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     Volume 2 Issue 11 | May 26 , 2007 |


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From the Galpoghor Series:
The Demon of Stone Mountain

In the highlands to Tonkin in Vietnam there lived two brothers whose mother and father died in quick succession. A funeral was held, and while the younger brother was away burying his parents, the elder stayed at home to settle the inheritance. And he, being very greedy, concealed all there was of value.

When the younger brother returned, he looked about him in surprise.

'Tell me, honored brother,' he asked, 'where is our parents' fortune? I see nothing of it here.'

'It is as your eyes behold,' replied the other. 'Our much-lamented parents left nothing save this empty house. Since I've a wife and you have none, the house shall remain with me.'

Thus it was. The elder brother took for himself the house, the entire family fortune, the rice fields and the oxen. To the young lad was left nothing but a small maize strip in the foothills of Stone Mountain. And, besides, an old dog and cat.

The lad said not a word. Bowing low before his brother, he set off with his two animals to work the strip of maize. But how was he to till the land? He had no ox, no horse, no goat, no ass. His mangy dog and cat looked on in silent curiosity. He scratched his head, then with a shrug of his shoulders he hitched the two miserable animals to his plough and urged them forward. The dog howled, the cat wailed, and the plough wobbled on across the strip of maize. What a funny sight it was!

Looking down on this odd scene all the while was the Demon of Stone Mountain himself. He gazed down upon the fields and was unable to contain himself any longer: he shook his fat sides, wrinkled up his nose and opened wide his great stone mouth. How he chuckled at the strange spectacle.

Alarmed by the strange rumbling coming from the mountain, the lad looked up and caught his breath. For in the depths of that cavernous mouth he saw a store of glittering gold and silver. At once he left his plough and began to clamber up the mountainside, over the rocky chins and lips, until he reached the inside of the mouth. There he filled his sack with gold and silver, as much as he could carry. He escaped just in time as the stone mouth banged tightly shut.

Unable to believe his good fortune, the lad returned to the village with his precious load, and summoned craftsmen to build him a modest dwelling at the foot of Stone Mountain. Purchasing besides two prime oxen and a paddy field to grow some rice, he settled down with his dog and cat to live a life of modest contentment.

But no sooner did the elder brother learn of this good fortune than his heart filled with greed and envy. Calling one day upon his younger brother, he enquired how it was he had come to prosper so. The dutiful brother told his story, holding nothing back.

Thereupon, the greedy one set out for Stone Mountain with his wife, and the faithful dog and cat. He also took along two oxen carts on which to load the gold and silver.

When he arrived at the strip of maize in the foothills of the mountain, the older brother hitched the dog and cat to the plough, as his younger brother had described. Then he whipped them forward across the stone strip. The dog howled, the cat wailed and the Demon of Stone Mountain laughed so heartily that his fat sides shook like jelly, his big nose wrinkled and his great stone mouth gaped open wide. The treasure glinted brightly in the depths of his cavernous mouth.

Casting the plough aside, the man and his wife rushed forward, clambered up the mountainside and entered the rich cave to fill their several sacks. They filled one sack, then another and still were far from satisfied.

By now the Demon's humor had turned to range as he saw such greed. His smiled changed into a scowl. With a clap of thunder his great stone lips came crashing shut, locking the greedy brother and his wife firmly inside the mountain.

Early next morning, when the young brother ventured outside his house, he found the dog and cat and the two oxen carts standing empty. Nothing more.

Once again he uttered not a word. Yet as he glanced up, he felt quite certain than he saw the Demon of Stone Mountain give him a knowing wink.

(Retold by James Riordan)


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