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The Faithful Husband






Category: Romance and Tragedy

Source: Laos Folk-lore Of Farther India

Upon a day in years long since gone by, Chow[10] Soo Tome, wearied of
the talking of his slaves, wandered into the forest. As he walked in an
unfrequented path, he came to a lake where seven beautiful winged nymphs
were disporting themselves in the water. One, Chow Soo Tome readily saw
was more beautiful than the others, and he loved her and desired her for
his wife. On seeing the Chow, however, they all fled, but the most
beautiful one permitted herself to be overtaken.

"When I saw thee, my heart was filled with love for thee. If thou dost
not consent to be my wife, of sorrow will I die," cried Chow Soo Tome.

"Easily could I have escaped, had not love for thee made me loath to
leave thee," replied the nymph. And in great joy they returned to the
Chow's home.

"My son, let me take the wings of thy wife, lest she fly and leave thee
in sorrow," urged the Chow's mother, and, readily did the nymph wife lay
aside her wings.

But it happened that the head chow heard of the beauty of the wife of
Chow Soo Tome, and he coveted her, and seeking to do away with Chow Soo
Tome, he sent him to war, and commanded that he lead the battle.

The young nymph wife knew the design of the head chow, and, as soon as
her husband had gone, she sought her mother-in-law and begged that she
give her back her wings.

"I am filled with sorrow. Without Soo Tome I cannot remain in the house.
Give me my wings that I may fly in the air and be comforted," pled the
wife.

"Consent that I tie a rope to thy feet. Then, I will give thee the
wings," answered Soo Tome's mother.

The young wife consented, but, having donned her wings and flown up in
the air, she cut the rope fastened to her feet and was safe from the
head chow's pursuit. Her freedom made her think of the home of her
father in the kingdom of Chom Kow Kilat,[11] and thither she flew.

Chow Soo Tome, unhurt and victorious, returned from the war and found
his home desolate without his nymph wife, and would not be comforted but
determined to seek her. "Now, I will go seek her in her father's
kingdom, Chom Kow Kilat, though seven years, seven months and seven days
be required for the journey."

Through forest, over mountains and across plains toiled Chow Soo Tome
patiently. And, as he journeyed, upon a day, he met an ape.

"My friend, where do you go?" asked the ape.

"To a land far away, where the love of my heart abides, in the kingdom
of Chom Kow Kilat. The way I do not know, but my heart guides me,"
answered Chow Soo Tome.

The ape pitied him and sought to aid him, and what food he had or found
he shared with Chow Soo Tome gladly. Together they travelled many days
until they reached the sea. They had no means of crossing, and when the
ape realized he could no longer aid Chow Soo Tome, he cried bitterly,
saying, "No longer can I aid thee, now; therefore is my sorrow greater
than I can bear," and, lo, he died! For three days did Chow Soo Tome
mourn this kind friend, and, as he mourned, a fly came to eat of the
ape.

"I am but alive and fear I will die if I do not have food at once," said
the fly. "The ape is dead and can feel no pain. I am alive and hunger,
thou art in trouble and need aid. If thou wilt give me to eat of the
flesh of the dead ape, whenever thou needst me, think on me and I will
come to thee," added the fly.

"Eat," said Chow Soo Tome, and then he went on his way, but shortly
after, sat down under a tree. While there, he saw two eagles alight on
the tree.

"When we are rested, we will fly across the sea and eat of the feast
which the king of Chom Kow Kilat gives in honor of the return of his
beautiful daughter," said one of the eagles to its mate.

Hearing these words, Chow Soo Tome cautiously climbed into the tree and
crept under the wing of the larger eagle, who shortly after said to its
mate: "Before we fly hence, I must rid myself of an insect which is
under my wing and annoys me."

"This is a sacred day, and, for some punishment has the insect come
under your wing; let it remain," counselled the other eagle, and then
they flew over the sea. When they rested in a tree on the other shore,
Chow Soo Tome crept from under the wing and climbed down the tree. After
a time he reached a sala[12] near a large city. Near the sala was a
well, and, as Chow Soo Tome rested, seven slaves of the king of Chom Kow
Kilat came from the city for water.

"Why dost thou draw of the water?" asked Chow Soo Tome of a slave.

"We are this day glad, for the most beautiful daughter of the king of
Chom Kow Kilat hath returned from the land of men and the water will be
poured over her head," said the slave addressed.

Approaching the seventh slave, Chow Soo Tome asked that he might place a
ring in her water jar. Now, the ring was one which he had received from
his nymph wife, and he sought thus to turn her thoughts to him again.

"Pour your water in such a manner that, when it falls, the ring will
fall upon the hands of the princess," directed Chow Soo Tome.

The slave did as directed, and, as the ring fell on the hands of the
young princess, she knew her husband was near, and she asked the slave
who was at the well when she drew the water.

"A chow of a far country," said the slave, "who rests in the sala by the
sacred well outside the city gate."

In great haste and joy, did the young princess seek her father. "Outside
the city gate, in the sala by the sacred well, doth my husband await me.
Let me go to him, father," she pleaded.

"I must first prove that he be thy husband. Let all my daughters make
ready a table spread with the best of the feast, and hide themselves.
The man shall be called, and, if he selects thy table, he is thy
husband, but, if he knows not thy table, he shall die," replied the
king.

The tables were made ready, Chow Soo Tome was summoned and commanded to
select the table prepared by the princess whom he claimed as his wife.
Sore perplexed, Chow Soo Tome bethought himself of the fly's promise,
and he called it to his aid. Immediately the fly appeared and sat on the
table prepared by the wife of Chow Soo Tome, and there Chow Soo Tome sat
down.

"Yet another test," said the king. "Make ready seven curtains and place
my daughters behind the seven curtains, allowing but one finger of each
princess to be seen. Then, from among the fingers, select that of thy
wife."

Immediately did the grateful fly rest upon the curtain where lay the
finger of the young wife, and unhesitatingly Chow Soo Tome walked up to
the curtain and clasped the right finger.

"It is enough. She is thy wife," declared the king, and so pleased was
he that he made Chow Soo Tome second in power in the kingdom of Chom Kow
Kilat.

9: This represents a very well-known maerrchen.

10: Chow--a prince or high official.

11: A fabulous city.

12: A rest-house for guests.





Next: The Faithful Wife

Previous: The Lovers' Leap



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