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A Story From: Laos
Read Time: ["6 to 10mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs.

An orphan who masters the art of shooting pebbles attracts the King.
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Retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2006. All rights reserved.


The plot of this story is noteworthy not because the protagonist is physically handicapped, but because the handicap is not at the center of the story. Rather, this story centers on themes of learning and perseverance, and the mastering of a skill.

Laos is a landlocked country about twice the size of Pennsylvania. It is one of the areas of Southeast Asia least touched by modern civilization. More than half the people live along the Mekong River, its major transportation route, and most are subsistence farmers. In the 1960s, nine years of US bombing left Laos devastated. Over 2 millions tons of bombs - more than the US dropped during all of WWII - rained on Laos. On a per capita basis Laos is the most heavily bombed country in history. At present, a communist government is in power and the grandson of the last king of Laos, who had famously said, "Alas! I am destined to be the last king of Laos!" and was forced to abdicate in 1975, currently lives in exile in Paris, France.

King Souligna Vongsa came to the throne in 1637 after defeating four rival claimants and his subsequent rule for 57 years is considered the golden age in Laotian history. He negotiated peaceful relations with the neighboring states of Siam (Thailand) and Viet Nam, and within the kingdom gained a reputation for firm, just rule. The first European visitors to the capital of Laos wrote awed reports about its rich and beautiful palaces and temples, saying it was the most magnificent city in all of Southeast Asia. King Souligna Vongsa died in 1694 without an heir, following which internal dissension brought about a split of the country into three separate kingdoms.