Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Angkat The Cambodian Cinderella

Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderellais the first Cinderella tale I have read with an evil father. In most Cinderella tales, the father is dead or neglectful of the child once married. However, this is the first time I have seen a tale where the father participates in harming the Cinderella character.

Angkat is the daughter of a fisherman and as with most Cinderella tales he marries a widow who has a daughter. His wife wants her daughter to be first daughter so she devises a fishing contest. Her daughter Kantok cheats and leaves Angkat in the traditional Cinderella servant role. When Angkat realized her stepsister had cheated and she would lose because her sister only left her one small fish, Angkat released the fish back into the pond. This act begins a relationship between girl and fish. She shares her rice ration with the fish each day. Unable to allow her stepsister even a small bit of enjoyment, Kantok decides to capture the fish. Angkat is devastated at the fate of her fish and the Spirit of Virtue appears before her to ask her about her troubles.

He tells her to place the fish bones under her sleeping mat and in the morning, a surprise will await her. She does as requested and finds golden slippers where the bones were in the morning. The girl follows the Sprits advice to leave one slipper under her mat and one by the open window. If you have read enough Cinderella tales, you can guess the fate of the shoe by the window. A bird takes the slipper to the Crown Prince who of course wants to marry the girl who owns it.

Angkat's stepmother provides the standard impossible task to prevent her from getting to try on the slipper. She scatters rice across the field telling the girl she can attend when every piece has been found. With assistance from the chickens, she is able to home, change, and pick up the other golden slipper.

Marriage was not the end Angkat's problems. In this version, even her father is filled with envy. He writes to her husband that he is gravely ill and must see his daughter. When she arrives home, they begin treating her like a servant, ordering her to cook soup for her father. As she is working, the three work together and kill her with the cauldron.

After her death, the story gets a little more confusing. The stepmother attempts to install Kantok in the palace. When the parents return home, they find banana plant growing where they killed their daughter. The father hacks down the plant carrying into the forest. There it grows into a bamboo forest. During a hunting trip, the Prince encounters the bamboo and feeling comfort from it has it cut down and brought back to the palace. Eventually sensing his wife's presence, he begs the Spirit of Virtue to return his wife to him. While not immediately clear, based on the fact the author states the Prince and Angkat are crowned King and Queen; one is led to believe his request is granted.

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