Khmer Folktales

Many of the fables found here are translations of stories published by the Buddhist Institute of Cambodia in a series of booklets entitled "Collection of Old Khmer Tales." These folktales pre-date the arrival of Buddhism in Cambodia, so Buddhist concepts of right and wrong and values of wisdom and compassion are notably absent. Instead, we find mischief and mayhem, lies and deceit, vengence rather than compassion, wit rather than true wisdom.

Like the Germanic tales originally collected by the Grimm brothers, these Khmer folktales are not sweet, gentle stories designed to wisk children away into a land of dreams and wonder, but rather stark warnings as to the very real perils and pitfalls of the world in which they live. Unlike Buddhist parables which instruct on the virtues of being good, these stories warn against the dangers of evil.

Concocted at a time when wild animals still posed a mortal threat in daily life, the stories can be violent, cruel and unmerciful. Intellect almost always triumphs over brute strength, but not always in the interest of justice. Clever schemes may be devised for the sake of self-preservation or revenge, or simply used to manipulate and exploit the ignorant and naive for no other end than amusement. Such is the harsh realities of the world for which these tales give the listener fair warning.

translations by Fany Ros Khiev Seing and Sody Lay

©2010 Khmer Buddhist Relief