A Story From: Cambodia
Read Time: ["6 to 10mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs.
In Cambodia there once lived a wealthy princess by the name of Amaradevi who was an educated and talented young woman. Now there were four old grand ministers of the palace who all wished to marry her, not because of Amaradevi’s many accomplishments, but rather, being attracted by her riches. Princess Amaradevi turned down their proposals, and chose instead to marry a fine young man whose name was Mahoseth.
Amaradevi and Mahoseth loved and respected one another. They lived happily together in peace and harmony. But the four grand ministers were very bitter and resentful. Whenever they spoke to Mahoseth, they tried to be as insulting and offensive as they could be. They even started vicious rumors throughout the palace, claiming that Mahoseth Pandide was disloyal to the king. Then they began to whisper to the king himself that the princess’ new husband was a dishonest and deceitful young man. The gentle king, who loved his daughter and her husband, urged the ministers to be careful before making such charges. But that only made the ministers more determined to destroy Mahoseth Pandide.
One day, they decided to tell the king that Mahoseth was plotting to kill him and seize the throne. This time, their arguments and false proofs were so convincing that the king believed them. Without even giving his daughter’s husband a chance to defend himself, the angry king ordered him to leave the palace, never to return.
The four ruthless ministers congratulated each other and immediately began plotting their next step. “Of course,” the first Grand Minister advised, “we do not know which one of us Amaradevi will marry. We must each ask her, one at a time. Then after she marries one of us, we will all share her riches. For now, she does nothing but grieve for that foolish husband. So we must wait two weeks from today and then we will talk with her about marriage.”
With her husband banished from the kingdom forever, Amaradevi passed the days in sorrow. She blamed herself for not being able to save him. Each day, she paced back and forth in her palace rooms and re-lived what had happened. She tried to think of a way to prove to the king that Mahoseth had always been loyal and that it was the four ministers who were the real evil plotters.
Two weeks after Mahoseth Pandide was banished, the first Grand Minister came to visit Amaradevi with his proposals of love and marriage. Amaradevi listened to him quietly. She replied, “Yes, my dear man, I am quite lonesome. Perhaps I could love you and marry you. If you wish to visit with me, why not return later this evening, at seven o’clock?”
The first Grand Minister was delighted. He bowed and bowed, and promised to return at the appointed time.
During the same morning, Amaradevi was surprised by the visits of the other three ministers. It seemed that almost as soon as one left, another one appeared. They all praised her beauty, professed their love, and begged her to marry them. Amaradevi was polite to all of them. As they left, she invited each one to visit with her that same evening. The second grand minister she told to come at eight o’clock. The third grand minister she told to come at nine o’clock. And the fourth grand minister she told to come at ten.
Now, Amaradevi had been educated not only in music, painting, and the fine art of poetry but also in government, law, the sciences, and engineering construction. Soon after the last grand minister left, Amaradevi summoned her servants to her palace rooms. First she instructed them how to dig a huge pit under the floor of her small back parlor, and how to prevent it from caving in. This she knew how to do from her studies in engineering construction. Next, she told them how to make a special mixture of mud, hot water, and sticky rice in a large caldron. The rice, she knew, would expand and swell when it was mixed for a while with hot water. The servants then poured this mixture into the pit, filling it halfway. Finally, Amaradevi taught the servants how to construct a trap door to cover the large hole. The trap door could be opened by a rope that was secretly hidden behind a curtain.
When the construction work was finished, Amaradevi dismissed the servants and sent for her personal maid. She ordered her maid to bring all of her precious jewels and scatter them about on a table near the trap door in the small back parlor. When that was done, Amaradevi told the maid that she expected the four grand ministers to visit that evening. The maid was to welcome them respectfully and ask them to wait for the princess in the small back parlor. Amaradevi added, “When each man arrives and is in the small back parlor, please come to me.”
That evening, promptly at seven o’clock, the first Grand Minister arrived. The maid greeted him politely and led him to the small back parlor. Then she walked softly to her ‘ rooms, where Princess Amaradevi said, “Follow me quietly and do as I tell you.”
The maid followed after Amaradevi to the small back parlor. They slipped silently behind the curtain, waited, and watched. The first Grand Minister was bending over the table of glistening jewels. He put his hand out to touch one. Then he quickly pulled his hand back to his side and stepped back. He paced the room a bit and slowly returned to the table, putting his hand out once more, then down again. The jewels were like magnets, pulling his hands to them. He must have just one. He looked around the room and through the doorway. Then, quickly reaching out, he grabbed a huge ruby and stuffed it deep into his pocket. At that moment, Amaradevi signaled her maid. Both women pulled hard on the rope. The trap door opened, throwing the First Grand Minister screaming into the large pit of warm mud and sticky rice. Then the heavy trap door closed neatly and tightly.
The three other grand ministers arrived at their appointed times. Each one in turn was politely greeted by the maid. Each one in turn was asked to wait for the princess in the small back parlor. And each one in turn became bewitched by the table of shimmering rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. None of them could resist the temptation of stuffing at least one of the jewels into his pocket. As each grand minister stuffed his pocket, the two women pulled the trap-door rope, throwing another false suitor into the deep pit filled with warm mud and sticky rice. As each grand minister was added to the pit, the mud and swelling, sticky rice rose higher and higher.
Amaradevi kept the trap door tightly closed all night. The next morning, she told her servants to take the mud-caked ministers out of the pit, bind their hands, and lead them to the royal court. When they reached the throne room, the princess bowed before her father. “Your Majesty,” she said, “I ask your permission to prove to the royal court the treachery of these four grand ministers of the palace.”
The king looked surprised, but nodded. Amaradevi continued. “I refused the proposals of these grand ministers because I knew that they were greedy for my riches. When I married the good Mahoseth, they plotted against him and finally convinced the royal court that he was disloyal and dishonest. Now the ministers have come to me once again with proposals of love and marriage. But still, the only thing that they really love is our royal jewels. I trapped them as they were stealing our sacred treasures from my apartments. I will prove this to you. Now you will know who the guilty traitors really are.”
Amaradevi signaled her maid. The woman reached into each grand minister’s pocket, pulled out a precious royal jewel, and held it up before everyone’s eyes.
The king was furious. He ordered the palace guards to tie the mud-caked ministers to elephants for all the people to see.
Amaradevi bowed to the king and returned to her palace rooms. Mahoseth Pandide was summoned from exile, and he speedily returned home to his loving and clever wife, Princess Amaradevi.
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The story, "Princess Amaradevi" is based upon the story "The Story of Princess Amaradevi" from Cambodian Folk Stories from the Gatiloke, retold by Muriel Paskin Carrison (Charles E. Tuttle Company: Vermont, 1987) pp. 23-30.
Revised by Elaine Lindy. ©2000. All rights reserved.