Volume 2 No.4

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Khmer Fable - A Horsy Story
By: Chhin Veth ( April, 2002 Volume 2 No.4 )

The New Year means a lot of things for Khmers. It is both a serious time and a time for fun. This month sees the beginning of the Cambodian Year of the Horse, and this is a folk story Khmers tell each other each Year of the Horse that looks at the lighter side of this most auspicious animal.

One day, an old farmer woke up early in the morning, loaded his cart for market and harnessed his young colt to his cart. The colt was an honest horse, and he worked hard pulling the heavy cart as fast as he could along the road. So hard did he work, pulling and throwing his head around with the effort, that gradually his blinkers became looser and looser, and eventually one fell from across one eye. Suddenly, he could see. Young colts have notoriously healthy libidos, and from putting all his energy into his work, the horse's attention began to wander. young filly, trotting along in the same direction, caught his eye. With each step of her pretty hooves, he fell more and more deeply in love. The vegetables in his cart and the shouts of his owner went completely from his mind, and, with a few bucks and kicks of his hind legs, he broke free of his harness and galloped to be with his new love. The filly's owner began to shout in panic as the unfettered colt ranged alongside and made his intentions clear. Biting and rearing, he tipped her owner from his cart and her harness, too, snapped.
The inevitable happened quickly, and the colt put no time into wooing his more than willing new love. With both owners running after them, the young couple barreled through a market stall selling rice porridge, consummating their love as the poor porridge seller's dishes crashed and smashed around them. When the owners finally arrived, puffing and panting, to catch their respective horses, a crowd of villagers had already gathered and the seller began to scream at the two hapless horsemen. "How can I make a living now with no dishes to serve my porridge from?" she yelled. "You must pay for the damage your worthless animals have caused!" "I will not pay," said the filly's owner. "If you had harnessed your horse properly, this would never have happened." "But your horse broke free, too," said the colt's owner, "and she also broke dishes. Without her, I would not have had this problem." "That's true," the seller chimed in. "You should both pay."
The three yelled and screamed at each other, arguing backwards and forwards, until the police arrived and took them all to court. The judge was at a loss. Each of the three took a turn in explaining their reasoning to him, but he just scratched his head. "There is no law for this sort of thing," he said eventually. "Let me think a minute." Everyone sat in the court and waited for the judge to come back with his answer. After what seemed like an eternity, he returned to the court and sat down. "My decision is made," he said. "The colt's owner shall pay for one third of the damage. The filly's owner shall pay for two thirds." "Why?" exclaimed the court clerk, thoroughly confused. "Ladies and gentlemen," the judge said. "The filly trampled the plates with all four hooves. “Everyone saw, however, that the colt used only two. With the other two, he was embracing his new friend." And that, the owners had to agree, was true.