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Animal Folk Tales, part 1

Animal Folk

By Joseph Thomas

Stories about animals, and how they came to be the way they are, figure prominently in Thai folklore. Have you ever wondered why animals can't speak? Or why birds don't go hungry? Or why some animals live longer than others? There are Thai stories that answer these, and other, burning questions. Let's go back, into the distant recesses of time, where it all began. Shortly after Brahma had created the world he began to think about creating a living creature to occupy it. Brahma designed a man, gave it life, and placed it on the earth.

Brahma consulted with the man and they agreed that 30 years was a reasonable length of time for a man to live. The man found his labors to be very difficult, so he asked Brahma for a helper to assist him. Therefore, Brahma created an ox to relieve man of his heavier toils; and gave the ox a 30 year life span, so that it might aid man throughout his life. But the ox refused to live so long, serving man through heavy labor the ox requested instead to live only 10 years. Upon hearing this, the man asked to be given the years the ox had rejected.

This arrangement worked well, until the man began to accumulate many possessions, and petitioned Brahma to give him a servant to guard his property. So Brahma created a dog to watch man's possessions; and gave it a 30 year life to match what had been given to the man. But the dog, like the ox, felt that 30 years was too long to spend serving man; and it too was reduced to 10 years of life. The man again asked that he be given the discarded years; and Brahma agreed to extend man's life span to 70 years.

The man again petitioned Brahma, saying that life was too tedious and boring to live so long without a companion to entertain him. So Brahma created a monkey to amuse the human with its tricks and antics. However, the monkey also refused to spend 30 years entertaining the man; therefore, Brahma reduced the monkey's life to 10 years, and added the extra years onto the man's life once again upon request. Brahma began to see that man was a greedy creature. Brahma decided that since man wanted the monkey's years, giving him a total of 90, he should spend the last 20 he received from the monkey jabbering and doing foolish things to amuse the young.

Ages ago monkeys and humans coexisted as friends. But man became envious of the monkey's more productive rice fields and plotted to trick the monkey out of his inheritance. The man took the monkey to look at the two fields from a distance. They looked at the man's field from ground level, and it looked lush and full. Then they looked at the monkey's field from the top of a hill, and it looked spares with barren gaps.

They man promised to make the monkey's field as prosperous as his, and a trade was made that day. The monkey soon began to starve from attempting to feed its family off the leaner field. The monkey went to see the man and asked how he might survive. The man instructed the monkey to kill its children so there would be fewer mouths to feed off the land. The monkey did as the man instructed. That night the man crept into the monkey's home and carried the flesh of the monkey's children back to his village.

The next day the monkey paid another visit to the man and found him eating the meat. When the monkey asked what he was eating, the man replied that he had been hunting and shot a bird. The monkey was suspicious and went home to check the carcasses of its children. Seeing that the bodies had been skinned and stripped of flesh, the monkey fled the village and hid in the forest. Ever since, monkeys have avoided men and lived by stealing man's corn and rice.

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