A folktale from Myanmar

Once upon a time there was an old fisherman Ye Myint and his wife Aye Aye Se who
lived by the river Irrawady. Every day they cast their net and caught fish, which they sold at the local market. The old man and his wife did not have any children.

One day while fishing as usual, Ye Myint cast his net and waited for the catch. He was surprised to get only an egg. He recognised it as a crocodile egg.

He called out to his wife who picked up the egg, took it home and put it under some straw. Some days later the egg hatched and a small baby crocodile came out.

A Crocodile Named Rain Cloud [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
A Crocodile Named Rain Cloud [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]

Ye Myint and Aye Aye Se were very happy. They called the crocodile Rain Cloud and treated him as their son. Every day, after they returned from fishing, the old man and his wife would call out to Rain Cloud and feed him the choicest fish from their catch.

Ye Myint made a small enclosure of river water where Rain Cloud swam safe from any predators.

As the days went by, Rain Cloud grew and soon he was too big for the small pond that his father had made. So, with a heavy heart Ye Myint and Aye Aye Se put him back him in the river.

But every day, without fail, both would go and call out to Rain Cloud to feed him.
Soon Rain Cloud became very strong and all the fishes and other crocodiles grew afraid of him.

As a result, Rain Cloud became very vain and proud. He no longer took Ye Myint and Aye Aye Se to be his parents but as ordinary human beings who came every day to
feed him and pay homage.

One day, as Ye Myint called out to Rain Cloud, he slithered from the tall bull rushes and came to the bank of the river. He was in a bad and vicious mood.

As the fisherman put out the fish for him to eat, Rain Cloud went underwater and caught hold of his ankle, pulling him towards the water.

“My son what are you doing?” asked Ye Myint.

“Why, I have decided to eat you,” said Rain Cloud with an angry hiss.

“But I am your father and I have always looked after you so much with love and care.”

“I have to eat you nevertheless,” said Rain Cloud, his eyes red with anger.

“Okay you can do that but let me pray for the last time,” requested Ye Myint. Rain Cloud agreed and the old man fell on his knees, closed his eyes and with all his heart prayed that the next birth he should be born as the Master of White Magic so that he could take revenge on the crocodile. For Rain Cloud had broken his trust.

After he had finished praying, Rain Cloud dragged the fisherman to the river and ate him up.

After that day Rain Cloud became even more vicious and was greatly feared by animals, fish and humans who fished by the river. He now was the King of Irrawady.

As he was handsome and powerful, many female crocodiles fell in love with him. Rain Cloud gave them the royal ignore as he was busy being the dominant king.

But as the years went by, Rain Cloud mellowed down. He started thinking about his past and felt remorseful at eating up the old man who had been a father to him. He would often think of him and feel very guilty.

Rain Cloud stopped being vain and turned kind and helpful, especially toward humans. He wanted to do make up for what he had done.

Now crocodiles can take on human forms after they are 100 years old. So, after Rain Cloud turned 100, he shed his scaly crocodile skin on the banks of Irrawady and
walked out as a handsome young man.

He worked as an artist who excelled in painting landscape that brought out the incredible blues of the sky, the soaring birds or nesting cranes
and the silver grey of the river.

It was while painting, that he met a beautiful young
woman Soe Mein, fell in love with her and married her.

Rain Cloud and Soe Mein lived an idyllic existence. They were very happy. Rain Cloud built a house not far from the Irrawady.

As fate would have it, a boy was born in a village close to the Irrawady. He remembered the boon he had asked God for and by the time he was 16, he was the Master of White Magic.

On his 17th birthday, Moe Kyaw went to the bank of the Irrawady, took out his magic wand and dipping it in water cried “Rain Cloud!”

Rain Cloud, who was sleeping in his house, woke up with a start. He heard the rumble of the Master of White Magic and felt fear.

He woke up his sleeping wife and told her his life’s story .Soe Mein clung to him crying, she was afraid to lose him. “Be brave my dearest,” Rain Cloud said as he was leaving,” I have to pay for what I have done.” Rain Cloud hurried to the river and became a crocodile once again.

He hurried away as he heard the second call of the Master of White Magic. He
recognised the voice of his father and knew that he had come to take revenge. With a
heavy heart Rain Cloud knew that it was only with his death that the vicious cycle would end.

By the time Ye Myint put his wand for the third time, Rain Cloud came up from the
river. In his anger Ye Myint touched Rain Cloud with his wand, who was killed instantly.

The Master of White Magic had not anticipated that Rain Cloud would leave something for him. He watched in surprise as Rain Cloud’s upper body and two legs turned to rubies and his lower limbs became pure gold. Ye Myint was filled with remorse.

Although he had got his wish, it was at the cost of the life of his son – Rain Cloud. He realised that revenge never pays anybody but leaves one with a heavy heart and years of regret to live with.

Ye Myint did not touch the riches that Rain Cloud offered him in his death and with one last sorrowful look he left.

Soe Mein came looking for her beloved Rain Cloud. When she came across his form in gold and rubies she cried knowing that Rain Cloud had died.

Soe Mein collected all the gold and rubies and built a big pagoda in the name of Rain Cloud which still remains on the banks of the silver gray river Irrawady where Rain Cloud had lived and died.

It is said that those who throng the pagoda get their heart’s desire.

1161 words | 11 minutes
Readability: Grade 5 (10-11 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: folktales
Tags: #rivers, #clouds, #heart, #magic, #crocodiles, #irrawady

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