The Fortunes Of Ai Powlo
Category: Strange Fortunes of Strange People
Source: Laos Folk-lore Of Farther India
Once upon a time a father and mother had a wicked son whose name was Ai
Powlo. One day, while in the rice fields together, the father sent the
son to his mother with a message. Instead, however, of delivering the
message, Ai Powlo said his father had been eaten by a tiger. Leaving his
mother in great distress, he returned to the rice fields and told his
father that both his mother and the house were burned, and, for three
days, did the father mourn for his wife, as he lay in the watchhouse.
While the father was mourning, Ai Powlo moved his mother and the house
to a new place and then sought his father, saying, "I saw a woman in a
new house by the stream who resembles my mother. Would you like her for
"If my son seeks her for me, I would be thankful," replied the father.
Going to his mother, Ai Powlo said, "I have a man who would make thee a
good husband. He would work in the rice fields. Will you take him for a
Thinking of the work, the mother said, "I will. Go, bring him to me, my
Lo, when the father and mother met, they recognized one another, and
they knew their crafty son had deceived them!
As Ai Powlo fled from the wrath of his mother and father, he journeyed
many days, and, upon a day it happened he stole some pork from a
Chinaman. Taking the pork, he sought the rice fields and there he saw an
old man at work. Running up to him, he called, "Father, do you not
hunger for some pork? I have some to share with you."
"I do, my son," replied the old man.
Together they went to the watchhouse to cook the pork, but found no pot
"Whilst I make a fire, go thou, my son, to my house and ask my wife for
"Your husband wants you to give me all the money in the house, as he has
heard of an elephant which he can buy now," said Ai Powlo to the wife.
The wife refused to give it to him and Ai Powlo called to the husband,
who sat by the watchhouse waiting for the pot, "She will not give it to
me." The old man called back, as he was hungry for the pork, "Give it to
him. Make haste," and receiving all their store, Ai Powlo fled into
Upon a day, as Ai Powlo walked by the highway, he saw four bald-headed
men pouring water on their heads to cool themselves. Running up to them,
he said, "I know a medicine which will make the hair grow. Rub your
heads until the skin is broken, whilst I make the medicine."
Taking some red peppers, he pounded them to a soft paste, put some salt
in it, and then handed it to the four simple-minded old men, who had
already rubbed their heads until they bled.
Having used the medicine, they suffered great pain and would have killed
Ai Powlo, but he fled and took refuge with the chow, to whom he said, "I
saw four old men on the way, who butted their heads together, trying to
see which could overcome the other. All have much strength, and their
heads are scratched and bleeding." Even as Ai Powlo spoke to the chow,
the chow espied the men, and, when they came up, he commanded them,
saying, "If you are able thus to wrestle for your own pleasure, you can
wrestle for my pleasure." Not daring to disobey the command of the chow,
the men painfully wrestled. While they struggled, Ai Powlo, fearing
their wrath, fled, and as he fled, he fell into a deep stream and was
* * * * *
Many years after, two fishermen were fishing in the stream, and as they
drew in the net, they found not a fish, but a skull, and lo, the skull
both laughed and mocked!
As the fishermen talked together of the curious skull, a man with a
boat-load of goods approached, and they called to him, asking, "Did you
ever see a skull which laughed and mocked?"
"Never did I see such a skull, nor ever will I believe there is such a
thing," replied the man.
"If we show you such a skull, what will you give unto us?" asked the
"All the goods in my boat," laughingly answered the man.
On beholding the skull, which, of a truth did both laugh and mock him,
the boatman forfeited his goods, but, in his anger, he cut the skull and
broke it into pieces, and, of these pieces he made dice with which to
gamble, and was it not fitting, as Ai Powlo, whose skull it was, in life
had but deceived, and ever done evil?
The Fortunes of a Lazy Beggar
Once upon a time a man lived who was never known to work. When the
neighbors grew weary supplying him with food, he sought the forest, and
lay down under a fig-tree so the ripe fruit might drop into his mouth.
Often, when the food fell out of his reach, he would suffer hunger,
rather than make an effort.
It fell upon a day that a stranger passed that way, and the lazy man
asked him to please gather some fruit and put it into his mouth, as he
hungered. The wily stranger gathered a handful of earth and put it into
his mouth, as he lay there with his eyes even closed. Tasting the earth,
the lazy man was angry, and he threw figs after the retreating impostor,
who ran away mocking him.
Days after, a ripe fig fell into a stream near by and, floating down the
stream, was seen and eaten by the daughter of a chow. Delicious to the
taste, she grew dissatisfied with all other fruit and vowed that, from
henceforth, she would eat of no other fruit, and that the man who had
thrown the one beautiful fig should be her husband.
Angered by such a caprice, her father urged her to be guided by his
judgment. Unable to restrain her, and, hoping to turn her desire
elsewhere, the chow made an elaborate feast and bade all the people of
the province to it. But, among all was not the one who had thrown the
fig into the stream.
"Is there not yet a man who has not come to the feast?" asked the chow.
"None save the lazy beggar who lies at the fig-tree," they said.
"Bring him hither," commanded the chow, determined to have his daughter
see what manner of man she was selecting as her husband.
Too lazy to walk, the lazy man was carried into the presence of the chow
and his guests.
Ashamed that his daughter sought such as her husband, and would have no
other, as it was supposed that the lazy man alone had thrown the fig
into the stream, and he was too lazy to deny it, the chow had a boat
built for their use and commanded that they be floated down the stream
to the sea. This he did, hoping his obstinate daughter and her lazy
husband might be lost to the world forever.
All day long the boat drifted; all day long spake the princess not one
word to her husband, nor would she have aught to eat. Fearing she would
not live, if she did not eat, the beggar made a fire to cook some rice
for her. Lazy as ever, he put but two stones under the kettle, and it
"I cannot endure your lazy ways. Put three stones under the kettle,"
cried his wife.
The husband did so, glad she had spoken to him.
And when the boat had drifted many days, it came to a place where once
there had been a large rice field and there it remained.
While the princess stayed in the boat, the once indolent beggar labored
day after day in the rice fields that they might live; moreover, he had
learned to love his princess wife.
When the god, who looks to men's deeds, from his home in the sky saw the
man no longer loved his ease more than all else, but would toil for his
wife, he said within himself, "the man deserves reward." So he called to
him six wild monkeys from his woods, and gave into their care six magic
gongs, telling them to go beat them in the rice fields where the husband
The husband heard the monkeys and the clanging of the gongs, but, at
last, unable to endure the noise, finally caught the monkeys and secured
the gongs. He then threatened to kill the monkeys, but they plead that
they were sent, by the god who looks to men's deeds, with the gongs as a
reward for his merit. "Having seen your efforts to provide for your
wife, who loves not you, he sends you these gongs. If you strike this
one, you will grow beautiful; that one, you will have wisdom. Another
gives you lands and servants, and, another, if struck while holding it
in your hands, will cause people to do you reverence as though you were
a god," they told the man.
Having permitted the monkeys to go, he beat the gong of beauty, and his
body grew straight and tall, also his face became most pleasant to look
upon. Beating the gong of power, and taking the others with him, he
sought his wife. She did not recognize him, and would have done him
reverence, but he said, "Do me no reverence. I am thy husband," and he
told her of the god's reward. When she heard of the magic gongs, she
entreated him to return to her father that he might forgive her for not
having heeded his counsel.
Through the magic gongs, had they wealth, power and all benefits the
gods could bestow, and the father loved them, and indeed gave his
son-in-law power above all the princes in his province. And the once
lazy man thought within himself: "In former times the people derided me
as a lazy man, because I would not work, now that I am possessed of
wealth, they do me reverence; yet behold I am as lazy as ever, for I
open my mouth and food is ready for my use. Thus it is, that when a poor
man does not work, he is called a lazy beggar, but when a prince, or
rich man, does not work, he has power, and people do him reverence."
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