Robin Redbreast

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

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cinderella #94 Kajong and Halœk (Vietnam, 1887)

Clemmys marmorata,Western Pond Turtles
basking in the golden sunshine. Tilden Park, Berkeley,  CA
Note: Contains violence and cannibalism. Once upon a time, in what used to be called Saigon, there lived a woman who could not tell her own child apart from that of her adopted child.  Which was the eldest?  She did not know.   Who would have the rights and privileges due the eldest?   Both girls claimed it!  To decide, she held a fishing contest.  Giving each girl a basket, she sent them to the river, telling them that she who brought back the biggest catch would be called Big Sister. So the girls, whose names were Kajong and Halœk, went down to the river.  There, Kajong, who was in fact, the adopted daughter, waded right in.  She dashed at the fish with her net, and soon had thirteen fine fishes, which filled her basket exactly halfway.  But "Halœk does not care to go in the water, and she only catches ten krwak." Now tiredness overtakes Kajong, and she drowses on the bank.  Thieving Halœk takes ten of those  fish and puts them in her own basket!  Now who has a basket full of fish, Little Sister, thought Halœk to herself.  When poor Kajong woke up and saw her nearly empty basket, she knew at once what had happened. But Halœk denied having taken her fish, so Kajong knew that she could return home without more fish. Her stepmother will surely beat her first, and then force her to become a servant.  So Halœk went home alone, and Kajong stayed at the river to continue fishing.  Despite much effort, the poor girl could only catch one little tjarok. When Kajong got home she put this little fish into "the well, to nourish it, because, like herself, it is solitary."  She brought "the three tjaklėk into the house." Of course her stepmother wasted no time in sending the girl, the younger, as she is reminded, out to take the goats to pasture.  Kajong took her small bowlful of rice along with her, and stopped for a moment at the well.  Speaking softly, she called to the little fish, "calling it brother", and, when it surfaced, fed it a few grains of her rice.  Each day Kajong did this, and in so she cultivated a friendship with the fish in the well.  But Halœk is suspicious of her young stepsister.  Why does the girl always take her rice out of the house to eat?  Jealous of any little thing which Kajong may have or know of, that she herself does not, she followed her sister out the next day.  Ah ha! She discovered the secret.  Well, the following day this wicked girl left the goat pen ajar on purpose, and when the goats were seen in the cotton field, waited until Kajong was far away herding them back.  Now Halœk played the false sister:  taking Kajong's scarf from the house, along with her battered rice bowl, she went to the well.  Imitating the words of her sister, she called the little fish.  Now she fed it some rice — and now she speared it! Quickly, she  chopped it in half, cleaned it, and took it inside.  In a jiffy it was roasted.  Halœk had a most delicious lunch that day. Oh poor Kajong! When she found what her hateful stepsister had done she flung herself to the floor.  For two days and nights she wept, and on the third night, she had a dream.  In it, her fish-brother appeared, telling Kajong where she could find his bones.  They were in a bamboo tube kept by the water jar.  "If you love me,' said the fish,'Take my bones, put them in a cocoa-nut shell, and put them at [the] crossroads.  Then, when you drive your goats, I shall see your face, my sister.  If you do thus, visit me every hour of the day." Kajong cried to hear his kind voice, and agrees.  "On the following morning, she finds a gold shoe at the spot where she buried the bones.  A crow had carried off the fellow shoe and dropped it in the palace, where the King picked it up.  The bones were transformed into these golden shoes." Kajong took home the golden shoe, and hid it away in her bedclothes. Several days later, the King proclaims that he has commenced a search for a girl who can wear a certain gold shoe which was dropped in his garden by a crow.  He commands "all girls, big and little, are to come to the palace to try on the shoe." Kajong begs to go, but of course she is not given permission.  Halœk hastens to take her place in line to see the King.  But Kajong will not give up, and begs her stepmother for permission.  Now the woman throws a tangle of snarled threads on the floor, telling Kajong that if she can sort the mess out, she may go.  Left alone, Kajong "weeps, and Heaven sends a number of ants to disentangle the thread."  But her stepmother's promise was false: she tells Kajong that her next task is to sort seeds.  So saying, she forces the girl to "dump a measure of sesame and a measure of maize into a sieve and sort them".  Then she can go to the palace. Now "the Lord Al Wah [Allah?] commands all birds of the forest, termites,ants, scorpions, centipedes, yellow cockroaches and red cockroaches to come and help her pick up and sort the grain."  The swarming insects soon have the sesame sorted from the maize, and Kajong is given permission to go.  Now she "prepares betel leaves and wraps them in her handkerchief", and sets off for the palace.  The poor girl's nerve fails her however, and when she gets there, she cannot bring herself to go in.  But the King still has not found the girl who can wear the shoe, and when Kajong is seen hiding behind a pillar, she is bid come forward.  The shoe fits! Does she happen to have its mate? the King wants to know. She brings it forth, fulfilling a prophecy, so the two are married.  Jealous Halœk has observed all of these events, and returns home to tell her mother what has happened.  They hatch a plan now, so high does the fire of jealousy burn in them.  Arriving at the palace, the stepmother plays the role of a lonely mother, and begs that her daughter Kajong be allowed to return home for a few days.  The King kindly grants permission.  But when his bride arrives at her old home, she is ill treated.  Given nothing to eat after her journey, and no bed to lie upon, she spends the night hungry, curled up on the floor.  In the morning, Halœk invites her to the lake to  pick cocoa-nuts, and sends Kajong high up a tree, flattering her that she is the better climber. From the tree-top, hands full of cocoa-nuts, Kajong looks down — and sees that Halœk has taken an ax out. Thump! Thump! Halœk chops the tree down, and her sister falls down, down, down.  "Why are you so cruel?' she asks as she falls.  Quickly, Kajong tells her sister " When you get home, tell your mother to take you and marry you to my husband." As soon as her body falls into the river, she "becomes a golden turtle".  All passes as Kajong has asked.  Although the King is very sad, he believes the lie that his bride has drowned, and accepts the stepsister in her place.  But he can get no rest from her tongue, and tires of her company.  He takes his men hunting roebuck, and they come to the very lake where Kajong the turtle resides.  The king's men "sound the lake and take a golden turtle. The King holds it to his bosom", then returns home and "puts it in a golden basin." But greedy Halœk kills and eats it, then throws its shell behind the palace. When she is discovered, by the King's astrologers, she claims an overwhelming craving for turtle meat! The King is angry, but forgives his new wife. While out walking, he spies a tender bamboo shoot growing behind the palace, and takes to visiting the spot each day. But one day it is gone! Halœk confesses to a taste for young bamboo, and admits that she has eaten it.  Now the King finds that a little bird has hatched from the bamboo husk.  It "moans" and says the name Kajong. "If you are really Kajong, come sit on my sleeve." The bird does so! But later that day, the King finds the feathers of little Kajong-bird. Halœk at first denies it, but then admits that she has eaten the bird all up and thrown the feathers into the road! The King is angry at this wife who eats everything.  He looks up and sees that the feathers "have turned into a Makyar tree". The King grieves very deeply for the little bird. Every day he sits beneath the tree and waits for the fruit to ripen. There is only one, and the King can smell it but not see it.  One day someone else comes to sit below the tree. It is an old woman who sells a kind of pancake called ratjam. She too can smell the fruit. By its "curious perfume" she determine that it is ripe, so she shakes the tree. Down it falls! The old woman puts it into her basket and takes it home.  That's when Kajong comes out of the fruit! She "causes to appear rice, tea, arek and all kinds of cake." When the old woman comes back and sees this, she "wonders if anyone wishes to bespell her, but she utters a wish and eat the rice and cakes without  ill consequences. "  This is repeated three days in a row.  On the fourth day, the old woman hides, and sees Kajong step out of the Makyar peel. Now Kajong laughs, and tells the old woman to go and invite the King to come for a splendid feast.  The hovel will be transformed by the time she gets back, assures Kajong.  So the woman goes to the palace, and, although the dogs bark at her, delivers her message. When the King steps out of the palace, he sees a carpet laid upon the ground, the whole way to the old woman's hovel, now turned to mansion.  And here the King tries a cake, and is surprised to find that it is just like those that Kajong used to make. He tries a betel leaf, and again it is a familiar recipe.  He asks who has made the food? The old one tells him that she does not know, and that's when Kajong steps out! Now "the King embraces her, weeping, and recompenses [the] old woman with gold and silver." Back at the palace, false Halœk feigns delight in seeing her sister.  But Kajong has told the King all of her stepsister's wicked deeds, together they agree on a plan.  Soon Halœk compliments Kajong on her fair skin, begging for her beauty secret. In jest, Kajong says that she "plunges into boiling water.  Halœk does so and is scalded to death." Now Kajong instructs the servants to butcher the body and salt it.  It is sent on to her stepmother, with a message that Halœk sends greetings — and salted fish.  The greedy old woman accepts the gift, and eats the "fish" every day.  When she reaches the bottom of the cask, she "comes upon a hand wearing a ring, which she recognizes as Halœk's. The truth is clear to her".  From Landes, A., 1887. Contes Tjames
Cox p. 299
Notes: The description and notes from Cox make me think that the Makyar tree and fruit can only be durian! I have never smelled it but have read of it, and its odor. 
Montessori Connection Age 10+ Zoology/Insects of East Asia
1. Find Vietnam on the globe.
2. Read the story and list all of the kinds of insects that help Kajong.
4. Why do you think that insects played such an important role in this particular Cinderella story? Learn more in Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam or Goodbye, Vietnam or Children of Vietnam (The World's Children).

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