My name is Phet Sophoeun. I am 62 years old and I am Bunong. I live in Chiklap village, in Sok San commune, Koh Nhek distric, Mondulkiri province. This village is about 100 km from the Senmonorom buffalo roundabout. To get here you travel along the national road number 76 heading toward Ratanakiri province. This story is called “Tamm Pes,” which means “A Snake Man”.
Once upon a time, a man lived with his beautiful and grateful daughter in an old small house. His daughter’s name was Miss Chipot Brekmatt. They were very poor but the man looked after his daughter very well. One day, the man went to catch birds on the Chrey tree which was often filled with birds eating its fruit. He used glue as a trap and was very successful. He put the birds into his cage and closed it. But as he prepared to climb down the tree, he saw a large snake that was as thick as the thigh of a man and with a red head. So the man could not climb down the tree for fear of being eaten by the snake. When he did not return home, Miss Chipot Brekmatt went searching for him calling, “Lolo lala crow flies, buffalo shout out and Rompe cries; please my father come home!” Upon hearing his daughter, the man called back, “I cannot climb down!” It was then that Miss Chipot Brekmatt noticed the snake at the bottom of the tree. Fearing for her father, she told the snake that she would do anything he wished if he didn’t hurt her father. So the snake said to the father, “I won’t hurt you if you let me marry your daughter.” The man agreed and the snake allowed him to climb down and they left to live together. As time passed the snake transformed into a man with great skill and talent, and he helped to improve the conditions of his family.
These events reached the ear of uncle Nhot, who lived in another village, and he hatched a plan to marry his daughter, Miss Chibrak Chinhak, off to a snake in order to increase his family’s wealth too. He took the chance to talk to the husband of Miss Chipot Brekmatt, informing him that his daughter was available for marriage if he had any relatives who would be interested. The snake man replied, “Please don’t worry about that uncle, I will look for my relatives and introduce them to you and your daughter.” He called for his relatives but only a small snake appeared. Uncle Nhot was not happy marrying his daughter off to such a small snake, and he used his sword cover to flick it away. The snake landed on the branch of a tree near the balcony of the house. But Uncle Nhot did not know that this small snake was a lord. Upon seeing Uncle Nhot’s dissatisfaction, Miss Chipot Brekmatt’s husband, the snake man, told him “If you and your daughter want a bigger snake, please wait for me, I will take my father’s rope(1) and get you a bigger one.” So he found a big python, put it into his bamboo basket, put it on his back and brought it to Uncle Nhot who was very happy with the large snake. Uncle Nhot then took it home to his daughter and they all lived together.
Uncle Nhot always left his daughter at home, even when there were parties. One day, while Uncle Nhot was out at a party, the python wrapped its body around Miss Chibrak Chinhak and swallowed her! The villagers who saw it tried to tell Uncle Nhot but he would not listen, saying “Please do not bother them, they are seducing one another and chatting.” Miss Chibrak Chinhak begged the villagers to tell her father and convince him to help but he would not listen.
After it completely swallowed Miss Chibrak Chinhak, the python moved up to the top of the Trach tree and sat there quietly. When Uncle Nhot returned, he could not find his daughter and realized his mistake in dismissing the villagers. While searching for the snake he spotted a big, deep hole in the river under the Trach tree where the python was hidden. The water reflected the python from above and Uncle Nhot saw it, thinking the python was hiding in the hole. He asked for help in emptying the hole to catch the snake, but when he and the villagers had done so, it was empty. As everyone continued searching, a woman placed her child in the shadow under the Trach tree to sleep, and looking up, saw the python hiding. The villagers then cut down the tree and used rope to catch the snake, before cutting it open in an attempt to save Miss Chibrak Chinhak. But they were too late. The snake man felt sorry, so he chewed some magic ginger and spat it on Miss Chibrak Chinhak to bring her back to life.
After her ordeal, Miss Chibrak Chinhak decided she no longer wished to marry a snake; she wanted Miss Chipot Brekmatt’s husband. When he left for the city to trade goods from the villages, he left a pregnant Miss Chipot Brekmatt at home with his father-in-law. He then met a friend and stayed in the city overnight. Back at the village, Miss Chibrak Chinhak and her sister planned to get rid of Miss Chipot Brekmatt by drowning her at the river. While Miss Chipot Brekmatt walked on a wooden bridge over the river, Miss Chibrak Chinhak and her sister swung the bridge, saying “Kho Kho Yang To Yang Tay Cham Chhit Chhay Yos Bas Dron;” “Miss Chibrak Chinhak and her sister are waiting for the husband of Miss Chipot Brekmatt to come back home.” Miss Chibrak Chinhak and her sister continued to swing the bridge, hoping that Miss Chipot Brekmatt would fall into a water hole and drown. When Miss Chipot Brekmatt almost fell, she cried “Do not swing like that, otherwise I am going to fall into that hole.” But the two sisters neither cared nor listened and it wasn’t long before Miss Chipot Brekmatt fell and drowned.
Shortly after, Miss Chipot Brekmatt’s spirit arrived at the village of her parents-in-law. When she reached their house, they asked her how she got there. She told them of Miss Chibrak Chinhak’s treachery and they told her not to worry; they would help her. They said “Here is a hen. Fill up a gourd with rice and tie it around the neck of the hen and tell the hen to find your husband. ” She did as she was asked and the hen flew off.
Meanwhile, Miss Chipot Brekmatt’s husband had bought rice, salt and other goods and placed them on the back of an elephant and began his journey home with his friend. When he was halfway there, he spotted a hen walking behind him. He then heard the hen say “Kit ra kar oad nhot la beum chi pot pou ra lot ta klang ee chhru no lass kass ou rapes;” “Your wife has died and her spirit is looking for help from you.” Snake man was very curious and asked his friend if he too heard the hen and when he said he had, snake man became worried about his family. The hen then flew close to the snake man and told him that his wife had died and spoke of Miss Chibrak Chinhak’s involvement. The snake man and his friend hurried home and arrived after dusk. The snake man snuck a peek inside his house and saw Miss Chibrak Chinhak sleeping inside the house, pretending to be his wife. She had hidden a gourd shell under her shirt and sarong to fake being pregnant. In order to be sure his wife was gone, the snake man called “My wife! Please come out to welcome me and help bring in the light stuff, I am home now.” As Miss Chibrak Chinhak attempted to carry things inside, the iron tip of the greo stick that was used to control the elephant, broke her fake belly. Miss Chibrak Chinhak was very angry and ashamed, and so attempted to commit suicide by jumping down to the water, but instead, she turned into a ray fish.
Snake man traveled to his parents’ house to find his wife and bring her home, and they lived with Miss Chipot Brekmatt’s father, happy and undisturbed.
(1)Father’s rope is a term that is a comparative usage for python.