Hmong Folklore – Orphan Boy and Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj



Orphan Boy and Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj
(pronouced Nia Gao Zhua Pa, who is Orphan Boy’s wife)
Provided by Nouchia Moua

The story goes that Orphan Boy, being an orphan with no family whatsoever is lonely and sad. He goes to cry by the lake, crying about how poor and unfortunate he is with no one to love him. Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj, who lived in the lake, hears his cries and feels sorry for him. She emerges out of the lake and agrees to become his wife and love him. Using magic, she created a nice house for him and created household items from her jewelries. And together they lived a happy life. Little did they know that their happy lovebird life would be ruined by an unsuspecting neighbor Niam Nkauj Kus Kaws ( I call her the Toad Woman in English) The Toad Woman was jealous of Orphan Boy and Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj’s happy life so she decided to destroy it. She transformed herself in to a beautiful woman and seduced Orphan Boy when his wife wasn’t around. She told him that his wife was actually a monster who drank dragon’s blood, that he should leave her and be with the Toad Woman instead, for he’ll have a much better life with her. Eventually, Orphan Boy came to believe this and one day decided to get rid of his wife by forcing her back into the lake where she came from. Little by little she stepped into the lake, first the waters were up to her ankles. She cried for Orphan Boy to let her come back so they can be like they were before, but Orphan Boy refused and told her to keep on going. The waters were then up to her knees, again she begged but he still refused. The waters were up to her waist, again he refused. Further she went, the waters being up to her neck, she begged one last time but again he refused. And then, into the waters she went and disappeared. Orphan Boy went back to his home, thinking that he’ll be forever happy with the Toad Woman only to find out that he had been tricked, for all of his home and belongings all had disappeared with Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj. He went running to the lake, begging for Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj to come back and that he was sorry but no reply came. For days he waited by the lake, crying and begging for his wife to come back. A little frog near the lake heard his cries and went to ask him what was the matter. Orphan Boy then told him of how he sent his wife away due to his foolishness. Feeling sorry for the Orphan Boy, the frog agrees to help him see his wife again by drinking up all of the water in the lake. But there was one condition; the Orphan Boy must never laugh. The frog began to drink up all of the water until the frog began to bloat. Looking hilarious, the Orphan Boy couldn’t help himself and started laughing. Immediately the frog’s stomach burst open and all of the water fell back into the lake. The frog was furious at Orphan Boy for not keeping his promise of laughing. The Orphan Boy begged the frog to try one more time and the frog agreed, warning that if he laughed again then he won’t help anymore. Orphan Boy then sewed up the frog’s belly and once again the frog drank up all of the water and there at the bottom of the lake was Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj. Orphan Boy jumped in to the lake to retrieve his wife, but she refused to go back with him. She told him that her father had already given her to someone else, the Sky Prince, and within a few days, he would come to get her. Orphan Boy cried, begged and apologized to her and then she said that if he really wants her back then before the Sky Prince comes to get her, he should take 9 giant jars to the highest hill and fill them with water. When she and the Sky Prince are on his horse galloping in the sky, Orphan Boy has to catch her reflection in the jars. If he fails then they shall never be together ever again. Orphan Boy then leaves to complete the task given to him. Then the Sky Prince came to take Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj and away they rode onto his horse, passing by Orphan Boy who had fallen asleep, tired from carrying water up the hill to fill the jars. Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj cries out to him that he doesn’t wake up then he’ll miss his only chance of ever getting her back. Hearing her cry, he immediately wakes up and tries to catch her reflection. But being too late, he miss her reflection every time. It is here that the ending changes. Some say that they never get back together again, while the ending that my mother told me was that Orphan Boy quickly grabbed the leaf of a palm tree and used it to whip the behind of the Sky Prince’s horse, causing it to buck and knock Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj back to earth, where they lived happily ever after.

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Nouchia Moua


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