city begging, from whence he often saw his
brother riding by in state.

One day the heralds came riding by and stood in the open space fronting
the market where the gambling booths are, and gave notice that the king
had commanded that if anybody could bend the magic bow belonging to the
late king, his brother, he was to be made the chief _amat_ of the
kingdom and receive many and great presents besides.

As may be imagined, the next day there was a great crowd gathered
together at the great gate of the palace, waiting for the king. At last
out he came with all his ministers and followed by attendants bearing
golden umbrellas. Behind him came a soldier carrying over his shoulder
the magic bow which was placed at the king's feet. The king called upon
his soldiers to come and bend the bow, and the strongest of them came
forward, but although they pulled and tugged, tugged and strained, they
could not bend it. Then the people of the city, or "the king's people,"
as they loved to call themselves in contradistinction to the people who
lived in the jungle villages, tried, but met with no better success than
the soldiers. They could not bend the bow. The king then ordered the
_amat löng_ to call the men from the jungle. The very strongest coolies,
those who carried heavy burdens over the mountains, came in answer to
the king's summons, but although some of them could carry fifty _soie_
over the highest mountain they could not draw the cord a hand's-breadth.

The king, much disappointed, was about to return to the palace when a
beggar man approached and bowing at his feet said he was able to draw
the bow and fire an arrow from it. The king was angry at what he thought
was the presumption of this beggar. The soldiers derided him, saying
that the bravest of them could not draw the bow and how was a beggar to
do it? The coolies also asked him whether he could carry fifty _soie_
over Loi Mawk Pah that was called the Cloud Mountain, because its head
was often in the clouds. But the beggar asked to be allowed to try and
the king gave orders that he should be given the bow, at the same saying
that he assuredly should be made _amat löng_ if he was successful, but
if he could not bend the bow, he should be put to death immediately.

The beggar assented to these terms and seized the bow. He took hold of
the string and without any show of strength pulled it a hand's-breadth,
and then as the king and his courtiers looked on in amazement he pulled
it to its full length, placed the string on the ivory trigger, put an
arrow on it, and asked the king where he should shoot.

"Straight up into the air," said the king. The beggar raised the bow,
twang went the string, and the arrow whizzed out of sight. Everybody
stood looking up into the sky when suddenly one of the courtiers gave a
warning cry. It came too late. The arrow had gone straight up, turned,
and fell almost on the same spot from whence it was shot. Almost, but
not quite, for in its fall it struck the upturned face of the king and
he fell dead.

A great cry was raised as the king fell and the guards rushed forward to
seize the beggar and lead him to immediate execution, but he waved them
off with a gesture of his hand. The next instant his rags fell from him
and he stood before them in the royal robes of a king.

Thus we see that the younger brother, although indeed he had not
murdered his brother the king, yet did kill him in his thoughts and
intentions, and he suffered the punishment that is always meted out to
the man who kills his fellow.


There was once a king who reigned over one of the largest States in the
hill and water country. For a long time there had been war between him
and the _sau hpa_ of the neighboring State, but at last his soldiers had
been successful, and his enemy had been driven out of his possessions,
which had thereupon been added to his own. A great feast had been given
when his soldiers returned to their homes, and he was now sitting with
his queens and his seven daughters in the palace watching a performance
given in honor of the victory. He praised the actors for their skill,
and then asked his daughters whether they had enjoyed the performance.
They one and all assured him that they had enjoyed it much, and then
turning to them he continued:

"That is right, my daughters, enjoy yourselves to-day and to-morrow and
all through your lives. You are the daughters of a mighty king, and it
is your lot to be happy and enjoy yourselves all your lives, therefore
again I say enjoy yourselves and be happy."

The eldest of the daughters, who was a perfect courtier said: "O our
lord, our luck is fortunate, because it depends on that of the lord our
father, and who is so fortunate as he?"

The king was very pleased with the flattery of his daughter, and
promised to grant any request she would make of him.

The youngest daughter, however, was young and foolish, and had not yet
learned the truth that in a king's presence it is not well always to say
what one thinks, and therefore she said to her sister: "Your luck may
depend on the luck of the lord our father, but mine is my own and
depends upon myself alone."

When the king heard this he was very angry that one of his daughters,
and she the youngest too, should have the presumption to say that she
depended for anything at all on any other than he, and he determined to
punish her.

For a long time he pondered on the best way to do this and at last
devised a plan which, if severe, was at least novel.

He called his _amats_ to go throughout the whole land and search for the
poorest man in all his kingdom, and when they had found him they were to
bring him to the palace and he would marry his youngest daughter to him,
and then, said he, "We will see about luck after that."

Day after day the heralds searched the land but they could not find a
man poor enough to suit the king. All who were brought before him
acknowledged that they had something valuable, either a little money, a
precious stone, or a distant relative who was rich and from whom they
could borrow a little if necessary. A man of this description would not
suit the angry king. He wanted one poorer than that.

At last the _amat löng_, or chief minister, brought a man before him and
said that he was the poorest in all the land. His name was Ai Du Ka Ta.
He was a woodseller in the bazaar, who every day went into the jungle
and picked up the dead branches of the trees that had fallen to the
ground, and brought them to the market every fifth day to sell. So poor
was he that he did not even own the sword that is the almost inseparable
companion of the Shan and is used, among other things, to cut down the
small trees that are left to dry for firewood, so he had to be content
to pick up the small branches that he found under the trees, and got a
proportionately small price when he carried his load into the bazaar.

When he appeared before the king, his trousers were all fringed at the
bottom where they had been torn by the thorns in the jungle. His turban
months before had been white, but now it was a deep gray; it was only
half its original length and was full of holes. Jacket he had none, and
when the king asked him how many blankets he had upon his bed at home to
keep him warm at night when the cold wind brought the rain up the
valley, he answered sorrowfully, "Not one, our lord." He had no relative
except an old mother whom he was obliged to support, and who was known
throughout the district in which she lived as the woman with the
bitterest tongue in all the land, and when too sick to move from her
mat, she would yet fill the air with poisoned words.

The king was very pleased with his _amat löng_ for finding Ai Du Ka Ta,
and gave him a very fine horse as a reward. Then he called his daughter,
took away all her fine clothes and married her to this poorest man in
his realm and drove her out of the palace amid the jeers and taunts of
the very people who, before her disgrace, had waited upon her every word
and had done her bidding while they trembled before her. The king also
took away her old name and commanded that in future she was to be known
as Nang Kam Ung, which means, "The woman whose luck depends upon

The house, or rather hut, to which Ai Du Ka Ta took his bride was in the
jungle. It was only four bamboo poles stuck in the ground and covered
with dried grass and bushes. Not even a sleeping mat was on the
ground--there was no floor--and the chattie in which he cooked his rice
had a hole in it, and had to be set upon three stones sideways over the
fire with the hole uppermost, to prevent the water leaking and putting
out the fire.

Fortunately the girl's mother had helped her to smuggle out her
"birth-stone," which was a large, valuable ruby, and so she took it off
her finger and gave it to her husband, telling him to go and sell it and
buy clothes and food for both of them.

Ai looked at the stone and said, "Who will give me food and clothes for
a little red stone like that? We have no fools or mad men living near
here who would do such a foolish thing as that," for you must remember
he had lived in the jungle all his life, and had never heard of precious
stones, much less seen one till now.

His friends were just as ignorant of its value as he was. He went from
house to house in the little village near, but all laughed at him till
he became disgusted, threw the stone away in the jungle and came home in
a very ill humor with his wife for leading him such a wild-goose chase,
and making him appear foolish in the eyes of the few people he knew.

His wife was in great distress when she found that he had thrown the
ruby away, and told her husband that if he had gone to the city and
taken it to the jewelers, instead of to the ignorant people in the
jungle, they would have given him in return enough money to keep them in
food and clothing all the hot season and build a new house into the

Ai looked at her and said: "Indeed, that is a thing good to marvel at.
Why, I know where there are coolie-basket loads of such red stones in
the dry bed of a river near where I gather sticks for fire-wood in the
jungle, waiting for anybody to carry away, and I never thought them
worth the labor of taking to the bazaar."

The princess was full of joy when she heard this, and the next morning
they borrowed two coolie baskets from a man in the village. Bright and
early they went to the river bed, and there, even as Ai had said, were
basket loads of fine rubies. They gathered them up carefully and buried
most of them, covering over the hole with a flat stone, so that no one
would discover their hoard, and then the princess, picking out a double
handful of the largest and clearest ones, sent them to her father.

The king, when he saw the jewels, instead of being pleased, fell into a
great passion, called the unfortunate _amat löng_ into his presence, and
after rating him soundly, deprived him of all his goods, houses, and
lands, deposed him from office, and drove him from his presence as poor
as Ai himself had been.

"I ordered you to call a poor man," roared the king to the trembling man
before him. "I said he was to have no goods or property at all, and here
the very next day he sends me a double handful of the very best rubies I
ever saw in my life."

In vain the culprit assured the king that the day before Ai was
certainly the poorest man in the whole kingdom, and complained that the
jewels must have been the work of some _hpea_, whom he had unwittingly
offended, and who had therefore determined on his ruin in revenge. The
king would listen to no excuse, and the unhappy _amat_ was glad to crawl
from his presence before resentment had carried him to the length of
ordering his execution.

The very next night a wonderful golden deer entered the royal garden
where the king was accustomed to sit when it became too warm in the
palace, and after doing an immense amount of mischief, eating favorite
flowers, and otherwise destroying and ruining the garden, it leaped over
the fence and disappeared in the early morning fog, just as the guards
were arousing themselves from sleep. It was in truth not a golden deer
as the guards had told the king, but a _hpea_ that had assumed this
form; but the king not knowing this ordered his heralds to go through
the city immediately and call upon all the inhabitants to come early
next morning to help their lord catch it. Ai was summoned with the rest
of the people. He had no horse, but going to the city gate that day he
saw that a race between horses belonging to the king was about to be
run. Ai was a good horseman, and asked the head horse-feeder of the king
to let him ride one of the animals. He rode, and rode so well that he
won the race, and that official was so pleased with him that he promised
to grant him any request in his power. Ai asked for the privilege of
riding the same horse at the hunt next day, and the request was readily
granted, and thus it happened that, next morning when he went to the
place appointed, he rode a horse that was faster than any other there
except the one the king himself rode.

The people were divided into four parties; one toward the north, one
toward the south, one east, and one west. The king stationed himself
with the party at south, and the _amats_ were at the north, and when the
deer was at last driven out of the jungle by the beaters it headed
toward the king and dashed by him at great speed.

The _hpea_ that had taken the form of the deer wished to have some fun
at the king's expense, and therefore kept ahead just where the king
could see him all the while, sometimes but a cubit or two away from him,
and then when the country was open, darting far in advance. So swiftly
did they go that in a few minutes the men on foot were left behind, and
after a while all except those upon the very fastest horses were
distanced, till at last only the king and Ai were left, the latter but a
little behind the king. All day long the chase continued till, just as
the sun was setting and men and horses were both exhausted, the deer
made straight for a precipice that appeared to block the path on each
hand as far as the eye could reach. The king was congratulating himself
that the deer could not possibly escape now, when he saw right before
him an opening in the rock, and the next instant the _hpea_ disappeared
in the cave and the king was obliged to give up the chase, for even if
his horse could have carried him any farther, which it could not, the
cave was so dark that nothing could be seen inside.

The king fell from his horse almost dead with fatigue, and managed to
crawl under a wide-spreading banyan tree that grew near. The only other
person there was Ai, and he, coming to the king, massaged his limbs till
the tired monarch fell asleep. After a while he awoke and Ai asked him
to eat some rice he had prepared, but the king said he was too tired to
eat anything; but at last he managed to eat a little sweet, glutinous
rice that the princess had cooked in a hollow piece of bamboo and given
to her husband before he set out that morning.

The king was very grateful and asked Ai his name; but the latter was
afraid to tell what his real name was, so, as his mother years before
had been in the habit of selling betel-nut in the bazaar, he told the
king that his name was Sau Boo, or betel-nut seller.

The king was very pleased with him and promised him great rewards when
they got back to the palace; but in a few minutes he had dropped asleep
again, and Ai sat alone keeping guard.

It was very fortunate that he too did not go to sleep, for as every one
knows, the banyan is a sacred tree, and this one was inhabited by a
_hpea_ who was noted for being one of the cruelest and most dreaded
spirits in all the land. Ai roused the king and told him there was a
_hpea_ in the tree and begged him not to sleep there for it would
assuredly kill them both before morning.

The king said, "Wake me not, trouble me not. From my head to my feet, I
am nothing but aches and pains. Were I to move I should die. I may as
well die at the hands of the _hpea_." So saying he fell asleep again,
and Ai did not dare to disturb him, but watched all night long.

During the night Ai heard the _hpea_ grumbling to himself several times
and promising himself the pleasure of killing them on the morrow, so he
pretended to be asleep so that he could hear what the _hpea_ said and if
possible thwart him.

"These mortals have presumed to sleep under my tree," he heard him say,
"but it shall be the last time they sleep anywhere. Let me see," he
continued, "how shall I kill them? Which will be the best way? Ah, I
know. Early to-morrow when they get ready to leave, I will break the
tree in two, and the top shall fall on them. If, however, they escape, I
will saw through the supports of the first bridge, so that it will
break when they are in the middle, and they will fall to the bottom of
the valley below. Then if that should fail, I will loosen the stones of
the arch of the city gate so that it will fall on them as they pass
underneath, and if that does not kill them, when the king arrives at his
palace and being thirsty with his long ride calls for water, I will
change the water in the goblet to sharp needles that will stick in his
throat and kill him. If he does not drink the water, however, he will
assuredly be very tired and will go to sleep immediately, and I will
send an immense rat into his room that will kill him without doubt."

Having finished making his plans, the _hpea_ left the tree and started
the work of preparing the different traps for the mortals who had
enraged his hpeaship by daring to sleep under the tree, and thus profane
his home.

The king was frightened half to death when he awoke next morning, and
found that he had been sleeping all night under the tree of that special
_hpea_; but Ai, or Sau Boo as the king called him, told him not to be
frightened for he could save his life if the king would only follow his
advice and do as he told him.

The king promised to follow his words implicitly, and also promised him
unheard-of rewards if he only helped him to get to his palace in safety.

The first danger was the tree, and so Ai got their horses ready and
under the pretense of allowing them to eat grass before setting out on
their journey, he gradually worked them nearer and still nearer the
edge of the tree, and then, with one bound, they both galloped out from
under it. At the same instant there was a great crash and the whole top
of the tree fell to the ground. So near did it fall on them that the
king's turban was torn from his head by one of the upper branches, but
beyond this no harm was done.

Next, instead of riding over the bridge, they went along the bank a
little distance, and soon found a place where the _hük_ was narrow and
leaped their horses to the other side. While they were jumping, Ai threw
a heavy stone he had brought with him on to the bridge, and the _hpea_,
who fortunately was near-sighted, thinking it was the tread of the
horses, broke it down, so that fell into the water fifty feet below, but
the king and his follower were safe on the other side.

The next danger was the city gate. They walked their ponies slowly as
though they were very tired, till they came to within a cubit of the
gate, and then galloped through at the top of their speed, and crash
went the gateway behind them. They were covered with dust but not hurt.

The king was very thankful to have arrived at his palace and being very
thirsty with the journey and excitement, as the cunning _hpea_ had
expected, called for a drink of water, but ere he could place the cup to
his lips his faithful follower turned it upside down, and instead of
water, out fell a cupful of sharp needles, and again the king's life was

Worn out with his ride he told his servants to prepare his room as he
would sleep. Ai called the chief guard and told him to have a lamp
burning all night, to take his sharpest sword with him, and guard the
king carefully. In the middle of the night when the tired king was
sleeping soundly, into the room came creeping slowly, slowly, the
biggest rat ever seen. It had long, sharp teeth and wicked glaring eyes,
and made toward the king. But the guard, warned by Ai, was on the watch,
and just as the rat was about to spring at the king's throat, the
soldier with a sweep of his long, sharp sword cut off its head, and thus
the king through the cleverness of one man escaped the last danger and
could now live without fear.

The next morning the king called his heralds and bade them go into the
city and summon Sau Boo to come to the palace to be rewarded. They
searched and called, but searched and called in vain. No man ever heard
of a man by that name, and the king was fast getting angry when the
_amats_ told him that they personally had gone to every house except
one, and that was the house of Ai. The king in surprise ordered them to
call his son-in-law. "He may be able to tell us something about him," he
observed. Ai accordingly obeyed his summons, but the king was more
surprised yet when Ai told him that Sau Boo and himself were one and the
same, and that it was he who had rescued the king from so many dangers.

At first his father-in-law became angry and refused to believe him, but
Ai gave an account of everything that had happened from the time when
the deer broke cover, till the rat was killed by the guard, and thus
convinced the king of his truthfulness.

The king then made a great feast, called all his ministers and generals
together, and made a proclamation that Ai in future should be his _amat
löng_ and should be king when he himself died.

Thus did the princess prove that her luck really depended upon herself,
and not on the king, and to-day we say, "May your luck be as good as the
luck of Nang Kam Ung."


At the beginning of the world a hare, tiger, ox, buffalo, and horse
became friends and lived together. One day the tiger was out hunting
when, it being in the middle of the hot season, the jungle caught fire,
and a strong wind blowing, it was not long before the whole country was
in flames. The tiger fled, but the fire followed. Never mind how fast he
ran, the flames followed him, till he was in great fear of being burned
alive. As he was rushing along he saw the ox feeding on the other side
of the river and called out to him:

"O friend ox, you see the fire is following me wherever I go. Where is a
place of refuge that I can escape the fire?"

Now close to the tiger was a jungle full of dried grass, such as the
Shans use for thatching their houses, and the ox replied, "Go to the
grass jungle yonder, my brother, and you will be safe."

But dried grass is the most inflammable thing in the whole hill and
water country, and so here, not only did the flames follow the tiger,
but they ran ahead of him and threatened to engulf him on every side. In
great anger he roared at the ox, "False deceiver, if ever I escape from
this danger, I will return and kill you," but the ox only laughed at him
and continued eating.

In desperation, the tiger leaped over the flames and found himself near
the horse. "O friend horse," he cried, "where can I go? I am in great
danger of being burned to death."

Now it happened that once the tiger had been very rude to the horse and
called him many bad names, so now he thought this was a good opportunity
to be revenged; so he said: "Yonder is a big bamboo jungle, run to that
and you are safe"; but the tiger found that the horse was also a false
friend, for the fire following him speedily ignited the tall bamboos
which burned fiercely and falling from above, almost completely covered
the poor beast.

At the beginning of the world the tiger was a beautiful yellow color,
but the bamboos falling all over him, burnt him in stripes, and since
that time his descendants have had long black stripes all over their

"When I have escaped from this," yelled the angry tiger, "I will come
back and kill you."

"Very good," sneered the horse, "and I will arch my neck so that you can
get a good bite," but this was said to deceive the tiger, as the horse
intended to lash out with his hind feet when the tiger came to fight
him. Nevertheless, from that day the necks of all horses have been
arched, and they cannot fight an enemy in front, but are obliged to arch
their necks, lower their heads, and kick from behind.

The tiger, by this time tired to death and suffering from the burns of
the bamboos, saw the buffalo and accosted him as he had his other

"O good friend buffalo," he cried, "I am in great danger of being burned
alive. The horse and the ox have not only deceived me, but in following
their advice I have arrived at a worse condition than before. What can I
do to be freed from this great danger?"

The buffalo looked up from the cool river where he was enjoying a bath,
and taking compassion on him said: "If you will catch hold of my throat
I will duck you in the river and so you shall escape from the danger
that is following you."

So the tiger seized the good buffalo by the throat and was held under
water till the fire had burnt itself out. The tiger was very grateful to
the buffalo and made an agreement with him that from that time no tiger
should ever kill a buffalo, and it is only the very worst tigers, those
that kill men, that ever kill a buffalo, and the tigers that are guilty
of killing buffaloes are sure to be killed themselves, sooner or later.

The tiger held so fast to the buffalo that when the latter came out of
the water, his throat and neck were all white, and buffaloes all have
that mark on their necks and throats till this very day.

The tiger was so cold after his bath that he shook and shivered as
though he had fever, and seeing a little house made of dried grass a
short distance off he went to it and found that a hare was living there.

"Good friend," said the tiger, "I am so cold I am afraid I shall die.
Will you take compassion on me and allow me to rest in your house and
get warm before I return home?"

"Come in, our lord," said the hare. "If our lord deigns to honor my poor
house with his presence, he will confer a favor that his slave will
never forget."

The tiger was only too glad to go into the hare's house, and the latter
immediately made room for him by sitting on the roof. Soon the tiger
heard click! click! click! and he called out: "O friend hare, what are
you doing up there on the roof of your house?"

Now the hare was really at that moment striking fire with her flint and
steel, but she deceived the tiger and said, "It is very cold up here,
and our lord's slave was shivering," but the next moment the spark
struck the dried grass on the roof and the house was soon in flames.

The tiger dashed out just in time and turned in a rage on his late host,
but the hare was far away, having jumped at the same moment that the
spark set fire to the roof of the house.

The tiger gave chase, but after a while he saw the hare sitting down and
watching something intently, so he asked, "What are you looking at?"

"This is a fine seat belonging to the Ruler of the Hares," returned she.

"I would like to sit on it," said the tiger.

"Well," said the hare, "wait till I can go and ask our lord to give you

"All right, I will watch till you come back and will not kill you as I
intended doing, if you get me permission to sit on it," said the tiger.

Now this was not a chair at all, but some hard sharp stones that the
hare had covered with mud and shaped with her paws to deceive the tiger.
The hare ran off a long distance and pretended to talk with some one and
then called out: "The lord of the chair says, our lord the tiger may
sit, if he throws himself down upon it with all his might. This is our

The tiger flung himself upon what he thought was the chair with all his
might, but the soft mud gave way and he fell upon the stones underneath
and hurt his paws badly. He therefore sprang up and vowed vengeance on
the hare that he could just see far off in the distance.

By and by as the hare was running along she saw a large wasps' nest
hanging from the branch of a tree, so she sat down and watched it
intently. When the tiger came up he was so curious to know what the hare
was looking at so intently that he did not kill her, but instead asked
her what she was looking at.

The hare showed the tiger the wasps' nest on the tree and said: "That is
the finest gong in all the hill and water country."

"I would like to beat it," said the tiger.

"Just wait a minute," returned the hare, "and I will go to the lord of
the gong and ask permission for you to beat it."

The hare ran till she was far away in the jungle, and then at the top of
her voice called out: "If you wish to beat the gong, the lord of the
gong says you must strike it as hard as you can with your head. That is
his custom."

[Illustration: "Again the cunning hare deceived the tiger." Page 63.]

The tiger butted at the nest with all his might and made a big jagged
rent in its side, and out flew the angry wasps in swarms, completely
covering the poor tiger, who with a dreadful yell of pain tore away from
his tormentors. His face was all swollen, and from that day till the
present, the faces of tigers have all been wide and flat.

Again he chased the hare, and when the smart from the stings of the
wasps had subsided a little, he found to his great joy that he was
gaining on his enemy fast. The hare on her part saw that the tiger would
soon catch her and looked around for some means of escape, and spied
just before her a snake half in and half out of its hole.

The hare stopped as before and sat gazing at the snake so intently that
the tiger instead of killing her as he had intended to do, asked her
what it was in the hole.

"This," returned the hare, "is a wonderful flute that only kings and
nobles are allowed to play. Would our lord like to play?"

"Indeed I would," said the tiger; "but where is the lord of this
wonderful flute? Whom shall I ask for permission?"

"If our lord watches right here," said the cunning hare, "his slave will
go to the lord of the flute and ask permission," and the tiger, well
content, sat down to wait.

Again the cunning hare deceived the tiger by pretending to ask
permission, and when a long distance off he called as before: "Our lord
has permission to play the flute. Let him put it in his mouth and blow
with all his might. This is the custom of the lord of the flute."

The foolish tiger immediately took the snake's head into his mouth, but
the sound that followed came from the tiger, not from the flute, and a
terrible yell he gave as the snake bit his mouth! But the hare was far
away and would soon have been safe but for an unlooked for accident that
nearly ended her life.

The people who lived in that part of the hill and water country were at
war with the State that joined them on the north, and thinking that the
soldiers of the enemy would soon invade their country they had made a
trap in the middle of the path over which the hare was running. First
they dug a hole so deep that should anybody fall in, it would be
impossible to climb out again. The sides of the pit were dug on the
slant so that the opening was smaller than the bottom. Over the top they
had placed thin strips of bamboo that would break if any extra weight
came upon them and they had covered the whole with grass and leaves so
that no traveler would know that a trap was there. Into this hole fell
the poor little hare.

Presently the tiger came up to see where the hare had gone, and when he
saw the hole in the middle of the path, he called out, "Where are you,
friend hare?" and the hare from the bottom of the trap called out, "I
have fallen into a trap."

Then the tiger sat on the ground and just bent double with laughter to
think that at last he had the hare in his power, but the little animal
down in the hole although she did not say anything, thought harder in a
few minutes than the tiger had in all his life. By and by as she looked
up through the hole she had made in the roof, she saw that the sky
overhead was getting darker and darker as a storm was coming on, so in
great glee, although she pretended to be very much frightened, she
called out as loudly as ever she could:

"Our lord tiger! our lord tiger!"

At first the tiger did not answer, so the hare then called, "Does not
our lord see the great danger approaching? Let our lord look at the

The tiger looked up and saw the dark clouds coming slowly, slowly on,
covering the whole sky; his laughter stopped and he soon began to get
very frightened.

After a while, when it had become still darker, he called to the hare:
"O friend, what is the matter with the sky? What is going to happen?"

Then the hare replied: "Our lord, the sky has fallen where you see it is
dark; that is far away, but in a few minutes it will fall here and
everybody will be crushed to death."

The foolish tiger was now frightened half to death and called to the
hare: "O friend, I have treated you badly in trying to kill you. Do not
be angry and take revenge on me, but take compassion on my terrible
condition, and graciously tell me how to escape this danger, and I swear
that I will never try to harm you more."

It was the hare's turn to laugh now, but she only laughed quietly to
herself, for she was afraid the tiger would hear her, then she said,
"Down here our lord's slave is quite safe. If our lord descends, he too
will be safe," and before the hare had hardly finished, the cowardly
tiger made a jump for the hole the hare had made and joined her at the
bottom of the trap.

But the hare was not out yet and she began to plan how she could get out
herself and yet keep the tiger in. At last a happy thought struck her.
She sidled up to the tiger and began to tickle him in the ribs. The
tiger squirmed and twisted first one way and then the other, first to
one side and then to the other; at last he could stand it no longer and
catching the hare he threw her out of the trap and she landed on solid

As soon as the hare found she was safe, she began to call at the top of
her voice: "O men, come! come! I, the hare have deceived the tiger and
he is at the bottom of the trap. O men, come! I, the hare call you.
Bring your spears and guns; bring your swords, and kill the tiger that I
have tricked into entering the trap."

At first the men did not believe the hare, for they did not think that
an animal so small as the hare could deceive the tiger, but then they
also knew that the hare was very clever and had much wisdom, so they
brought their spears and their guns, their swords and their sticks, and
killed the tiger in the trap.

Thus did the hare prove that though small she was full of wisdom, and
although the tiger was bigger, stronger, and fiercer than she, yet she,
through her wisdom, was able to kill him.


There was once a man who had two wives. Now as everybody knows it is
always the chief wife that the husband loves best, while the other
instead of being _Mae Long_, is only _Mae Noi_, and this often causes
jealousy and trouble in the family. It was so in this case, especially
as the chief wife did not have a son to add to her dignity. They each
had a daughter, the name of the chief wife's child was Nang Hsen Gaw,
and that of the other Nang E.

One day the husband of these women went to the lake to fish. He caught a
large number of shell fish and put them on the shore for his wives to
bring home. The younger took her share of the load, but, being very
hungry, she ate them all. The mother of Nang Hsen Gaw, however, was not
greedy like the other woman, and so she put all the fish that were left
into her bag and began to trudge slowly toward the house.

Now, the mother of Nang E was a witch, although no one, of course, knew
it. Being wicked enough to be a witch, she did not hesitate at
committing any other crime, even the most dreadful, and she therefore
made up her mind that she would kill the mother of Nang Hsen Gaw so that
she could be the chief wife. She got home much sooner than the other
woman, as she had no load to carry, and when she saw her husband he
naturally asked her where the fish were. "Now," she thought, "here's a
good chance to get that woman out of the way," so she told her husband
that his other wife was a _pör_, or witch, and she had taken all the
fish away from her. Now, witches are of course very much dreaded, so
when the poor woman came home with her heavy load of fish, the villagers
killed her with their sticks, and she was changed into a tortoise in the

And now at last the mother of Nang E was chief wife, but do you think
she was satisfied? Not a bit of it. She heard that her rival was now a
tortoise in the lake, and she determined to kill her again.

Some time after this, as Nang Hsen Gaw was in the jungle watching the
cows that belonged to her father, she walked along the edge of the lake
and was very much surprised to hear her own name called in familiar
tones. She looked around, but could see no one, and she was getting very
frightened, thinking that it was perhaps a _hpea_ who wanted to entice
her into the thick jungle so that he could devour her, but at last she
looked on the ground at her feet and saw it was a tortoise that was
speaking to her.

"Nang Hsen Gaw," it called. "My daughter, _oie!_ I am your mother who
was killed through the wicked acts of my rival, the mother of Nang E. I
have arrived at great trouble, and now, instead of being the chief wife
of a rich man, I am nothing but a tortoise swimming in the lake. Take
pity on me, my daughter, and out of compassion every day bring me cotton
thread and raw cotton, so that I can weave and spin."

[Illustration: "'I am nothing but a tortoise swimming in the lake.'"
Page 68.]

Nang Hsen Gaw was a dutiful daughter, and every day when she went to the
jungle she took cotton for her mother to spin, and thread for her to
weave, and daily talked with her, telling her all the gossip of the
village and anything else that she thought her mother would like to

But the mother of Nang E was on the watch, and thinking it strange that
the girl should take cotton and thread to the jungle every day, and
bring none back with her when she drove the cattle back at night, she
followed her, heard her talking with her mother, and thus found out in
what part of the lake her enemy was, and laid her plan accordingly.

That evening, unknown to her family, while her husband was busy working
in his garden, she went to the house where lived the doctor of the
village, unfolded her plans to him and asked for his help. Being an
unscrupulous man he agreed, took the silver the woman had pilfered from
her husband, and promised to help her. The next day she was taken very
sick and her husband called in the doctor, who told him that the woman
must have a tortoise from the lake near-by. If she boiled and ate it
according to his directions she would get well, if not, she would die.
Having performed his part of the bargain he returned to his home at the
other end of the village.

Next morning the man went to the lake to get the tortoise. Nang Hsen Gaw
was much distressed when she saw her father set out, and her distress
became worse when she saw that the wicked stepmother had directed him
to the little pond where her own mother was. The man took a large bucket
made out of wicker work, and commenced baling out the water, but Nang
Hsen Gaw was able to warn her mother just where her father was, so that
when he was on one side of the pond her mother went to the other, but at
last he sent the girl home, and in a few minutes secured the tortoise
and was soon carrying it away for his wife to eat.

When he got home he gave her the tortoise, little thinking who it was,
and then went out, while the witch called Nang Hsen Gaw to watch the pot
which had been put over the fire.

Soon the poor girl heard her mother call out. She said that the hot
water had reached her knees, and begged her to put out the fire. She
commenced to rake out the hot embers from under the pot, when her
stepmother saw what she was doing, and taking up a heavy bamboo beat her
unmercifully and made her put more sticks on the fire. Soon her mother
complained again that the heat had reached her shoulders, and again Nang
E's mother beat her, and made her put more sticks on the fire. Soon she
heard her mother say: "My daughter, _oie_! The hot water has reached my
neck and I shall soon be dead. When it is all over, do not let that
wicked woman destroy me altogether, but bury me in the jungle," and in a
few minutes she was dead.

Nang Hsen Gaw tried her best to get the dead body of her mother, but her
stepmother watched her carefully, and all she could not eat herself she
gave to the dogs, to prevent her daughter from getting any, but one dog
ran off with his portion into the jungle. Nang Hsen Gaw followed in time
to rescue the webbing between the fingers.[3] This was all that was
left, but she buried that carefully in the jungle far from the house
where her stepmother lived.

The next day as she was walking through the jungle feeding her cows, she
heard sweet music. It sounded like twelve organs all playing at the same
time, and yet in harmony, each organ blending with the others. In great
surprise she hunted around till she came to the spot where she had
buried the part of her mother's hand, and saw that during the night this
had changed into a beautiful _mai nyung kham_ tree.[4] And so this good
and dutiful daughter went every day to listen to the tree as she had
gone daily to the lake when her mother had been a tortoise, and the tree
sang sweeter when she was near than at any other time.

But such a wonderful thing as this could not be kept a secret. Others
heard of it and people came from far and near to hear the sweet music
come from the tree. One of the _amats_ of the great king who "ate"[5]
the country, heard that a miracle was to be seen in this jungle, and
accordingly reported it to his lord, who sent men to cut the tree down
and bring it to his palace. All day long the men worked at the tree,
from the time the country became light till the moon rose at night, but
although they had the sharpest of axes and were the most skillful
workmen in all the country, yet with all their labor they could only cut
through the bark, and during the night the tree grew so quickly that
when the morning dawned, it was twice as large as it was the night
before, and the marks made by the axes on the bark were covered with new
bark harder than ever.

The king was very angry when he heard of the ill success of his woodmen,
had them all executed, and sent others, but they had no better success
than the first. But this only made the king more stubborn and determined
to get the tree at any cost, and he therefore sent the heralds all
through the country and made a proclamation that any man who could bring
the tree to his palace should be made his _Kem Möng,_ that is, heir
apparent; should it be a woman, she should become _Nang Me Prah_, or
chief queen. Many men therefore came with sharp _pahs_ and axes but all
were equally unsuccessful, and the king despaired of ever getting the
tree, when Nang Hsen Gaw heard of the reward offered by the king, and
told the heralds she could bring the tree to his palace. The king was
full of joy when he heard this, and made great preparations for her. On
her part she simply went to the jungle and, taking off her turban,
fastened it around the tree and carried it bodily into the palace where
it sang as sweetly every day as when it was in the jungle.

When the mother of Nang E heard of the good fortune that had befallen
Nang Hsen Gaw she was very angry, and calling her own daughter to
follow her, she set off for the capital. When she had arrived there she
disguised herself and became a servant to the queen, and pondered how
she could kill the _Nang Me Prah_ and put her own daughter Nang E in her

One day this wicked woman told the queen that she had found some fine
soap beans and bark, that she was very skillful in shampooing, and as
the next day was to be a great feast when the queen would follow the
king on her royal elephant, the soap beans would make her black hair
blacker, and the gloss glossier than ever, and asked her to allow her to
wash the queen's head at a well that was just outside the gate of the
palace, near the royal gardens, where the water was very sweet. The
queen consented and called her attendants to follow, but the stepmother
was much too cunning to allow that, so she told the queen that her
method of washing was better than any other woman's but it was a secret,
and she would reserve it for her majesty's own private use, but she did
not want any of the attendants to see how it was done. If they did, she
added, the next day at the feast every lady in the court would have hair
as glossy as the queen's, but if they went alone, her hair would be as
much more beautiful than any other woman's as the sun is more beautiful
than the bamboo torch that lights the way through the jungle at night,
when there is no moon. The young queen was not proof against this
flattery, and so the two women went alone out of the palace, the very
guards who watched at the gates not knowing whither they were going.

They soon arrived at the well, and as the queen was bending over, her
long hair covering her face so that she could see nothing, her wicked
stepmother suddenly drew a knife and stabbed her to the heart, then,
calling her daughter to help, she buried the poor young queen under the
road leading to the well. She took the royal robes and put them on her
own daughter, Nang E, who returned to the royal palace and entered the
royal apartments, all the attendants thinking it was the real queen
returned from a bath in the river.

That same afternoon, as the king walked through the palace, he was
surprised to see that the wonderful singing tree was all withered and
mute. In great distress he called for the queen and ordered her to make
the tree sing as before, but although Nang E tried with all her might,
she could make no sound. She tapped it softly as she had seen Nang Hsen
Gaw do, but all in vain. It was silent.

Now the king was in the habit of wearing Burmese clothing instead of
Shan, and one day when he had gone to his room to put on his _ptsoe_, he
found that a little sparrow had built, her nest in it. He was a very
kind man, and so allowed the little bird to live there, and in gratitude
to the king this sparrow was in the habit of telling him all she saw as
she flew around the city from morn to night, and whenever the king
wished to find out anything that puzzled him, he would often call the
sparrow to tell him what to do.

He therefore now called the little bird and asked it what ailed the
tree, and the sparrow told him that the woman who was then in the royal
apartments and wearing the clothes of the _Nang Me Prah_ was not the
real queen, but a woman named Nang E, and seeing her approach, the brave
little bird began whistling, "This is not the _Nang Me Prah_, this is
Nang E, Nang E. Oh! Nang E!"

In a great rage the king commanded his servants to call the woman, and
when she was come into the royal presence she dared not open her mouth
to answer the king, for she was not so clever as her mother, who could
disguise her voice as well as her face, and she knew that if she began
to speak the king would see that she was not Nang Hsen Gaw, so she
remained silent. But this did not save her, for the king looked at her
and said:

"You wear the robes and jewels of my queen, but you have not the same
face, and you are afraid to speak to me," and he immediately called his
chief executioner to take her away and cut off her head.

But even this did not bring back the music to the tree, and the king was

The next morning when the guard of the royal garden went to his post, he
saw, near the well, a beautiful _mawk moo_ flower, took it home with him
and placed it in the _chattie_ of water that every Shan keeps in his
house as an offering to the _hpeas_. The old mother Nai, soon after took
her basket and went to the bazaar to buy _puc_ for her son's breakfast,
but when she returned she was surprised to see that during her absence
some one had swept the house, cooked the food, and that the "morning
rice" was all ready to eat. The eating-tray was set out in the middle of
the room. The rice and curry was arranged in order on it, and the
drinking _chattie_ was full of scented water. She called her son and all
the neighbors to ask who had done this, but no one could tell her, and
in great amazement they sat down to their meal. That evening the same
thing happened again. While she was out, the house was again swept, the
food was prepared, and the tray arranged as in the morning. For several
days this happened, and then the old woman determined to hide and see
who did these kind acts. She did so, and was amazed to see that as soon
as she had left the house (she went under the floor and looked up
through a hole between the bamboos), that a spirit came out of the _mawk
moo_ flower that her son had brought from the road leading to the well,
and commenced to sweep the house. In the midst of it the old woman
rushed up to the flower and destroyed it, so that the spirit could not
go back to its refuge. At the same instant, it changed into the most
beautiful woman ever seen.

That afternoon, Nang Hsen Gaw, for the spirit was she, told old Nai how
her stepmother had killed her at the well, and buried her, and how she
had been changed into the spirit of the beautiful _mawk moo_ flower the
guard had brought to the house, and that she would soon go back to the
king in the palace.

They neither of them had seen the little sparrow sitting on the roof,
but she had been there all the time, and now flew off to the king and
told him all that she had heard. The king gave orders that the wicked
mother of Nang E should be executed immediately, and that a band of
soldiers should go to the guard's house to escort his bride back in
state to the palace, where she reigned many, many years, till she saw
her grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up. As soon as the queen
entered the gate, the tree began to play; the withered leaves put on a
bright hue, and beautiful flowers burst into bloom; and while Nang Hsen
Gaw lived, the tree bloomed and played sweetest music every day.

The lessons that this story teaches are: As surely as the wheels of the
cart follow the oxen, so surely will wickedness be punished. If you sin
you must suffer. The man who kills another will assuredly meet the same

[3] The Shans call the two front feet of a quadruped "hands." The digits
are called "fingers" not "toes."

[4] The sacred peepul tree.

[5] The Shans do not usually say that a king "rules" over a country, but
the expression generally used is that he "eats" it; a very suggestive
and alas! too often only too true expression.


Many, many years ago, at the beginning of the world, a little sparrow
built her nest on the top of a tall tree that grew near the edge of a
lake. In it she laid five little eggs, and never was mother bird prouder
than she, and all day long she flew from tree to tree chirping out her
joy. So proud in fact was she, and so much noise did she make, that a
monkey that lived on the other side of the lake was struck with the
remembrance of how he had once dined with great satisfaction on eggs
laid by the sparrow's sister, and in a few minutes he was on his way to
repeat the performance.

In vain the little bird cried and begged him to spare her brood,
promising to show him where the sweetest plantains in all the country
were growing; the monkey only laughed at her and climbed the tree to get
the prize.

The next moment the robber would have gotten his spoil, and this
wonderful story would never have been told, but just then the great lord
Sa Kyah looked earthward and saw the tragedy that was taking place.

Like a drop of rain that falls from a tree when the wind blows after a
shower, the mighty lord descended, and when the would-be robber reached
the nest his hand entered an empty one.

[Illustration: "On his way he saw what seemed to be a bed of flowers."
Page 79.]

The eggs were soon brought back from the _hpea_ country where the lord
Sa Kyah had taken them for safety, and in due time were hatched. Out of
the first protruded a sharp bill, and a kingfisher, bright of plumage
and swift of wing, broke out of its speckled prison. The next egg broke
and a buffalo came out, to be followed by a lordly striped tiger from
the next. A terrible _hpea-loo_, with head and claws like a bird and
body like a man, tore his way out of the next one, already looking
around for a man whom he might devour for his first meal.

Only one egg remained, and that the smallest of all, but out of it came
a man, and the mighty lord Sa Kyah smiled when he saw him, and said that
although he was the smallest and the last, yet he must feed his brothers
and take care of them.

One hot day in summer the buffalo that had come out of one of the eggs,
walking through the jungle, much troubled by mosquitoes, thought how
nice would be a wallow in a hole well known to him under the shade of
the trees by the bank of the lake, where the sun had not dried the mud
to the hardness of bricks as it had in every other wallow, and
accordingly turned his huge body in its direction, and slowly set off
toward it.

On his way there he saw on the ground what appeared to him to be a bed
of flowers growing on the bank of the lake, and after smelling it
carefully over, leisurely ate it all up.

The sun was hot, the earth dry, and the flowers had long ago died, and
what the buffalo thought were flowers were really ten white jackets and
ten red skirts. But when he had finished his meal he continued his
journey to the wallow, and then with a grunt expressive of great
satisfaction, sinking into the soft mud till only the tips of his horns
and the top of his head were visible, he closed his eyes and enjoyed

By and by there was a great commotion in the water--shouts, laughter,
and jokes, together with a great splashing. The lazy buffalo opened one
eye and saw ten young girls who were having great fun in the cool water,
throwing it over one another and chasing each other here and there. When
they came to the place where they had left their clothes, however, their
mirth received a sudden check. They had all disappeared! They stood up
to their armpits in the water looking at each other with very long faces
till, spying the buffalo in his mud bath, they approached him, and in
the most courteous language asked him whether he had seen their dresses.

The great beast closed the eye he had opened, and slowly uncovered the
other one, but beyond this took no notice of the maids forlorn. Then,
calling him "Kind Brother Buffalo," they begged him to answer them,
saying that all the people who left the village to go to the bazaar
before the sun had risen would soon be passing on their way home. The
buffalo blew a big cloud of mud and water from his nostrils, but said
never a word.

Now it happened that the youngest of the sparrow's brood, the man, was
in the jungle all the time. He had seen his brother eat up all the
clothes and had heard all the conversation. He had noticed too, that
although all the maidens were beautiful, the youngest was the most
beautiful girl he had ever seen. He saw how straight was her form, how
black was her hair, and that her eyes were the color of the sky when
there are many stars but no moon, and he determined to get her for his
wife. He therefore now approached the party and told them that he could
help them, and that no one besides could tell them where their clothes
were, but that they must promise that the one whom he should pick out
should be his wife.

To this they agreed, and thus it happened that he became possessed of
the most beautiful woman in all the Shan country. So beautiful in fact
was she, that it is said the birds stopped in the middle of a song when
they saw her. The squirrels stopped half-way up the tree in their search
for nuts as she walked under the trees, and her fame spread far and

At this time a hunter came wandering through the jungle in search of
game, and saw her standing at her door. He, like everybody else, was
struck with her wonderful beauty, and he thought to himself, "For a long
time I have been most unfortunate. I have caught but few animals, and
their furs have been poor and mangy. Now, if I tell the king of my
country about this beautiful girl, he will give me a great reward."

Thus reasoning he set out home and told the king what he had seen,
enlarging upon her great beauty till the king resolved to get her at any

He therefore set out, taking with him soldiers and attendants as became
such a mighty lord, and when he saw the object of his journey he
acknowledged that the hunter had not deceived him, and he determined to
take her back with him to the palace; but at the same time he made up
his mind to go about it in a cunning way.

Now this king had a wonderful fighting cock of which he was very proud,
and which had never been beaten. It had a beak of iron and spurs as
sharp as the knives that come from Lai Hka, and a voice so loud and
piercing that every morning when he crowed every other rooster in the
city scurried away in fright at the challenge.

The king, therefore, said that he and the woman's husband should have a
cock fight. He would wager his country against the other's wife. In
great sorrow the man went out into the jungle to think over his
misfortune, and while sitting on the ground in a most disconsolate
manner he heard a little bird calling his name, and looking up he saw
his brother, the kingfisher, perched above him.

"O brother, do not fear," said the bright little bird. "I do not forget
that you are my brother and have guarded me long, and now I will surely
help you in your trouble."

When the time came for the fight, therefore, and the king's fighting
cock stood proudly up, suddenly down from a tree flew the kingfisher,
pecked him with his long, sharp bill, and then flew away before he could
so much as turn his head. Time and again this happened till the king's
challenger finally stretched himself dead on the ground.

The fight ending in this way, however, did not suit the selfish king a
bit, and he therefore said it was not a fair fight, and brought out a
large, fierce dog. This dog was the terror of the State, but the king
said that it should fight any other dog that could be brought against it
for the same stakes as before. The tiger brother, however, was on the
watch, and before the dog could get near his opponent, a blow from his
paw ended his career.

Still the king persisted in his unjust course, and now declared that the
wager should be finally settled by a fight between two buffaloes. Now
the buffalo brother was ashamed of the way in which he had treated the
girls in the water, and had long wished for an opportunity to retrieve
his honor, so that he now fought with such bravery against the royal
buffalo that he speedily conquered it.

Then the king, seeing that he was beaten every time, threw off all
disguise and said plainly that he had come to get the girl for his wife,
had brought soldiers to help him if necessary, and he would take her in
spite of losing the different battles, and in spite of her husband or
anybody else.

He stepped forward to take her, but he did not know that one more
brother yet remained to be heard from, for out of the jungle with a
dreadful yell came rushing the _hpea-loo_, his beak open, his claws
outstretched, and king, soldiers, and courtiers all disappeared down
his ravenous maw.

The next month the fortunate man with his beautiful wife became king in
the place of his enemy, and lived to be the oldest monarch in the whole
of the Shan country.


In the beginning of the world, many, many cycles ago, so long ago, in
fact, that no man knows how long it was, there were no trees, no hills,
no land, nothing but water. The wind blew the waters hither and thither,
sometimes in great waves, sometimes in quiet ripples; the wind blew, the
waves rolled, and that was all.

Now it happened that Gong Gow, the Great Spirit Spider, felt weary with
carrying around her heavy burden of eggs wrapped up so carefully in
their white covering fastened to her waist, therefore she said to

"I would fain place my eggs in a safe place, but know of none where they
can hatch themselves without danger," so she searched through the
universe to find a suitable place, and at last she spied the water that
is now the world, and in it began to spin her web.

Backward and forward, forward and backward, round and round, in and out
she wove, till at last all was done, and full of content she left her
eggs in their web prison nest and journeyed away.

The wind blew and drove the water hither and thither as aforetime, and
soon little pieces of solid substance caught in the meshes of the web,
and behold! as the time passed the solid substance became more solid
till it formed mud and separated itself from the water, and when the mud
had dried, lo! it was the earth.

So the eggs of the great Spirit Spider were safely locked up within the
earth; by and by they hatched, and breaking forth there appeared the
first man, Boo Pau, and the first woman, Myeh Pau, from whom all the
ancient people who belonged to the first race were descended.

Many, many years passed and people lived out their lives, till one day
the great earth caught fire. It burned fiercer than anybody's
imagination can conceive, and it destroyed everything. All the beautiful
forests with their green coverings of moss and leaves, all the cities
which the first race had builded were burned down, till by and by there
was naught more for the fire to consume, and it was then the end of the
hot season; the time of wet came soon after, and the rain fell upon the
burning earth in such torrents that the whole sky was covered with the

Now it happened that in Möng Hpea, the far-away land where dwell the
powerful spirits whom we call "hsangs," the smell of the steam ascended
and ascended till all the spirits smelled the sweet scent, and said to

"Behold, there appears a sweet smell arising from below, what can it
be?" and there was much marveling at what could cause such
sweet-smelling incense as that then ascending.

And it also happened that in Möng Hpea were nine spirits, five of them
males and four females, and these being of more adventurous spirit than
their fellows, determined to find out for themselves where the sweet
perfume came from. So they set out on their travels downward. They
descended faster and faster, and the faster they descended the sweeter
became the smell, till at last they landed upon this world of ours, and
bending down to the earth they tore great handfuls of it out and ate it
with the greatest relish.

It was morning time when they descended, and they fed upon the fragrant
earth all day till the sun set and the shades of evening began to
surround them, then the eldest of the spirits looked around upon his
fellows, and said:

"Brethren, oie! it is time that we ascended to our own country," and as
the rest assented they stood up to return, but alas! they could not
rise, they had eaten so much earth it had made them too heavy to soar,
and from that day to the day they died none of them ever found their way
back to the beautiful country of the Hsangs, but had to spend all their
lives upon this earth of ours.

Thus we see that it is earthly desires that keep us from the spirit
country. We see, or we hear, we smell or desire some earthly thing. We
get our desires, but they keep us pinned down to the earth. We cannot go
to the spirit country because of them.

When the spirits discovered that they could not return to the Hsang
country they agreed that they would marry each other and take up their
abode upon this earth of ours. But here arose a difficulty; there were
five male hsangs but only four females! There was chance of a great
quarrel, but the strongest of them, his name was Hsin Kyan, thought
within himself:

"I am stronger than any of my brothers and could easily defeat them and
marry whom I will, but what merit would there be in that? I will ask
them whether they would be willing to make me king and each of them give
me of their daughters when they are old enough, then in time I shall
have wives and power as well." Thus we see it is the man who is willing
to control his desires and wait who becomes great.

Hsin Kyan's brethren were very glad to make the agreement and thus it
was that he became the ruler of them all. When the daughters of the
others were old enough, they brought them to the king, and from that day
it has been the custom for men to offer their daughters to the king.

Now it happened that the universal lord, Sa Kyah, who rules over all
spirits and men looked earthward and saw the new kingdom that was
established; he became jealous and determined to kill Hsin Kyan and take
his kingdom away from him. But Hsin Kyan was very subtle and cunning, so
he tattooed himself with charms of such great strength that even the
mighty lord Sa Kyah could not kill him. For many years they fought.
Great mountains were thrown by each combatant at the other, but Hsin
Kyan could not defeat the lord Sa Kyah, neither could the lord Sa Kyah
kill Hsin Kyan.

Our great ancestor Hsin Kyan had seven daughters, whose names to this
day are remembered among us as they have been given to the different
days of the week, from Nang Ta Nang Nooie, the eldest, after whom we
call the first day of the week Wan Ta Nang Nooie, to Nang Hsa Ne, the
youngest, and when the mighty lord Sa Kyah found that he could not kill
their father, he spoke to these daughters and told them he was searching
for one whom he would make his chief queen, and that if one of them
would kill his enemy, their father, and bring to him his head, he would
choose that one to be his queen and make her joint ruler of the
universe; with him she should govern everything created.

But the charms tattooed upon Hsin Kyan were very potent. Water would not
drown him; fire would not burn him; rope would not strangle him; and he
was invulnerable against thrust of spear and stroke of sword, and
although all seven of his daughters tried to kill him yet they were not
able to do so and six of them gave up the attempt in despair.

One day, however, the youngest, she whom we worship on the seventh day
of the week and because she was the smallest call it Wan Hsa Nae, was
walking in the jungle, and as she was passing under a tree she saw a
bird sitting upon its topmost branch. Now this girl knew how clever
birds are, and so she said to it:

"Brother Bird, oie! can you tell me how I can kill my father?"

Now although this daughter was the youngest, yet she was more lovely
than all her sisters, and the bird was so pleased with her that he said:

"Nang Hsa Nae, you are so beautiful that I will tell you the secret of
your father's charm. Water cannot drown him, fire cannot burn him,
neither can sword or spear wound him, but there is one way in which he
may be killed. Take you, seven strands of a spider's web and twist them
into a cord, then with a piece of white bamboo make a bow; with this you
will be able to cut off the head of your father and take it to the
mighty lord Sa Kyah, and oh!" continued the clever bird, "when you are
his queen, do not forget the good turn I have done you, and the debt of
gratitude you owe me therefor."

Nang Hsa Nae was full of joy when she learned the secret of her father's
charm and she promised the little bird that when she became queen of the
universe she would grant him any desire that he craved.

That night when everybody else was asleep, Nang Hsa Nae crept to her
father's side and with the bow made of the seven twisted strands of a
spider's web killed him and cut off his head.

With great joy she carried it to the universal lord. He was very glad to
find that his enemy was at last dead, but although he had given his word
to her, yet he would not marry Nang Hsa Nae, for, said he, she has
killed her father although I could not conquer him. Were I to marry her,
who will go surety for her that she will not do the same to me? So the
wicked daughter did not gain her ambitious end after all.

Not only that, however, but she and her sisters received a punishment,
one they are even now suffering, and will continue till the world ends.
It is this:

When they found that the lord Sa Kyah would not marry their youngest
sister or even accept their father's head, they said among themselves:

"What shall we do with the head of our father? Where shall we bury it?
Should we place it in the earth the whole world would catch on fire;
should we throw it into the sea, all the seven oceans would immediately
boil; what shall we do?"

In their distress they went to the mighty lord Sa Kyah and in humble
tones begged his lordship to give them advice so that they would be
freed from the terrible trouble to which their wickedness had brought
them. He looked at them and said:

"This is what you must do. You," pointing to the youngest, "must carry
your father's head in your arms all this year, and when the year is
finished you can give it to the sister who is next older than yourself.
She will carry it for a year and thus one of you will ever after bear

And so it is. We know when the year ends because then come the Wan Kyap
or washing days, when the princess who has carried her father's head for
a year gives it to her elder sister and washes the bloodstains from her

From these spirits all the inhabitants of the world are descended, and
so we see the saying of our philosophers is true, "We have all descended
from spirits."


Many, many years ago there lived near the old city of Pagan a famous
robber chief who was so fierce and cruel that he made all men fear his
name. He stole and killed and burned till the mothers used to frighten
their disobedient children by saying, "Boh Lek Byah will get thee." He
was a very brave and clever thief, and he became so strong that the
headmen and elders of all the towns and villages throughout the country
were obliged to fee him with money and goods, and if by any chance they
did not pay this blackmail immediately it was demanded, that very night
the followers of the robber chief would assuredly burn down their
village and kill every man, woman, and child within it, for this was
Shan and Burmese custom.

Boh Lek Byah entered every house in Pagan. None was too big, none too
small. He stole from the _whon's_ house as easily as from the hut of the
poor man; it made no difference to him, till at last the palace where
the great king lived was the only place whence he had not gotten booty.
Several of his followers were caught and crucified, but that did not
stop his bad actions or frighten him. In the old days, when a robber was
caught he was taken to the jungle where the tigers are. All the tigers
knew the place of execution as well as a dog knows worship days when
the women offer rice and curry at the pagodas. They used to tie the
thieves fast to the cross by their feet, hands, and hair, and when they
had jeered at them and the women and children had pelted them with
stones and beaten them with bamboos, everybody went home and left them
for the tigers to eat, and thus they did to the followers of Maung Lek
Byah, but they could never catch the robber chief himself.

At last the people of Pagan city came to the Amat Löng, who was next in
rank to the king himself, and said:

"Our lord, for long thy slaves have been in great and sore trouble, and
unless our lord takes pity upon his servants we shall all arrive at

"What can I do?" cried the _amat_, in a loud, angry voice, "has he not
stolen from me? Did I not pay him two whole _ticcals_ of pure silver as
protection money no later than the last Water Feast, and yet did he not
rob me as I was coming home in my boat yesternight, and when I told him
that I was the Amat Löng, did he not laugh in my face and yet rob me
just the same. What can I do?"

"Our lord can go to the Ruler of the Golden Palace and plead for his
slaves," suggested one of the suppliants.

Now, the Amat Löng was a very cunning man, and he knew that if the king
heard that Boh Lek Byah had stolen so much from his subjects he would be
very angry, and might perhaps even deprive him of his rank as chief
amat, for it was his duty to see that all robbers were caught and
punished, therefore after thinking for a while, he said:

"My friends, listen to me; let us each give silver, as much as we can
afford; it is better to give part of our possessions than to have
everything taken from us. Dost hear? This silver we will give to the
_boh_, and he will then not trouble us any more, but will go to towns
where the people are poorer and cannot afford to give as much as we, the
citizens of this royal city of Pagan; then shall we have peace."

This advice was very good and would have been acted upon, but
unfortunately, one of the little princes happened to be in the audience
chamber that morning and heard what had been said. He went to his
father, the ruler of the Golden Palace, and told the king what he had
heard; therefore his majesty called the _amat_ to the Golden Foot and
asked him of these things.

"What is this I hear?" he demanded. "Has this wicked man robbed as much
as the people say? Why hast thou not caught him as it was thy duty to

"Son of the Sun," replied the servant, trembling very much as he kneeled
before him, for who would not be afraid when the king is angry? "it is
true; but this thief is a very wicked and clever thief, besides which he
has a wonderful charm tattooed upon his body which is so potent that it
makes him invulnerable to wounds from sword or gun, neither can he be
bound with ropes, therefore it hath been impossible for the slave of our
lord the king to capture or harm him."

"Then," said the king, still very angry, "get thee a charm still more
potent than the one the robber chief hath, for if thou dost not bring
him or his head to me ere three days have elapsed, thou shalt fall from
thy rank of chief _amat_. Dost thou hear?"

The _amat_ bowed till his head touched the floor before the Golden Foot
and he crawled away from the presence the most unhappy man in all the
king's possessions. Then in great haste he ran to his house and called
all the charm-makers in the city to come to him without delay. Then when
they had assembled before him he commanded them to make him a charm
which would be stronger than the one tattooed upon the body of the
robber chief, Boh Lek Byah. But the charm-sellers one and all declared
that this was an impossibility, for the thief had upon the luckiest day
of the whole year eaten a piece of flesh cut from the body of a murdered
man, and so he could not be harmed in any way, neither was it in their
power to give his lordship the amat a charm stronger than his.

Very frightened was the amat when he heard this, and very frightened
were the soldiers who had been ordered to go with him and catch the
thief. Their wives also cried all that night, for they knew what a
terrible man the robber was, and how angry he would be with the men who
had dared come to capture him. He would show no mercy, and without doubt
would kill them all, and in derision send their heads back to the city
afterward. This the robber had done before more than once to parties of
soldiers sent to take him.

Now it happened that among the soldiers who followed the Amat Löng was
one who had a very wise and clever wife, and when she saw her husband
march away and knew the great danger that he and his fellows were in,
she went to the wife of another soldier, and this is what she said:

"Sister, oie, listen to my words. If we do naught but sit in our houses
and weep our husbands will all assuredly arrive at destruction, for the
_boh_ is a very cruel and cunning man. Of what use will our houses be to
us if we have no husbands? Listen, therefore, to what I say. The man who
collects the blackmail for the _boh_ from the headman of a village
across the river and delivers it into his hand is well known to me. His
name is Maung Gyei, and he sells books in the bazaar. He is a very wise
man, and knows all the followers of the Boh Lek Byah. Let our husbands
fight the _boh_ with silver. It is sharper than a sword, and injures not
the man who handles it skillfully. We will collect all the money we can.
I will sell my earrings, thou canst sell thy bracelets, and the wives of
all the other soldiers can do likewise. This will bring a big bag of
silver, and half of it we will give to Maung Gyei. He will then call
some of the followers of the _boh_ to a secret place and tell him that
the Amat Löng will give him the balance in return for the head of their
master, if they take it to his lordship ere three days have have
elapsed. Our husbands will then bring the head of this wicked man to the
royal palace and lay it before the Golden Foot; they will reap much
honor and glory for having fulfilled the order of the king and the
country will be freed from this great trouble."

Now, when the wives of the other soldiers heard these words they
perceived that she was indeed a very clever woman, fit to be the wife of
a great _amat_ instead of a common soldier, and one ran swiftly after
the _amat_ and his men, for in truth they had not gone far, but were
traveling slowly, because they feared to come up with the _boh_ and his
fierce followers; and they were filled with joy at the good news the
messenger brought them. At the order of the _amat_ his men hid
themselves in a thick jungle till the money should be collected and
brought to them.

After two days and when it was very dark, a man came to them saying that
he was the friend of Maung Gyei, and bore with him the head of the
robber chief, and thereupon showed it wrapped up in a cloth. Then were
the soldiers full of joy again, and they paid the money to him, and that
night they slept peacefully, for they knew that their enemy could harm
them no more, and that they had been delivered from the great danger
which had been threatening them. Before they slept the _amat_ sent a
swift messenger to the city to tell the king the good news that the
robber chief was dead, and that they were bearing his head with them and
would present it before the Golden Foot the next morning.

Next day, therefore, at the head of his men, he marched to the Golden
Palace, and the people of the city were so full of joy over the fact
that Boh Lek Byah was dead, that great numbers followed the procession
to the palace gates in the hopes of getting a glimpse at the head of
their enemy, and everybody praised the Amat Löng for his bravery and
wisdom in killing the robber chief who had oppressed them so sorely. His
wife also called musicians and dancers, and gave orders to her servants
to prepare a great feast that night in honor of her brave husband. They
reached the Golden Foot and knelt before the throne, but when the basket
was opened, behold, it contained the head of another man, and not that
of the _boh_ at all.

Then did all the people in the city laugh at the _amat_ because his
enemy had deceived him, and he fell from his rank of chief _amat_. All
his golden umbrellas were taken away from him and given to his
successor, and he was obliged to earn his living by selling medicines in
bazaar, and from that day till he died he bore the nickname of Amat Toak
Arah;[6] but the people all praised the cleverness of his enemy, the

Now, when the king saw how cunning Boh Lek Byah was and how easily he
had deceived his servant, he determined that he himself would take the
robber chief and thus gain great credit and renown. To this end he gave
orders to the headman of every village throughout his kingdom that
directly the robber should come within his jurisdiction he was to report
immediately, and the king would send a trusty officer to arrest him. He
did not tell them that he himself would go, therefore for a long time
the headmen feared to obey the order of the king for, said they among
themselves: "The _boh_ deceived the Amat Löng, who was one of the most
cunning of men, and will he not escape from any other whom it should
please our lord the king to send against him? Is there any more cunning
man in the palace now than before? When he finds out also that we have
reported his presence to the king his mind will become hot against us,
and he will without doubt return and destroy all our houses and kill
everybody in our village. Nay, it is better to give him silver and beg
him begone elsewhere," so although they told the messengers of the king
they would follow his words, they simply held their peace when the
dreaded robber chief was near their village.

But after a long time the headman of Myo Haung, who was braver than his
fellows, came to the palace and told the king that the _boh_ was then at
his village, and would leave when it became dark, taking boat for Myo
Kywe, which was a suburb of the city of Pagan.

The heart of the king was filled with joy when he heard this piece of
good news, and he gave the headman a great reward. Also he took off the
royal robes such as is the custom of kings to wear, and put on very poor
ones so that no one would think that he was the lord who ate the country
of Pagan. He also took with him a sword; not the royal sword with the
silver sheath and ivory handle, but an old dah with a wooden handle
bound around with rattan string, and a sheath of wood, such as the
common people carry, then he went to the bank of the river near Myo
Kywe and waited. He waited long, but his heart was strong and he did not
become discouraged by reason of the waiting, and at last he saw coming
down the river a small boat, and in it a man whom he knew immediately to
be the thief.

Maung Lek Byah guided his boat toward the bank near where the king was
seated, for he was a skillful oarsman, and when he had fastened it with
a rattan loop to the end of his oar stuck into the soft mud at the
water's edge he ascended the path to the village, and as he reached the
top of the bank he caught sight of the king in his dingy clothes and
wearing the old sword with the wooden handle, sitting on the side of the

He was surprised to see a man there at that time of night, for the gongs
which call the priests and old women to worship had sounded long before,
and everybody in the village was sound asleep, therefore he gazed
earnestly at the king and then called out:

"Who is that?"

"It is a man who wishes to arrive at the rank of disciple to our lord,"
replied the king.

"Art thou a man of the day or a man of the night?" asked the robber
looking down at him.

"Thy servant is a man of the night," replied the king.

"Hast thou not heard how many of my followers have been caught and
executed? How that the tigers at the entering in of the villages will
not now eat oxen but wait till one of my men is tied up for them? I
tell thee they have not long to wait either. Art thou not afraid?"

"Ah, our lord," replied the king, "thy disciples suffered because they
did not take heed and follow in the footsteps of our lord, therefore
have they arrived at destruction; but thy servant will study thee, O
payah, and thus will I learn how to become a great _boh_ and also to
escape their fate."

Now when the king talked in this fashion the _boh_ was very pleased with
him, and gave him permission to follow. He also promised to teach his
new disciple all his arts; that he would not let him ever be caught and
would make him as famous a _boh_ even as he was. "And so," said he, "as
thou hast a sword with thee, follow me. I will give thee thy first

Now it happened that as they walked along toward the city the thief
began to think within himself, "Who can this new disciple be? He surely
comes from a high family, for he speaks not like the common people, but
as kings have a custom of speaking. He wears the clothes of a common
man, and carries the sword of a coolie, but yet his words are the words
of one used to command. Can he be a spy sent by the _amat_ whom I
tricked so nicely the other day, I wonder?" and thus he turned it over
and over in his mind.

The _hpeas_ have ever aided the kings of Burma, and now those whom the
king had been in the habit of feeding daily were watching over him, and
when they heard the _boh_ thus talk with himself, for the spirits can
hear us think even when we make no sounds of words, they put it into
the head of the robber to go to the house of the king's own astrologer.
It was not very far and they soon arrived there. Then Maung Lek Byah
said to the king:

"Stay thou here and watch; if thou dost see or hear aught come and call
me," but he himself went under the house of the astrologer to discover
whether he slept or not. When he knew that the man was sound asleep he
would draw a sharp knife which he carried in his girdle, cut a hole in
the mat side of the house, creep in through this hole and take what he
wished; then he would escape before the lord of the house awoke.

As he was watching, however, he heard the astrologer come out upon the
veranda so that he could study the stars, for that was his custom; then
he heard him say to himself:

"Truly this is a good thing to marvel at, for I see the star of that
famous robber chief, Boh Lek Byah, and following it closely is the star
of none other than the ruler of the Golden Palace himself."

For a long time the astrologer sat upon his veranda pondering over this
strange occurrence and trying to think what it should portend; but in
vain. He could think of no solution of the mystery, so after again
saying that it was a good thing to marvel at he gave it up and went into
his house to sleep.

Thus did the thief discover the high rank of his new disciple, for the
astrologer knew the star of the _boh_ well and would make no mistake. He
also knew the star of the king. Had this same astrologer not cast the
horoscope of the robber chief and foretold which days were lucky and
which unlucky to him, so that by taking heed he had never been caught?
Therefore when he again came forth from under the royal astrologer's
house and saw the king was still waiting without, even as he had given
orders, his mind was filled with great fear.

Then said the king directly he saw the robber: "O Kin Byah, thy servant
knows a place where there are so many rubies that they are as common as
_maknin_ seeds that the children play with in the dust; gold is as
plentiful as iron is with us, and there is enough silk to stock ten
bazaars. All this is within reach of our hands. I can guide thee to the
place, for I know it well; wilt thou follow?"

Then said the thief: "I know of but one place of which thou canst say
that with truth, and that is the Golden Palace; but a man may not enter
there and live. Knowest thou not that the guards carry sharp _dahs_, and
that if a man is caught there without permission from the king or one of
his _amats_, he is immediately impaled? In very truth it is a place good
to shun and fear greatly, even as the den of a hungry tiger in the

"True, O brave man," replied the king, "but this evening as I passed by
the palace I saw hanging from the top of the wall a rope-ladder; we can
climb over, take enough to make us rich for the rest of our lives, and
run away before the guards with the sharp _dahs_ discover that we have
been there. Thus shall we earn much wealth and glory, and people
throughout the land will call our lord the 'Boh Who Entered the Golden
Palace,' and all men will fear his name more than the name of a hungry

Then were the thoughts of the _boh_ in great confusion, and he said to
himself: "Of a truth I am about to arrive at destruction at last. I have
had my last adventure. If I do not follow the king he will assuredly
call out to the guard and I shall be taken. If I go, how shall I be
delivered from the great dangers which will surround me in the Golden
Palace? I am undone whichever way I take."

Then said he to the king: "O disciple, whom I love much, I fear to enter
the Golden Palace, for this I perceive is one of my unlucky days. We
will therefore go to Pin Tha village, for I saw this morning a great
number of coolies there. They were following a great prince from the
hills. They have been traveling far to-day and are therefore heavy with
sleep, and we can despoil them of as much as we can carry away. As they
are very weary with their journey, none will know aught till they awake
in the morning."

"Upon what day wast thou born?" demanded the king, and the _boh_ said
that it was upon a Saturday.

"Then," said the king, "behold! this is a lucky day," and he drew forth
from under his jacket a horoscope, which showed that this was a lucky
day upon which a man who had been born upon a Saturday could undertake
any deed requiring great wisdom and bravery in its accomplishment, and
in spite of all that Maung Lek Byah could say the king led the way
toward the palace, and the _boh_ was obliged to follow him, which he did
with very slow and hesitating steps, for his heart had become as weak as

Even as the king had said, there was a rope-ladder hanging over the
palace wall, and the _boh_ perceived in what manner the king had left
the Golden Palace, but being a very wise man he followed without opening
his mouth.

They passed through the palace courtyard and saw there a thing good to
marvel at; all the guards who ought to have been watching their lord
were slumbering, so that the king and the _boh_ gathered up all the
spears and _dahs_ belonging to these men and carried them away, hiding
them in a secret place under one of the houses.

As they entered the palace buildings the thief became so full of alarm
that all his strength left him and he could hardly walk. Then the king
saw that his follower had arrived at great fear, and as they passed the
house where the royal food was prepared, he said:

"Friend, I perceive that thou art in sore distress; come, eat the food I
am about to prepare for thee and thou wilt become strong."

"Nay," said the _boh_, "that I cannot do. Can a common man eat of the
golden food and live? This will I not do; surely I should be accounted
worthy of death." The king would not listen to him, but entered the
royal kitchen, and with his own hands cooked some food which he
compelled the thief to eat.

Now, the king had prepared two messes, one in which he had cunningly
placed some opium and one without, and it was the food which contained
the opium that the king gave to the _boh_. Therefore, after a little
time, he said to the king:

"O disciple of mine, I know not what is the matter with me. I have no
strength and although it is death to sleep in the Golden Palace yet must
I sleep, for if I do not I shall surely die."

As he said these words his head drooped upon his chest, his eyes closed
and he fell asleep. Once more was the heart of the king filled with joy
and he bound the _boh_ with strong ropes in great haste and made him a

Early the next morning the king called the officer who was in charge of
the guard the night before and when he was come before the face of his
majesty, the king said:

"I have a parable to tell thee. Once upon a time there was a great king
and in his country was also a famous robber chief and, behold, one night
the king was sore troubled with questions of statecraft so that he could
not sleep, therefore he walked throughout his palace. As he was passing
through the courtyard he spied a ladder hanging from the top of the
wall. Now the thief of whom I have spoken had that very night entered
the Golden Palace and at that same moment the king caught sight of him,
loaded down with plunder, creeping toward the rope ladder beside which
he stood. Then the king fell upon him and took him prisoner, bound him
securely with strong ropes and dragged him to a safe place; but the
soldiers who should have been watching were all asleep. What should be
done to such guards as these?"

Now the officer did not yet know that the _dahs_ of his men had been
stolen, so bowing before the Golden Foot, he replied:

"Head of thy servant's body, there is but one thing to be done, they are
worthy of death. Their lord should pass judgment upon them without mercy
and that immediately."

"That is a good judgment," replied the king, and turning again to the
officer of the guard, he said:

"Last night I saw the great and renowned robber chief, Boh Lek Byah, in
this palace. I took him prisoner with mine own hands, behold, he lies
tied fast with ropes in yonder room, but all the guards who should have
been watching were asleep. Where are their _dahs_? Let every man who has
no sword be impaled before I eat my morning rice."

Then were the hearts of the king's _amats_ full of joy when they heard
that the thief whom they all feared was a prisoner in the palace, and
they praised the wondrous bravery and subtlety of their royal master,
saying that without doubt he was the bravest and wisest king who ever
sat under a white umbrella.

The king was very proud as he listened to their praises and gave orders
that the robber chief should be brought before him.

When Boh Lek Byah was led to the Golden Foot he prostrated himself, and
the king said:

"If a man be found in the royal palace at night what hath custom decreed
should be the punishment for his presumption?"

Then the prisoner said: "King above all kings, it is death."

"Hast thou anything to say why thou shouldst not be impaled or given to
the tigers to eat?" demanded the king in a terrible voice.

"Lord of the world," replied the unfortunate man, "last night thou didst
ask to become disciple to our lord's slave. Will the disciple order his
teacher to be executed? When our lord's slave was beneath the royal
astrologer's house he discovered that his new disciple was the Eater of
the Country and so when our lord of the Golden Palace ordered his slave
to enter, he would have been worthy of death had he not obeyed. Will the
Son of the Sun execute his slave for following his words?"

Then when the king heard that the robber had known who he really was, he
marveled much at his wisdom, and said:

"Assuredly thou art too wise a man for the tigers to eat. Take thou
yonder sword, it belonged to him who yesterday was captain of the royal
guard. Follow me and thou shalt later become my chief _amat_."

[6] Literally, "The counselor who fell from his rank," _i. e._, was


PUC. Curry.

ZAYAT. A place built for the accommodation of travelers, also used as an
assembly place for worship, especially during religious feasts; they are
usually built near monasteries.

PARAH. (Burmese, _payah_) a god; an image of Gautama Buddha.

KAM. Luck.

MAU. To be skillful.

AMAT LÖNG. The chief amat or chief counselor of a prince.

SOIE. The Indian "_viss_"; a weight equal to about three and a half
pounds avoirdupois.

CHATTIE. A cooking pot, usually made of earthenware.

HÜK. A deep rent in the earth with steep sides; a ravine; a torrent
usually runs in it during the rainy season, but it is dry in the hot

HPEA. Spirit or supernatural being.

AMAT. A minister of State.

HSAN. A rice bag.

NANG ME PRAH. A queen.

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