Vietnamese Culture
                        Copyright 1998 Tran Thong

Issue 35: The story of Ta^'m and Ca'm

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Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schutlz, VB701221
Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz,
Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, 
           Van Ngan, VB 691216
Issue #17: Superstition in Viet Nam, Van Ngan, VB6911?? - May 8, 1996.
Issue #18: Hair: VN style, VB7007?? - May 15, 1996
Issue #19: Funeral rites in Viet-Nam, Van Ngan, VB7006?? - May 22, 1996.
Issue #20: "Non Bai Tho" or the "Poetical Leaf", ???, VB7011??.
Issue #21: The different systems of writings in Viet-Nam, ???, VB710201.
Issue #22: Vietnamese literature in "Chu Nom", ???, VB710201.
Issue #23: The boat of illusion, Nguyet Cam, Heritage Sept/Oct 1995.
Issue #24: Tran Hung Dao's proclamation to his officers, 
           George F. Schultz, VB 710201.
Issue #25: The refined pleasure of tea-drinking, Tuong Minh, The 
           Saigon Times Weekly, No. 238.
Issue #26: The hero of Phu Dong, ADT
Issue #27: The genie of Ta?n Vie^n, ADT
Issue #28: The magic crossbow, ADT
Issue #29: The legend of tra^`u cau, ADT
Issue #30: Tu+` Thu+'c and Gia'ng Hu+o+ng , ADT
Issue #31: Tru+o+ng's wife, ADT
Issue #32: The legend of ba'nh chu+ng, ba'nh da^`y and the watermelon.
Issue #33: Vietnamese folk songs: tha(`ng bo+`m, ???, VB710201.
Issue #34: The hundred knot bamboo
Issue #35: The story of Ta^'m and Ca'm
          The Story of Ta^'m and Ca'm
            (Vietnamese Cinderalla)

Ta^'m and Ca'm were two half sisters. Tam was the daughter of the 
first wife. Ca'm was the daughter of the second wife. Both 
parents of Tam passed away when she was very young. So, she lived 
with her step-mother, Cam's mother. They were fifteen and 
fourteen. Tam had to do all the household work while Cam, spolied 
by her mother, spent the day relaxing and playing in the field.

One day, Cam's mother gave to both Tam and Cam baskets for 
catching fish. She told them to go in the filed and catch small 
river shrimp. She promised to give to the one who returns first 
with a full basket a red blouse. Tam did not mind the hard sun, 
and was busy skimming for the shrimps. Soon, her basket was full 
with large and small shrimps. In the mean time, Cam was busy 
running around picking flowers and catching butterflies. It was 
evening and Cam's basket was still empty. When Cam saw her 
sister's basket was full, she told her:

"Tam, you head is full of mud. You may want to and wash your hair 
in the middle of the river. Else Mother will reprimand you."

Tam believing her sister, when out to the river to wash herself. 
When she returned to the river bank, her basket was now empty. 
Cam has emptied her basket into hers and went home. Tam was 
desolated. She sat and cried by the river bank. She suddenly saw 
a flash. Buddha appeared and asked her:

"Daughter, why are you weeping?"

Tam told Buddha her story. Buddha asked her

"Look in your basket. What do you see?"

Tam looked and replied

"I only see a goby fish.

Take the fish home and drop it in your well. Each day, instead of 
eating your usual three bowls of rice, eat two and spare one for 
the fish. Each time you feed the fish call out to it: goby, goby, 
you eat my golden and silver rice, don't eat the left over rice 
or the gruel from others"

Then Buddha disappeared. Tam followed Buddha's instruction. She 
hid one bowl of rice at each meal for the goby. Each time, when 
the fish heard Tam's voice, it would surface and ate all the rice 
before disappearing in the depth of the well.

Her step mother noticed that after each meal Tam went out to the 
well. She became suspicious and told Cam to spy on her sister. 
Thus, Cam hid behind a bush by the well after the meal. She heard 
Tam called Goby. Cam memorized the words and then reported what 
she saw and heard to her mother.

The next morning, Cam's mother called Tam and gave her a pack of 
rice and told her

"Today you should take the buffalo in the far way fields to feed 
them. Don't leave them in the nearby fields. The village is 
looking for a buffalo to use in the upcoming celebration."

Tam following those orders rid the buffalo to the farthest field. 
At home, the two mother and daughter took a bowl of rice to the 
well and summoned Goby like Tam did. They caught it and cooked it 
for their lunch.

In the evening, Tam brought the buffalo back. Like other 
evenings, she took a bowl of rice to the well. She called out to 
Goby for a long time, but the well surface remained placid. A 
while later, Tam saw a drop of blood appear on the surface of the 
water. She burst into tears. Suddenly Buddha appeared and asked

"Why do you weep?"

Tam told him the story. Buddha told her

"Your goby has been killed. Go home and pick up the bones. Put 
them in four small containers and bury them under your bed 

Tam went home and searched for the fish bones. She searched all 
over the house but could not find them. Finally  a hen told her:

"Cu. ta cu.c ta'c (the sound of a hen), give me a handful of rice 
and I will dig them for you".

Tam gave the hen the rice. The hen went into the kitchen and 
dug. Soon, the fish bones appeared. Tam put them in four 
containers and bury them under the posts of her bed.

Her step mother was pushing more and more duties on her frail 
shoulders. She had to take care of the buffalo, cut the grass, 
cook the rice. In the evening she had to unhusk the rice, and 
then grind it into the night. She was not fed regularly. She some 
time went to bed hungry. As soon as she was able to lie down, the 
rooster will be crowing and her step mother would wake her up. 
Cam and her mother in the mean time were enjoying life to the 
fullest and they did not do anything in the house.

Shortly thereafter, there was an announcement that the King was 
holding a festival. Cam and her mother were busy shopping and 
preparing for the festivities. They boughht new clothes for the 
occasion. Meanwhile, Tam had only her dirty torn clothes. The day 
of the festival, Cam's mother mixed a bucket of of rice and a 
bucket of husk and told Tam:

"You must first separate the rice from the husk, then you can go 
and attend the festival".

Then she and Cam took off. After spending some time picking the 
rice, Tam burst into tears. Buddha appeared

"Why are you weeping?

Today is the festival. My stepmother mixed the husk and the rice 
and I had to separate them before I can go to the festival.

Let me ask the sparrows to help you".

The sparrows came down from the trees and separated the mixture 
into two piles of rice and husk. In the blink of an eye, the 
sparrows were done sorting.

She was now free to go to the festival. However, looking at her 
ragged clothes, Tam again burst into tears. Buddha reappeared and 
told her:

"Dig up the four containers under the posts of your bed. You will 
find new clothes".

Tam dug the containers up and found new beautiful clothes, 
scarves and shoes. She now had a three color dress, a red skirt, 
a day lily brassiere, a pink belt, a three color scarf, an 
embroided slipper. The slipper was very small and only her small 
feet could get into them. Tam put on the dress and her shoes. 
Everything fit perfectly. In one of the containers, Tam found a 
tiny horse. As soon as the put in on the ground, the horse grew 
into a full size horse, with an ornate saddle.

Tam was elated with joy. She washed herself and then set out for 
the festival. She had to cross a small river. During the 
crossing, she dropped one of her slipper. She stepped down from 
the horse to look for it. She searched and searched but could not 
find it.

Shorly thereafter, the elephant of the king came by the crossing. 
But the elephant trumpeted and refused to cross the river. The 
king ordered his retainers to drag the river to find the cause. 
They came back with a beautifully crafted tiny slipper. The king 
admired the slipper and then gave the order: any woman or girl at 
the festival who can put on the slipper, will become his queen!

Hearing the announcement, all the women and girls at the festival 
jostled each other to the palace grounds to try on the slipper. 
Both Cam and her mother tried it unsuccessfully. Then Tam tried 
it and it fit perfectly. Tam showed the other slipper she had. 
They were clearly a pair!

Cam who was standing on the outside of the gates of the palace, 
saw a girl that looked like Tam trying the slipper. She called 
her mother:

"Look, isn't that Tam?

No way. Where would she get those dresses?"

Only when the palenquin taking Tam back to the palace passed by, 
were the two able to ascertain that it was indeed Tam. They were 
surprised and could not figure out where did Tam get her dresses!

To be continued in 2 weeks.

In the palace, Tam was very happy. However she remembered the 
buffalo that she took care, the garden that she used to 
cultivate, and the sunrise and sunset in the fields. So, on the 
anniversary of the death of her father, she asked the king to be 
allowed to go home.

Her stepmother resented Tam happiness. But she hid her feeling 
and happily welcomed her back in the home. She told Tam

"You are good at climbing the acacia tree. Why don't you climb it 
and bring down a bunch for the offering to your father".

Tam obeyed and climbed the tree. As she was about to reach the 
acacia bunch, her step mother stated cutting down the tree. Tam 
feeling the tree moving, Tam shouted to her stepmother

"Why is the tree shaking?

Don't worry, I am just chasing the ants away from the base of the 

The tree toppled and Tam fell in the pond and died. The 
stepmother, stripped Tam's body of all her clothes and gave it to 
Cam. She then took Cam to the palace and weeping told the King 
that Tam has died suddenly, and she has brought Cam to replace 

Tam spirit took over an oriole that was standing by the pond. The 
oriole flew to the palace and followed the king wherever he went. 
The king was very disappointed with Cam, who was not even a tenth 
of here sister; she was lazy and lack household skills. Seeing 
the oriole that followed him, he remembered Tam and called out to 
the bird

"Oriole, oriole, if you are my wife, come into my sleeves"

As soon as he finished saying this, the oriole flew into his 
sleeves. The king was very surprised and decided that the oriole 
should be allowed to fly wherever it wanted in the palace.

One day, while Cam was washing the king's dress, the oriole cried 

"If you are to wash my husband dress, it has better be clean! If 
you are to dry my husband dress, dry it on a pole, not on a bush 
by the pond because you will tear it".

Cam was very surprised and afraid. The king loved the bird and 
always let it ride on his shoulder. This made Cam disliked the 
bird even more. 

One day, Cam went home to see her mother and told her about the 
oriole. The mother told her to kill the bird and feed it to the 
cat, then burry the bird feathers. Back in the palace, Cam waited 
until the oriole flew on one its tour of the palace and there was 
nobody around. She caught the bird, killed and fed it to the 
cats. The feathers were burried in an isolated corner of the 
palace garden. 

On the spot where the feathers were buried, a big tree grew 
quickly out of the ground. The king saw this fast growing tree 
with its big foliage and took a liking to it. He had his hammock 
strung under the tree. Whenever he liad under the tree, he would 
see an image of his dear wife. This made him like the tree even 
more and he neglected Cam. And this made Cam even more resentful 
of the tree. One stormy day when the king was out of the palace, 
Cam went out and cut down the tree. She blamed it on the storm. 
From the wood, she made a loom. As she was weaving one day, the 
shuttle suddenly cried out: " co't ca co't ke't (the sound of 
weaving) you stole my husband, I will bite your eyes!". Cam was 
taken back and threw the shuttle away, and never weaved again.

When she saw her mother, she told her about the shuttle. She 
suggested that she burned the loom and threw the ash away from 
the palace. Cam did as she was told and threw the ashes on the 
road outside the palace.

On the spot where the ashes was thrown, a persimmon tree grew. 
The tree grew many flowers but bore only one large fruit at a 
branch on top of the tree.

There was an old woman who had a tea house in that neighborhood. 
Each time she passed the persimmon tree she would compliment on 
the very nice tree. One day she saw the golden persimmon on top 
of the tree. She mumbled:

"Persimmon, persimmon. You come down in my bag. I will only smell 
you. I will not eat you".

As soon as she finished, the persimmon felt right onto her lap. 
She took it home and smelled its sweet fragrance and true to her 
word she did not eat it. At night she put it at the head of her 
bed. Each day, when she left for the market, she would tell the 

"persimmon, you will watch the house. I will go to the market and 
I will buy you food".

The persimmon kept its color unchanged. As soon as the old woman 
has left the house, a small girl will come out of the persimmon 
and grew up to a full size Tam. Tam then proceeded to clean the 
house, and cook a meal for the old woman. Each time she came 
home, the old woman will find everything in order and a meal 

One day, she faked leaving for the market and instead turned 
around and spied outside the house. Tam came out of the 
persimmong and cleaned the house. The old woman was delighted to 
see such a yound and beautiful girl. She rushed into the house, 
embraced her and also ripped apart the persimmon. From then on, 
Tam stayed with the old woman and they loved each other like 
mother and daughter. People in the neighborhood thought that Tam 
was a niece that has come from far away. Tam took care of the 
making the quids of betel to sell to customers. Tam stayed inside 
the house, only the old woman would sell to customers.

One day on one of his trip outside, the king passed by the 
teahouse. Seeing a neat teahouse, he decided to stop there and 
rest. The old woman served him tea and presented him with some 
betel. The king saw the quid of betel in the shape of a phoenix, 
just like those quids that his wife used to make. So, he asked 
the old woman:

"Who made these quids of betel?
My daughter, sire."

The king asked to see her daughter and was very surprised to find 
Tam. He took her back to the palace.

Cam came back to the palace. She decided not to prosecute her 
sister and stepmother and just had them banished to a far corner 
of the kingdom.
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