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Cambodian Folktales

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A sandstone carving from the walls of Angkor Wat

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Mask of the Giant worn for dance performance.   Photo courtesy of Kanery Gallagher

THE NYMPH AND THE GIANT


A long time ago, there was a nymph and a giant who were studying with the same teacher, who was a powerful hermit who lived deep in the forest. This teacher possessed a magic ball that he wanted to present to one of his devoted students. However, it was hard for him to decide who was more deserving of the ball. The hermit, then decided to offer his two students a challenge, the two of them were told to collect morning dew and the first who could present the teacher with a glassful of this liquid, would be the winner and of course, would get the ball.

The giant had a clever idea that surely would bring him the magic ball. Early the next morning, he gathered as many leaves as he could and one by one, he let the droplets of dew slide from each leaf into the glass.

The nymph, on the other hand, did things a little differently, she had left a handkerchief on the grass the night before and by morning the cloth was damp. She squeezed the handkerchief into the glass and in no time at all, she was able to fill the glass, and presented her work to the teacher before the giant. As a reward of her ingenuity, the hermit presented her with the magic ball.

The giant was so jealous of the nymph and as a consolation prize, he received an ax from the teacher. This was the beginning of an eternal struggle for the giant very much desired the ball, for it had magic powers. He stalked the nymph, taunting and threatening her. She was not bothered by him for she knew all the giant's trick and teased him in return. In desperation and anger, the giant flung his ax at the nymph, barely missing her, she tossed her ball into the air, creating a bolt of lightning that blinded the giant. Down he fell, but just for a moment, the giant regained his composure and realizing that the nymph has escaped, he pranced around in fury disappearing into the sky.

The origin of lightning and thunder is found in this legend, as the ax of the giant flies towards the nymph, it creates thunder. Her magic ball lights up the heavens, creating lightning, together they bring rain, a symbol of renewed life as it brings fertility to the farmland.

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