Fairy Tales in Different Cultures: A Cinderella Tale from Thailand

For this week's fairy tale in a different culture we are sharing a Cinderella tale from Thailand. We are exploring Thailand with Around the World in 12 Dishes this month and I happened across this Cinderella tale when I was looking at books from the library that came up with the key word Thailand. The book is Kao and the Golden Fish: A Folktale from Thailand As Remembered by Wilai Punpattanakul-Crouch retold by Cheryl Hamada and illustrated by Monica Liu. Now one thing I loved about this book are the beautiful pictures. The story is wordless, however at the end of the book the story is written in words. The first time through the book, we just looked at the pictures trying to figure out what was happening and then found the story. The second time through I was able to tell the story as we looked at the pictures. I was very happy to discover it was a Cinderella tale. Before we get into the tale, a little about Thailand.
Thailand is officially the Kingdom of Thailand and was formerly known as Siam. It is in Southeast Asia. It is a constitutional monarchy with King Rama IX reigning since 1946. He is the longest serving head of state and the longest reigning monarch in Thailand history. The capital city is Bangkok and it is the largest city in Thailand. 

Thailand is considered an emerging economy and a newly industrialize country. It offers free public education through age 17. Teaching is done mostly by rote memorization. Thailand exports rice, textiles and footwear, rubber, cars, computers and more. Thailand exports the most rice in the world. Rice is the most important crop there. (Source)

Now onto our story. Kao is a young Thai girl who lives happily with her parents until her mother dies. Her father remarries a woman who also has a daughter. The stepmother and stepsister make Kao do all the housework. One day after Kao's father has died while bathing in the pond a golden fish comes up to Kao and talks to her saying it is her mother. Kao spends more time bathing and comes back happy and her stepmother gets curious as to the cause. She sends her own daughter to spy on Kao the next day. She sees Kao talking to the fish. Then the stepmother has the stepsister go down and trick the fish and capture it. They cook it and eat it. Kao is so upset. She buries the fishbones and waters where she buries them in hope her mother will come back. Soon an eggplant plant grows there. Kao talks to the plant on her way back from bathing in the pond each day. Her stepmother is jealous of Kao's happiness and sends her daughter to dig up the plant. They eat and burn the plant, but Kao finds some seeds. She takes the seeds away from the house near the road and plants them there. When she can she goes and waters them. They grow into two beautiful trees. Kao hears her mother's voice when the wind blows them. Many people rest under the trees. One day a prince stops and rests there. He loves the noise of the wind blowing in them and orders his servants to dig them up and bring them back to his palace. The servants try and try and even use an elephant to try, but the trees will not be moved. The prince posts signs and asks the owner of the trees to come to his palace. Kao sees the sign and goes. The prince asks her to give him the trees. She tells him she will give him an answer the next day. She goes and asks the trees/mother what to do. They decide to make the prince happy. The mother asks Kao to bring the prince to the trees and she does. Then they get married and live happily with the trees in the courtyard of their palace. 

This story reminded me a bit of the Chinese version where the lead character befriends a fish and uses the fishbones for magic after the stepmother kills the fish. Again what I really loved about this book were the pictures and the wordless pictures. If you read this book, read the story ahead of time so you can tell the story with the pictures. It is a wonderful introduction to life in Thailand.