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To Sell a Donkey
by Sujata C
A Cambodian Folktale retold

Long ago, there was a man named Khek who lived with his son. He had a donkey to sell. They had to go to market in the next village to get a good price.

Since the village was far they decided to carry the donkey so that it be would fresh and active when they reached the village. They caught the donkey, fastened its legs together and passed a pole between them to carry it.

On their way, some villagers saw them and were much amused. They burst into laughter and said, "Hey, what a strange thing! Two men carrying a donkey!" They chided the man: "Old man, men have never carried the horse, the ox, the elephant and the donkey. It is they which have to carry men on their backs."

On hearing this, the father and the son took down the donkey and untied it. The father then said to the son, "Both of us cannot ride at once, because our donkey is not strong enough. You ride and I will follow you." And so the young man did.

As they went some distance, the young man was asked, "Where are you riding, boy?"

"I ride to a village called Kompang," answered the young man.

They asked, "Who is this old man behind you?"

"He is my father," the young man replied.

The villagers became angry and said, "What an ungrateful son you are! You are strong enough to walk while your old father is not so. Let your old father ride the donkey."

On hearing this sharp remark, the young man at once got down from the donkey and the old man took his place. Then they continued their journey. The young man walked behind the donkey carrying his father.

After some time, they came near a well in the village. There was a throng of young women who came to draw water from there.

Looking at the young man walking slowly behind the donkey, they felt a great sympathy for him.

The young women said roughly to the old man, "This young donkey is fat and pretty; it is worthy of the young man who is in the same happy state; an old man like you is not fit to ride on it!"

When the old man and his son heard such unkind words, they discussed the matter. "We will both ride together on the donkey, you in front and I behind you," decided the old man. And sitting like that, they continued the journey.
They reached a customhouse where an officer asked, "Where are you going, men?"

"We are going to the village of Kompang," they answered.

The officer scolded them: "Your donkey is not strong and old enough to carry both of you. If you keep on riding along as far as the village of Kompang, it will become thin and its price will go down. How foolish you are! Why don't you let it walk?"

Again, they got off the donkey and led it by means of a rope. When they arrived at a field, there was no road for them to go any further. So they began to cross it. The farmer working there cried out, "Walk carefully, old man! My field is full of thorns. I have not yet cleared it. You have a donkey, why don't you ride it to avoid the thorns? Why do you treat it as your ruler? How foolish you are!"

The father and son looked at each other. "We cannot be in agreement with all people. Whatever we do, we get a scolding from someone." At last they agreed: "We will just have to travel as we see fit, and put up with the blame as it comes."

They went on and finally reached the village of Kompang. There, they sold the donkey for a very good price and returned home, wiser and richer by the experience.

If you shape your life to suit your nature you will never be poor, if you shape your life according to people’s opinions, you will never be rich. – From the Letters of a Stoic.

Image under license with Gettyimages.com

4-May-2008
 
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