Soft vs. Hard Rice

I wanted to expand on the folklore explored in this collection beyond just American into other cultures. So, I asked one of my friends who is part Thai if she knew of any old folk tales that were from Thailand. Her mother was actually born in Thailand, and so my friend asked her about any folk tales she might know about. Her mother also provided a much shorter folk story about a rather slow man and his attempt to find subsidence for his family.

            As my friend recounted the tale to me, “there was a very dumb man who had trouble providing for his family. His wife was more intelligent than he was but trusted in her husband and did not want to always make him look like a fool. So, she sent him on a mission.” Apparently, that mission was to try to get rice grains from their helpful neighbors so they could plant for the next harvest. The wife told her husband to specifically puck up “the soft rice,” because that is what she knew how to farm the best. So, he went off to go buy “soft rice.” After he had made his purchase, he was on his way back home when he tripped over an uplifted blank on a bridge. My friend laughed and said, “when he tipped over, he dumped all of the rice in the river!” He was desperate to not let his family down, so he scooped up the rice that was still floating on the top of the water quickly before it got too wet and began to sink with the rice he had already lost to the depths of the river. When he returned home, his wife asked him if he was certain he got soft rice. He said, “yes! I even tested it when I fell and dumped it into the river! All of the hard rice sank, so there is only soft rice left!”

I have to admit, although shorter and with less of a moral lesson, this tale was quite funny. Both my friend and I started laughing on the phone together when she finished. I think because this tale was shorter and more comedic than the first she recounted from her mother, there was a bit more performance elements. She tended to slow her voice down when she was speaking for the dumb husband, as if she was mocking him. The tale to me seems like more of a Southern Thai joke, but apparently it is a folk tale that is told throughout the region her mother was raised in. It does have some interesting commentary on gender roles, however, as it is the husband who is dim-witted and makes poor decisions for the family. The wife is forced to accept her husband’s slow nature and has to work overtime in order to make up for his mistakes.

Source: Tian Reynolds