Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast
Birds can represent the fluttering, darting thoughts of intuition. This is why little birds helped Cinderella help herself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cinderella #49 Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella (1998)

"Come to me, Angkat" the magical fish called. Flotte, E. 

Note: Contains violence. Once upon a time, “in the land of Cambodia, there lived a lonely fisherman and his daughter, Angkat.  Their riverside home in a quiet inlet was sheltered by waving palms. “ Several ponds away lived another girl, Kantok.  She was as cruel as she was lazy, yet her face was fair to see.  When her widowed mother met Angkat’s father, they married at once.  And the place of Number One Daughter, which by rights goes to the child of the father, ws instead given over to Kantok.  Angkat complained, and the result was that the girls were set to a contest.  They each were given a basket, and sent to the fish ponds.  She who brought back a full basket first would be given the higher rank.  Angkat worked steadily all day, shivering in the water until her lips turned blue.  Her work paid off, and she caught four big fish!  Now Kantok worked her treachery.  Inviting her stepsister to warm up after her cold work. Kantok soon lulled Angkat to sleep.  Then she stole three of her fish and went back home!  Wasn’t Stepmother pleased!  Angkat, knowing that she had lost the competition, released her last fish.  Now Angkat’s life became much harder.   She toiled all day and Kantok taunted her and mocked her.  “No longer did she greet each day with a smile.  No longer did she skip along the path or sing while she worked.  One day, as Angkat set out joylessly to work, she passed by the small pond where she had freed the little fish.  To her surprise, the fish jumped high out of the water.  It spun and gleamed in the shimmering presence of a mystical light, twisting and flashing its iridescent tail.  ‘Come to me, Angkat!’ the magical fish called to her.  ‘How beautiful you have become, little fish, “Ankat said, realizing the presence of a good spirit.  ‘You shall be my special friend. I’ll share my rice with you every day. ‘ Angkat promised with a smile.” The days were much easier to bear now, and Angkat was happy.  Of course her stepmother and sister began to suspect her.  Therefore Kantok followed her stepsister, and observed her feeding the friendly fish.  Now it was an easy task for this wicked girl to imitate Angkat later in the day.  “ Little Fish smelled the rice and rose to the surface.  Its rainbow fins flashed in the golden sunlight.  Too late to realize the danger, Little Fish was scooped into a basket.  Kantok rushed home to cook it for her lunch.”  Of course, when Angkat discovered this butchery she cried as though she would never stop.  That’s when “she was startled by a radiating white light.  Shining with kindness, the Spirit of Virtue stood before her.  ‘ I have been watching over you.  I understand why your heart is broken, my child....tonight, place the fish bones under your mat.  In the morning,  a surprise will await you.”  And the spirit faded.  Angkat followed his directions, and when she woke up, she found a pair of golden slippers under her mat! She did just as the Spirit of Virtue had told her: she put one on the window sill and left the other under her bed.  “Just as the rising sun shone through the mist...there was a great flapping of wings.  She sat bolt upright.  A huge, black bird was at her window.  In a flash, it snatched up one slipper and flew away, high over the palms. “ It flew on and on, and just when if was flying over the king’s garden, the bird dropped the shoe.  And it landed right in front of the king’s son.  Well, wasn’t he enchanted by the pretty little thing?  It seemed to him that a girl who could wear such a lovely shoe would be  fine person, and therefore a good wife.  “An excited buzz grew throughout the court as the prince summoned his courtiers.  In a determined voice he announced, ‘Tell every young woman of the land to come and try on this golden slipper.  Plan a celebration, and the maiden whose foot fits this slipper shall be my bride.”   So this was done, yet none of the young ladies could fit the shoe.  “Timidly, Angkat stepped forward.  She slipped her small foot gracefully into the tiny golden shoe.  She reached inside her sarong and pulled out the other slipper.  A great gasp arose throughout the palace grounds.  At once, the prince understood the reason for his search.  His eyes softened and with a loving look, he whispered to Angkat, ‘It is destiny that we should meet. “ And so they were married, “and became a very happy couple.”  But Kantok and her mother were not happy at all.  They were overcome by such jealousy that it eroded their hearts, and they schemed to commit a murderous act.  Convincing the fisherman to play along, they sent word to Angkat that her father had taken ill.  She was needed at home, they said, and she should come quickly.  Dutiful and loving daughter that she was, she asked the prince for permission to go.  He granted it at once, and sent his wife back home in a fine carriage.  No sooner had she arrived than Stepmother said, “ Hot soup will make your father well.  You know how he likes it.  You make the soup!’  Outside the house, the fire roared and the great iron soup pot came to a boil.  When Angkat leaned down to add more wood to the cooking fire. her cruel stepmother gave the signal. ‘ Now!’ Together, the scheming threesome pushed with all their might.  Over went the cauldron on top of Angkat.  The Princess was crushed and died instantly. “  So Kantok went back to the palace in her place.  The prince did not love her, but did not want to dishonor her family.  He allowed the new wife to stay.  On the way home, Father and Stepmother “found an unusual surprise.  In the very place that Angkat had been killed, a beautiful red-leafed banana plant had mysteriously appeared, its leaves glossy and broad. “ They knew it had some connection to the girl they had murdered.  The father’s guilty conscience caused him to chop the banana tree down with his machete.  But even as he threw the pieces aside, “ sturdy bamboo shoots rose out of the ground.  A massive stand of graceful bamboo appeared, gently waving in the beeze.  The wicked fisherman was amazed and bewildered. “  Meanwhile the prince, who had really loved Angkat, mourned for his young wife.  He fell into a terrible sadness.  “One day, to ease his sorrow, his companions decided to take him hunting.  Together, they all set out for the jungle. last the hunting party agreed to set up camp and rest under a majestic grove of bamboo.  So pure and gentle was the sound of the  evening breeze through the bamboo that the prince grieved all the more for Angkat, his lost love. ‘What I was hunting for, I may have found.  I must have this bamboo at my palace.  Dig it up! “.  And that is  why the hunting party arrived at the palace hauling a catch of bamboo, but no game.  He had it planted, and tended it himself.  It thrived and every day he sat among it to hear the song of the breeze.  One day, “softer than a breath, he heard Angkat’s voice whispering in the bamboo.  ‘I am here with you, my dear prince.’  Falling to his knees, the prince beseeched the Spirit of Virtue for the return of his one true love.  Suddenly, he felt a presence, faintly at first.  he looked up.  In the pale, green bamboo surrounded by a shining light, stood his cherished Angkat, glowing with inner beauty.  The prince reached out to his beloved princess.  Their hands touched and the felt blessed by the spirit.”  As for Kantok, she saw this and then, “shrieked, in  panic she fled from the palace pursued by cats hissing, dogs howling, and birds fluttering. Together with the cruel, scheming, stepmother and father, the three were banished forever from the land.   The prince was crowned King and Angkat became his rightful Queen.  Rising above their tragedies, they brought prosperiry and happiness to the people.  From that day forth the Spirit of Virtue blessed them abundantly.  Peace and joy reigned over the magnificent Kingdom of Cambodia for many years to come. 
Angkat, written by Jewell Reinhart Coburn
Illustrated by Eddie Flotte
Notes: Here we have a spiritual guide in place of the animal helper after its demise.   Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Vintage), (1974, p.257) said that Cinderella's animal helpers are stand-ins for her dead mother.  Here we see the eternal nature of love, first given in the flesh by Angkat's mother, then shown to her in the guise of a fish.  So powerful is the love that even after the fish is killed and eaten, its bones retain magical power. The Spirit of Virtue is powerful enough to absorb and radiate love for the deceased mother as well as the orphaned daughter.  This version contains a satisfying punishment for the stepmother and daughter.  It is interesting to compare this story with the Chinese Yeh-Shen, where they are killed in the end by "a shower of flying stones", and the Korean Cinderella, where no punishment is dished out.  However, my research has shown me that some fairy tale retellings remove violent elements in an attempt to spare children from them.   Perhaps Shirley Climo, in her retelling of the Korean Pear Blossom, did so. 
Montessori Connection 6-12: Geography/Hemispheres of the Earth/Oceans of the World/Southeast Asia/Landforms
1. Read Angkat again, this time paying close attention to the illustrations showing bodies of water.
2. Think about what Angkat's father does for a living.  (He is a fisherman).
3. Using the World Continents and  World Oceans cards (free download at : )
learn about Southeast Asia and Cambodia and the bodies of water there.
4. Learn about the fish that live: a) in the ocean b) in lakes c) in lagoons.