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There was once a wolf who roamed the fields for food. When a cool breeze started blowing he would go to dried up lakes and ponds to catch fish. One time, upon arriving at a small pond, which had almost completely dried up but for a muddy hole full of shrimp, fish, and crabs, the wolf exclaimed, “Surely today is my lucky day!”
Upon hearing what the wolf had said, the shrimp pleaded, “We are your food, Brother Wolf, but we’re muddy, we won’t make for delicious food if you eat us in such a state.”
The wolf then asked, “What can I do to make you delicious?” The shrimp replied, “You should clean us first.” The wolf again asked, “there are many of you, how can I do so?” At which the shrimp told him not to worry if he followed their directions. The wolf agreed.
The shrimp told the wolf to lie down in the mud, “We will cling to your fur and then you can take us to clean in a lake with clear water. Then, you can finally enjoy us.”
The wolf was a bit excited and foolish so he did exactly as he was told. The shrimp, fish, and crabs clung to the wolf’s fur and the wolf went around looking for water until he saw a large lake with clean water. He walked into the water and the shrimp and fish and crabs jumped into the water and told the wolf to go back and bring all the remaining shrimp, fish and crabs, “after you bring all of us here, you can eat us all later. We will be waiting for you here.” The wolf went back and brought the rest of the shrimp, fish, and crabs to the lake.
When the shrimp, fish, and crabs learned that the wolf had moved all of them, they submerged deeper into the lake. It was too late when the wolf realized he had been tricked by the shrimp. He became enraged and decided to persuade other large animals to join him into drying up the lake. He found elephants, tigers, rhinos, and snakes, big and small, to join in his effort. The snakes acted as a dam while other animals tried throwing water out of the lake.
The shrimp, fish, and other animals living in the lake were frightened by what was happening. They tried to come up with a solution to stop those animals from drying up the lake. A climbing perch offered to go look for the hare who was known as a clever judge, who helped animals and humans alike. The climbing perch crawled in the sunlight in search of the hare. At nightfall, the hare came out looking for food and saw the climbing perch crawling and asked, “Where are you going, Brother Climbing Perch?” The climbing perch pleaded, “Please take pity on me, Brother Hare. All the fish in the lake have asked me to come and seek your help. You are known to be wise and you are kind to humans and animals in difficulties. Right now, there are buffaloes, elephants, tigers, rhinos, snakes, and flamingos working together to dry up the lake so they can catch us. The boas and snakes are acting as a dam across the lake.” The climbing perch continued “Please help save us.”
The hare told the climbing perch to go back and tell everyone not to worry, “I’ll go and help you out.” The climbing perch then crawled back to the lake with the news.
In the morning, the hare came to the lake and saw many animals trying to dry up the lake. He picked a green leaf with holes eaten by worms from a nearby tree to use as a letter. He then called out to the animals and said, “Listen to me, everyone. Lord Indra, King of the Gods, has ordered me to bring this letter to you all. The letter says that Indra will come and break the legs of the flamingos and other water birds. He will break the necks of all the wolves and pull out the tusks of all the elephants.”
Upon hearing the letter, the animals panicked and stampeded over each other. Rhinos, elephants, buffaloes rushed away, stampeding on the snakes, causing the dam to burst. Water floated back into the lake and drowned the animals to death, who then became fish food.
PS: If this tale sounds familiar, it’s because this is a recycle of my old post on a well-known Khmer folktale: How the Hare Saved the Fish, the Shrimp, and the Crabs.Published in