Once upon a time

Yesterday I was on library duty – sorting books, sticking in loose pages and so on.

Whilst the English section is full of page-turners where Biff and Chip go to a car boot sale or spend the morning watching paint dry, the Khmer section was far more interesting for a barang like me.

The books seems to fall into three categories: firstly those which underline Buddhist beliefs, such as the story of the Tiger and the Parrot.

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There is no softly-softly approach when describing wicked behaviour.

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With a picture of the grilling parrot, just in case you didn’t quite clock the meaning.

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But don’t worry – the tiger understands about karma and refuses to sully his own soul with violence.

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And it all ends happily ever after … well, for the tiger and the parrot, at any rate.

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Secondly there are traditional tales, such as this one –

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or the tale of the doormat wife and her selfish husband –

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Instead of berating him for buggering off and leaving her, she welcomes him back like the Prodigal Son.

But unlike the Prodigal son, husband gets a nasty shock in the middle of the night

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when his wife starts decomposing in front of him.

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I’m not quite sure what the message is here – other than ‘don’t hide your anger or you may find yourself decomposing and full of a thousand worms – hit your husband with a saucepan instead or poison the delicious food and you’ll feel so much better.’

The third category are cautionary tales, such as this story of a foolish boy who climbs over barbed wire and ignores the warning signs to retrieve his footballDSC_2542

and steps on a landmine

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with predictably disastrous consequences.

He ends up in hospital

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with the other casualties of war.  But it’s not all doom and gloom –DSC_2558

– he sets up an amputees football team and scores a goal.

The book ends with a message from the boy to the reader.  I can’t understand the writing, but am in no doubt as to what he is saying.

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And then this story is about the perils of superstition and ignorance.

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The family believe the man is ill because he has made the spirits angry.

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But city-dwelling son returns home and explains that holding a party for the spirits won’t help Dad as he actually has malaria.

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Metrosexual son takes dad to hospital, and all is well.

One book I particularly liked was a variant of Aesop’s fables.  This story is about a snail and a hare, and I love the illustration where they are both getting arsy with each other and the snail shouts ‘OK, so I’m legless!’  DSC_2549

And I couldn’t quite work out which fable this is,DSC_2528

where the tortoise angers the lion by ’emitting three pieces of his excrement’ in front of him, but it sounds like a jolly good read and contains an excellent piece of advice … emitting excrement in front of people is likely to make them angry, so don’t do it.

 

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