Volume 2 No.3

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Legend of Phnom kirirom
Khmer Tales, Volume 6, Buddhism Institute, Ministry of Cults and Religions, Retold by : Moul Jetr ( March, 2002 Volume 2 No.3 )

Before King Monivong renamed the beautiful national park area in Kompong Speu Province Kirirom (Happy Mountain) during the 1930's, the place had a different, older name, Phnom Vorvong Sorvong, and the legend of that ancient name is still told by local people to this day. Once upon a time, a king named Preah Bat Sorya ruled a kingdom called Krasonn. He had two wives. His first wife, Vong Thyea, had two sons, Vorvong and Sorvong. His second wife, Montea, had only one son, called Vey Vongsa. As the years passed and the three princes grew up together, Princess Montea became more and more jealous of Princess Vongs Thyea and plotted to win the throne for her own son.

One day, she hit upon a plan.
"Vorvong and Sovong, will you take a walk with me in the royal garden?" she asked. The unsuspecting boys agreed, but within minutes the scheming second wife had grabbed them, and, while screaming loudly for help, held both boys between her thighs. "They dare to treat me so improperly!" she screamed, and the king was so convinced by her performance he fell into a rage and ordered the boys executed. The boys' mother begged that the place of execution be somewhere away from the royal palace where she would have to live. After her request was granted, she followed the executioners and persuaded them not to kill the princes if they left the kingdom immediately.
Princess Vong Thyea gave a ring to each boy.
"Promise you will return to me here in 10 years," she told them. The two boys took their mother's message and left the country. They wandered in the forest for many days, sleeping only when they were too exhausted to walk any further. From heaven, the Brahman god Indra looked down on the boys and felt pity. He incarnated himself into a white rooster and a black rooster and emerged from the forest pecking at wild grains near the boys. The two birds exchanged conversation.
"I am a black rooster. If someone eats me, he will become a king in seven years," said the first rooster. "As for me, I am a white rooster," the other said. "He who eats me will be king in seven months." Then the two birds fought furiously and fell dead in front of Sovong and Vorvong. Famished, Sovong picked up the white rooster and Vorvong took the black one. Seven months later the boys were still traveling, and when they reached a rest hall in the forest in the kingdom of Kunthop Borei, they decided to stop for the night.
The ruler of this kingdom had just died, and his mandarins were scouring the country in search of a new king. Their procession stopped in front of the rest hall just as Sovong awoke. The royal elephant bearing the ornate royal throne on its back stopped still in a manner of respect in front of where the two boys lay. "You must hold our throne," the mandarins told Sovong. But when he asked if he could bring his brother, they refused. He tried to resist their offer, but they would not hear of it, and he was forced to leave Vorvong without saying goodbye and was taken straight to the palace to marry Princess Sar Bopha, the daughter of the previous king. When Vorvong woke, he cried and called out hoping his brother would answer, but there was no reply. Following the elephant's prints, he tracked Sovong to the capital, but the royal guards would not let him see him. So Vorvong resumed his trek. He walked for five days and nights before arriving at the home of an old woman near the royal palace of another ruler called King Thoranith.
"Grandmother, may I rest here for just one night?" he asked.
"Of course," she smiled, but she had seen the royal ring from his mother that he still wore, and wished to trap him so she could inform the palace she had found a thief. King Thoranith was furious and had his soldiers arrest the boy. "This is my mother's heritage. I am no robber," the brave boy protested, but he was ignored and thrown into a jail cell. It looked as if his adventures were at an end and he prepared to wait out the rest of his life behind bars. One day, a cruel giant came to eat the innocent people of a neighboring kingdom whose ruler was a close ally of King Thoranith. The giant chased the palace guards away and hunted the king and his relatives as prey. The king and his family were forced to seek refuge in a cave. When he heard this, King Thoranith vowed to assist his friend. He tried to launch his fleet of warships, but they were too high on the dry season bank and would not enter the water. Desperate, King Thoranith looked for anyone mighty enough to help him.
The boy seized his chance, and sent word to the king that he could manage.
"If you succeed, I will not only release you unconditionally, but shower you with rewards," the king promised. Vorvong was a boy who had earned much merit in previous lives, and he launched the war boats effortlessly. The king and his daughter, Princess Kes - kesey, joined their soldiers in the boat and sailed off to help their friends. That night, Princess Kes-kesy dreamed that an old man came to her and told her that the royal boy was her husband from a previous life. When she awoke, she began thinking of Vorvong in a way she never had before. A seed of love for him had been planted. The two kings discussed tactics they could use against the giant, but all seemed hopeless. King Thoranith thought for a moment, then had Vorvong brought before him again.
"Can you kill the giant?" he asked.
"I can, but I will need camouflage," the boy said. "Give me your sacred sword and battle dress and I will do what you ask." Fooled into thinking it was the king coming to fight him, the giant rushed to eat Vorvong and died at the point of his sword. "You have proved to me that you are a very powerful man," King Thoranith said. "I name you successor to my crown and offer you my daughter, Princess Kes - kesey, as your queen." The other king, grateful to Vorvong for saving his family, also offered his daughter and his crown to the boy, who now found himself ruler of two countries with two queens. But Preah Vorvong had not forgotten his mother's request to return, nor his brother. One day, he set off to find his brother and return to his homeland to visit. After a long and difficult journey, the two were reunited and their combined armies marched on their former homeland, surrounding the country. They learned that their father, Preah Bat Sorya, kept their mother locked in an iron cage, accusing her of being evil, and had given the throne to their young half-brother. When their half-brother, King Vey Vongsa, saw the might of their armies he retaliated with his own elephant troops and was killed in the battle. Their father quickly surrendered but when he met the two invading kings he did not recognize them, convinced his sons had been killed on his own orders years before. But when he saw their rings, he finally acknowledged they were his sons and listened to their story. Realizing how wrong he had been, he ordered the executioners to take Princess Montea, the second wife who had caused the boys and their mother so much suffering, and behead her. He released their mother and offered the two sons the throne, and a long era of peace and stability for all people in the region followed.

To this day, travelers to Chambok commune, in the Phnom Sruoch district of Kompong Speu province, can see a stone statue of a headless woman. This is Neang Montea, a jealous and greedy person. Everyone who passes her statue today remembers her for this and locals say they should stop and reflect on what happens to people who take this path in life.