My name is Bar Kna, I am 42 years-old and I am Bunong. I live in Pou Chhab village, in Dak Dam commune, O Raing district, Mondulkiri province. The story of The Woman of the Top of Rattan is as follows:
Once upon a time, there was a poor old couple who lived in a small, old house where they raised pigs and chickens. They also worked on a farm far away from their house, and spent 9-10 nights there, because of this distance. One day they went to collect the top of rattan in the forest far from their house, to cook for eating later, but when they returned, they completely forgot. So, after their meal, they left for their farm and the rattan remained uncooked and forgotten.
On the night that they returned, rain was falling heavily and the couple hurried home, but when they reached the house, they noticed a light shining beneath the closed door. Upon entering the house, they discovered cooked food including rice, sitting on the dinner table, the house itself had been swept clean, and when they checked on the pigs and chickens, they were already fed. Amazed, the couple sat down for dinner before heading off to bed.
The following evening, the man said to his wife, “We have only rattan to eat, so please soak some rice to make soup.” His wife agreed, but warned, “The rattan have faded because we have left them for so long, we should not cook them.” The man agreed, “So we don’t need to cook them. We can just leave them here and wrap them in matt and they will become fresh.” But once again, the couple forgot about them.
After that, the couple always asked their relatives and fellow villagers to help look after their house and animals while they were away. One day, the villagers noticed a light shining beneath the door of the house of the old couple, and that the place was clean and tidy, with no rubbish anywhere. Then, they saw a beautiful lady appear, but when they approached her, she fled for the safety of the layers of the rattan petals, and disappeared. When the old couple returned, the villagers told them about the beautiful but mysterious lady. The old man and woman were puzzled; they had no children or grandchildren.
The old man and woman hatched a plan to discover the identity of the lady. They pretended to leave for the farm, after informing the villagers. That evening, they returned to the house and entered quietly, and, sure enough, they saw a beautiful woman cooking food, with her back turned to them. Unaware of the couple’s presence, the beautiful woman continued undisturbed, until the man and woman confronted her. Panicked and frightened, they blocked the door and prevented her from escaping to the safety of the rattan petals.
The woman could no longer return to the rattan petals and had to live with the old couple from then on. Many suitors heard of the beautiful lady and sought her out, seeking her hand in marriage, but she ignored them all, choosing instead to hide in the rice barn until they left. One night, a Bres man travelled past the village and sought refuge for the night, and found the house of the old couple. He enquired after the parents of the beautiful lady who served him his meal, to which the old couple replied “Her parents died, and she is our grandchild.” The Bres man left the following morning, and spoke to some of the villagers, who told him “The old man and woman don’t have any children or grandchildren and they are poor, with little food or water. If you want a wife, we have daughters that are unmarried.”
The old man and woman heard of what the villagers told the Bres man, and when they met him again, they said, “It is your choice who you want for a wife, and our grandchild if ugly, poor and stupid. We understand if you do not want her.” For the poor rattan girl was teased by the other women of the village. So the rattan girl used her magical powers to make rice, cows, buffalos, elephants and more wealth for her grandparents.
Time passed, and the Bres man eventually returned to the village and noticed the wealth of the old couple. He asked the villagers why they had said that family was poor, to which they replied, “They stole that wealth from other people.” But the Bres man asked them why no one complained about it, to which they did not reply. So the Bres man ignored the villagers and visited the old man and woman to ask for their granddaughter’s hand in marriage, and the rattan girl accepted.
When the day of the wedding arrived, many people still wondered about the origins of the rattan girl. Who were her parents? Or was she the daughter or servant of an angel? How did she get to the village? Finally giving in to the curiosity that gripped every villager, the rattan girl brought forth the rattan with the layers of petals that lay wrapped in matt. Seeing the uncertainty of the villagers, the rattan girl said “The petal layers are my parents.”