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(excerpts from posts)

(If you want to retell any of the stories listed below, be sure to obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain)

1) Cambodian Folktales

The Trial Trial
Origin of the Tiger of the Tiger
Moni Mekhala and Ream Eyso (The Goddess And The Giant) Mekhala and Ream Eyso (The
Hanuman and Sovann Macha (The Monkey and The Mermaid) and Sovann Macha (The M

Cambodian bibliography.
Baillie, A. (1992). Little Brother. New York: Viking.
Call Number: Juv / Fiction B157 l.
In Cambodia after the Vietnamese War, Vithy learns to overcome social upheaval, a hostile jungle, and his own inability to trust, in order to rescue his older brother.
29 new and used books at from $.75
48 used books at ABE from $1.00

Canesso, C. (1989). Cambodia. New York: Chelsea House.
Call Number: Juv / 959.6 CAN.
An overview of the history, geography, economy, government, people, and culture of Cambodia.

Chiemruom, S. (1994). Dara's Cambodian New Year. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Call Number: Juv / Fiction C5335 d.
A Cambodian-American boy remembers the New Year celebration in his native land by painting pictures of it. Encourages awareness and appreciation of Cambodian American cultures.

Ching, E., Austin, T. & Chan. S. (Eds.). (1992). The Blind Man & the Cripple. Orchard Village. = Ryan Nay Khvak nin Nay Khvin. Ryan Bhumi Camkar Phlaejhoe. Cerritos, CA: Wonder Kids.
Call Number: Juv / 495.9 BLI.
Two stories designed to teach children the virtues of cooperation and generosity. [English / Khmer]

Coburn, J. R. (1978). Khmers, Tigers, and Talismans: From the History and Legends of Mysterious Cambodia. Thousand Oaks, CA: Burn, Hart.
Call Number: Juv / 398.24 COB.
A collection of tales from Cambodia.

Crew, L. (1991). Children of the River. New York: Dell.
Call Number: Juv / Fiction C927 c.
Having fled Cambodia four years earlier to escape the Khmer Rouge army, 17-year-old Sundara is torn between remaining faithful to her own people and enjoying life in her Oregon high school as a "regular" American. (Golden Kite Honor Book, 1990)

Graff, N. P. (1993). Where the River Runs: A Portrait of a Refugee Family. Boston: Little, Brown.
Call Number: Juv / 973 GRA.
Describes the experiences of a family of Cambodian refugees as they learn to adjust to a different way of life in the United States while holding on to their ethnic heritage.

Greenblatt, M. (1995). Cambodia. Chicago: Children's Press.
Call Number: Juv / 959.6 GRE.
An overview of the history, geography, economy, government, people, and culture of Cambodia.

Hao, K. T. & Nou, C. K. (1994). The Emperor and the Nightingale. Union City, CA: Grimm Press.
Call Number: Juv / Easy H2525 e.
When he is old and ill, an emperor realizes at last the value of a living nightingale over a mechanical one. [English / Khmer]

Ho, M. (1991). The Clay Marble. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Call Number: Juv / Fiction H678 c.
In the late 1970s twelve-year-old Dara joins a refugee camp in war-torn Cambodia and becomes separated from her family.

Ho, M. & Ros, S. (1995). The Two Brothers. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Call Number: Juv / 398.2 HO.
Brought up in a Buddhist monastery, two brothers go out into the world to very different fates, armed with the advice of a wise abbot.

Khamchong Luangpraseut. (1995). Cambodia and Cambodians. El Monte, CA: Pacific Asia Press.
Call Number: Juv / 959.6 KHA.
Includes culturally relevant illustrations and detailed information about the backgrounds of Cambodian refugee students as well as the value system and the traditional life style of the Khmer-speaking people. [English / Khmer]

Knight, M. G. (1993). Who Belongs Here? An American Story. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House.
Call Number: Juv / 305.895 KNI.
Describes the new life of Nary, a Cambodian refugee, in America, as well as his encounters with prejudice. Includes some general history of U.S. immigration.

Lee, J. M. (1991). Silent Lotus. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Call Number: Juv / Easy L4785 s.
Although she cannot speak or hear, Lotus trains as a Khmer court dancer and becomes eloquent in dancing out the legends of the gods.

Lipp, Frederick. (2001). The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh. New York: Holiday House.
Call Number: Juv Easy L;7653 c.
A young Cambodian girl saves her money to buy a bird on which to make a wish for her poor family's future.

Lucas, A. & Tan, V.S. (1994). How the Farmer Tricked the Evil Demon / Arak Can Pok Naksrae Morak. El Monte, CAPacific Asia Press.
Call Number: Juv / 398.21 LUC.
In this Cambodian folk story, the farmer uses traditional crops and farming techniques to outwit a demon who demands half of everything he grows. [English/Khmer]

Roland, D. (1984). More of Grandfather's Stories from Cambodia. El Cajon, CA: Open My World Publishing.
Call Number: Juv / 959.6 ROL.
When a monk and farmer disagree over payment for the use of the farmer’s water buffalo, a mediator illustrates what is fair.

St. Pierre, S. (Ed.). (1995). Teenage Refugees from Cambodia Speak Out. New York: Rosen Pub. Group.
Call Number: Juv / 305.895 TEE.
In a background of general information and sometimes disturbing pictures of Cambodia, teenage refugees tell their personal stories.

Stefoff, R. (1991). Pol Pot. New York: Chelsea House.
Call Number: Juv / Biog P762 s.
A biography of the prime minister of Cambodia.

Touch Neak. (1990). The Mountain of the Men & the Mountain of the Women: A Cambodian Folktale. San Francisco, CA: Voices of Liberty.
Call Number: Juv / 398.27 TOU.
A bilingual folktale in which the young women of Cambodia devise a scheme to get the young men to make marriage proposals and buy expensive presents.
Neak, Touch 1990. The Mountain of the Men and the Mountain of the Women: A Cambodian Folktale. (retold by Alice Lucas, trans. Samol Tan). San Francisco: Voices of Liberty.
Background Materials
Aspara: The Feminine in Cambodian Art. An Exhibition and Publication on the Arts of Cambodian Women in the LA Area, Dec. 1-1987-Jan 6, 1988. LA: Women's Building.

Yin, C. (1996). In My Heart I Am a Dancer. Philadelphia, Pa.: Philadelphia Folklore Project.
Call Number: Juv / 305.895 YIN.
In his heart, Chamroeun Yin is a dancer, but he is much more than that. In photos and text we get a glimpse of all the skills he brings to the art of Cambodian dancing and to his life.

3) A RABBIT AND A TURTLE - A story from Kampuchea, Cambodia
Many years ago there lived a rabbit named Phea. When he was young, he thought he was a very good rabbit. He lived by a lake. Every day he ran around and around it, jumping high into the air and singing with joy:
"I am strong. I am fast. Who is there who can beat me?"

Living nearby was a very old turtle. He did not like Phea and did not like to hear him say how good he was. One day the old turtle came to Phea and said,

"I want to run a race against you."
"What?" said Phea.
"I want to run a race against you," the old turtle said again.
"You must be crazy," Phea said.
"No, I am not. I want to run a race against you," said the old turtle.
"Why should I run a race against you? I will beat you, because you are so slow and I am so fast," said Phea.
"Are you afraid to run against me, because you think I might beat you?" said the old turtle.
"Never. You will never beat me. If you want, we will run around the lake tonight when the sun goes down. O.K.?"
"Okay," said the old turtle.

The old turtle walked slowly home. He called all his family and friends together and said to them what he had done. He asked for their help. He asked them to go by the lake and sit ten feet away from each other.

The race began when the sun went down. The young rabbit started to run fast. Then he stopped and looked back to see if the turtle had even moved.

"Hello! Here I am," said a turtle right by the rabbit.
The rabbit was very surprised. "How did you get here so fast?" said Phea.
"Oh, I am very fast," said the old turtle. "I am going to beat you."
"Oh, no you're not. I will beat you." said Phea. And he ran off fast around the lake.

Phea stopped again and looked around to see if the turtle had moved again.
"Hello again," a turtle said to him just ahead of Phea.
"What took you so long to get here?"

Then, the rabbit knew that he had been cheated. But he learned something. He learned that he should not say that he is better than anyone else. He became a very helping rabbit.
Source of this story may be found at:

4) Cambodian Folk Stories: From the Gatiloke (Paperback)
by Muriel Paskin Carrison, Venerable Kong Chhean (Translator)
"In a small kingdom of Kampuchea, there once lived a wealthy princess by the name of Amaradevi who was an educated and talented young woman..." (more)
SIPs: white elephant mother, fifty riel, one hundred baht, small back parlor, buffalo boy (more)
CAPs: Tah Tyen, Chow Saun, Chow Lok, Reverend Sir, King Bimbisara (more)

Editorial Reviews
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6 Fifteen tales that are translations from the Gatiloke, an ancient literary tradition from Cambodia. The stories concern simple villagers, monks, lords, kings, talking animals, a Moslem, a Brahmani, even a ``savage'' Phong. Most of the stories will present difficulties for Western chil dren. A thief escapes with a widow's jewels, a king fails to keep his prom ise, an old woman plots to kill her son in order to marry a handsome young ster, but few of the offenders are pun ished; the point of the story lies else where. Carrison provides explanation in an introduction that gives an ac count of Buddhism and shows how its spirit infuses the tales. She also adds brief notes at the end of each story in order to make its meaning clear. An information-packed appendix contains a description of the land and people of Cambodia, a short history of the coun try, an account of village life, and a list of recommended readings aimed at adults. Attractive small line drawings are scattered throughout the book. Except for a few Cambodian tales in cluded in the multi-volume set Folk tales from Asia for Children Every where (Weatherhill, 1975), there is nothing else available from this region. While some of the stories have a ``worthy but dull'' air about them, Carrison's volume does go beyond fill ing the gap. More than a collection of folktales, it serves as an introduction to a little-known culture, exemplary in its scholarship and clarity. Ellen D. Warwick, Robbins Junior Lib . , Arling ton, Mass.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Card catalog description
Fifteen folk stories with origins in the teachings of Buddhist monks. Includes an appendix with factual information on Cambodia.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
10 new and used books at from $7.98.
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5) The Golden Fish
One there were an old man and an old woman. They were very poor. Their cottage was on the seashore. They were fishermen by profession. One day, the old man with his fishing-net on his shoulder went down to the sea. He threw his net into the sea but he caught no fish.

Again he threw the net but there was no difference. On the third time, when he dragged out the net, he found in it a fish of golden color and because of this he called it " The golden-fish. " " Have pity on me, good old man. " said the golden fish, " put me into the sea. I'll offer you something valuable. "          

The old man was surprised at the fish's words. He did never see any fish that could speak like a man. Now he saw this strange fish which could speak the human language. So he lifted it up carefully and said " May god be with you, Oh golden fish, I want to have nothing from you. "

On saying this, he threw the golden fish back into the water with the words, " Swim away with joy! " On that day, the old man had nothing for his wife. He went back to his cottage and told his wife of all that had happened.

" How foolish! " exclaimed the old woman, " Why didn't you beg something from it? Our two water pots are very old, why didn't you ask it to give us new ones? " The old man said nothing. He just went back to the sea and called out very loudly, " Oh golden fish! I come to meet you. "

He called out and at last the golden fish came to him " What do you want from me, good old man? " asked the fish. " My wife is very angry with me, now she asks me to come here for a pair of new water pots from you. " said the old man. " Do not get worried, good old man. " said the golden fish, " God will give you a new pair of water posts, go back to your house, please. "

Saying this, the fish was out of sight, and the old man returned to his cottage. He saw a new pair of water pots in his house, but the old woman was still unhappy. She was a bad-tempered woman. She therefore said to him angrily " What a stupid man you are! What's the use of these wooden pots? " And she went on, " Go to the fish again and ask for a house, because our house is too old to live in. "

The old man had nothing to reply. He went wearily back to the sea. This time the water of the sea became rather dirty. As before, he called out again and again until at last the fish came to him and said "What's the matter with you, good old man? "

" My wife is still angry with me. " said the old man " and now she forces me to ask for a house. " " Don't trouble yourself! " said the golden fish " Return to your house, god will give you what you want. "

The old man was very happy. He went back to his house. There he saw no cottage but a large building instead. In it, there were many rooms. It was a building made with bricks, surrounded by tall tree and a lawn and a park. The old woman was sitting near a window.

From that window, she looked at the old man who was wearily approaching the building " You, the dirty beast, " she said to the old man when he came near, " why did you ask for such a bad building? Go back to the fish again and ask it to change me into a charming young rich lady! "

Again the poor old man could not refuse. He moved back to the fish. This time the water turned dirtier. The fish came to him and asked " what is the matter with you, good old man? " " Pardon me please, " said the old man, " my wife wants to be a charming young rich lady. " " Never mind, good old man. " said the golden fish, " God will make her a charming and rich young lady, just go back to your house with joy! "

As the old man arrived at his house, he saw that a palace arose at the site of the building. In the inner room, he could see his wife who was now young in fine and costly clothes sitting in the middle of servants. On her fingers she wore rings adorned with diamonds. Her shoes were shining. 

The old man approaching her said, " Good morning lady, are you now satisfies with these things? " But the young rich lady frowned and shouted at him, " Go to work in the stable, do not come here " and the old man went to the stable.

Two weeks later, the young rich lady had a new desire, she again said to the old man " My dear " she began, " go to the golden fish again and ask it to change me into a powerful queen "

Being afraid, the old man said to her respectfully " Do not want to be so, please, you are from a humble family, why do you want to get such a high position? Are you not ashamed of villagers? Limit your desire, my lady! "

But the cruel young lady became more angry. She thundered " Who are you? Don't you know that I am now a rich woman? " And she ordered him, " Go at once to the fish, otherwise I shall use my power! "

The poor old man fearing his wife returned to the sea. This time the water turned dark and the golden fish, " God will help her. " On that very moment, the young rough lady became a queen. A splendid palace with all kinds of pomp and amusement was in her possession.

" Are you now happy with your high position? " asked the old man. But the young cruel queen did not give him even a look. Ten minutes later, he was driven away by servants. Some of them said unkindly to him " You deserve this for your behavior, you have to know that you and our queen are not equal in position. "

The old man ran away. But after two weeks, the queen had another new desire. She asked one of her servant to look for the old man. Then the old man was brought in front of of the queen who said to him " My dear, go to the golden fish again and ask it to change me into the queen of the sea so that I can be a mistress of the golden fish itself. "

The old man did not deny her command. He went to the sea and called the fish. This time the sea was in great waves. The storm was going on. The water became very dark. After some time, the golden fish approached him. And the old man told it what his wife had asked him to say. On hearing that, the golden fish uttered no word. It turned away with its head down into the sea.

The old man waited for it. He waited and waited, but he saw no fish coming back to him. Finally he returned to his wife. But alas! There he saw no palace no queen and no servant, he saw his old cottage with a pair of broken water post under it. And he saw also his own poor old wife sitting near them.
Source for this folktale and the following may be found at:

The Lazy Man of Luck
The Ghost That Entered The Jar
The Lamb And The Jackal
The Crocodile And the Carter
The Jackal and the Elephant
The Seller of A Donkey
The Goose And the Shrimp
The Tiger, The Toad And the Tortoise
The Rabbit & The Palm Fruit
The Blackbird & The Monkey
The Female Crocodile Who Wanted To Eat The Monkey's Heart
The Deer, The Crow & The Tortoise
The Crow and The Deer
The Hungry Liar
The Two Neighbors
A Dwarfish Dog
A Long eel and a long Cooking-Pot
Four Liars
The Fisherman & His Wife
The Hunter & The Birds
Chau Chak Smok
One Crow To Ten Crows
The Father Who Was Strict in Choosing His Son-in-Law
Phnom Borey Phnom Da
Phnom Prosethi
Phnom Vorvongs Sovongs
Phnom Senharn
Phnom Choeung Prey
Phnom Yart in Pailin
Sdech Toek Sdech Phnom
Phnom Srey Vibolker
Phnom Bayongkour
Phome Poun Temple
Preah Theat toek Char
Svay Ang Temple
Phnom Chiso Temple
Wat Norkor Temple
Phimai Temple
Banteay Chhmar Temple
Neang Khmao Temple

6) The Trial - a
Cambodian folktale as retold by Tony Shapiro
Many Cambodian folktales concern animals who are very clever and show great ingenuity. Judge Rabbit is a character which often appears in Cambodian folktales.
A long time ago in the kingdom of Cambodia, a young man fell in love with a young woman and so he set off to ask her parents for permission to marry her. "If you want the hand of our daughter in marriage," said the parents, "then you must first undergo an ordeal. Your legs must be bound and you must be submerged up to your neck in the water of a lake for three days and three nights. However cold you may be, you must not move to warm yourself. If you survive this trial of your courage then you may have the hand of our daughter in marriage." The young man agreed to the ordeal and so he was tied up and submerged in the water.

After he had been standing in the lake for two days and two nights, he looked up and saw a fire burning on top of a hill some way off. By now he was tired and cold. He lifted his hands out of the water and held them up towards the distant flames. At that moment the girl's parents came down to the water and saw what he was doing. They decided that he was trying to warm himself with the flames from the distant hill and so he had not fulfilled their conditions. They refused to give him their daughter in marriage.

The young man was very angry about this and went off to lay a complaint before a Magistrate. The official invited the girl's parents to come and be judged. The parents agreed and because they were rich, they were able to give the Magistrate several presents. However, the young man was poor and gave nothing to the Magistrate, who then pronounced the judgment. "The young man broke the conditions of the ordeal by warming himself. He has lost his case. He cannot marry this girl. In addition, he must repay the defendants by preparing a banquet for us all." When the young man heard this judgment he was very angry and upset and went off complaining bitterly.... (story continued)
The rest of this story may be found at:
These folktales may also be found at the same site:
Origin of the Tiger
Moni Mekhala and Ream Eyso (The Goddess And The Giant)
Hanuman and Sovann Macha (The Monkey and The Mermaid)

7) The Tiger and the Mouse - a Cambodian folktale
On one hot day, a long time ago, Tiger came out of the woods to drink water from a pond at a clearing, there he met Mouse who had the same idea. Feeling boastful and superior, Tiger said to Mouse:

"You are such an insignificant and useless creature, there is nothing you can do that I cannot do, so leave my sight!"
Mouse, fearful of Tiger, retreated back to the fields.

It just happened that day, trappers were in the forest setting up nets, trying to capture a tiger for the king. Tiger, usually careful but feeling proud after chasing Mouse away, was not looking where he was going and unfortunately stepped on the trap. Suddenly, there he was, tangled in the net up on the tree, Tiger tried to free himself but was unable to. He kept on calling passing animals to help him but they could not get him out, desperate, he knew the kind of fate that awaited him, being in a locked cage and beaten up by the king's guards.

Well, it just happened that Mouse was passing through the forest and he heard the cries of Tiger, he approached and offered to help. By this time, Tiger was losing hope, any offer of help was welcomed, Mouse climbed up into the net and in no time, chewed the cords out and freed Tiger. Mouse, then said to him:

"You, earlier said that I was a useless creature but as you can see, I was able to free you, do not mock any animal because of its size, because we are small does not mean that we are useless, each creature posesses unique skills."

Tiger, shameful and with his head down, ran back to the forest as quickly as he could, so from this day on, tigers learned not to disrespect mice.
Source for this story and four other Cambodian folktales is at:
The Legend of Cambodia
The Nymph and the Giant
The Three Bald Men
The Girl Who Has Holes in Her Basket

7) On my website you will find a pdf file called Circle the Globe with Stories. The links there are listed by culture and there is one site that offers four folktales at

At this site there are more:

Five more stories can be found here:

Five stories from the Khmer Institute:

Also, there is The Story of Princess Amaradevi in Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World by Kathleen Ragan.

Some book resources:
CARRISON, M.P. Cambodian Folk Stories: From the Gatiloke. Rutland, Vermont; Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle, 1987.

CHANDLER D.P. Two friends who tried to empty the sea: eleven Cambodian folktales. Victoria: Monash University Center for Southeast Asian Studies (Working Papers, No. 8), 1976.

MILNE, A. Mr. Mr. Basket knife,: And other Khmer folktales; (Unesco collection of representative works: Khmer series)London: Allen and Unwin, 1972.
Karen C. 9/8/06

(This web page updated 9/20/05; 9/8/06)


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