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Lao Folktales: The Magic White Swan


Dohn121 is a freelance writer who currently resides in the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains of New York's famed Hudson Valley.


Once upon a time there was a lonely farmer who decided to go fishing one day. He wore a shawl around his head to save from being bitten by mosquitoes and other bugs and carried a long fishing net. When he reached the river, he cast his net but caught nothing. He did this again and again but still caught nothing. Not a single fish could be found inside the webbing of his net. He repeated this once, twice, three times but still found nothing when pulling in his net from the river. He didn't find any kind of fish either big or small. Finally, he decided to try just one last time. When pulling his net from the river, he was pleasantly surprised at the resistance: “Oh, this is so heavy,” he said out loud.

Though expecting a large and appetizing fish, the farmer found instead a white pebble in his net. It was the most beautiful pebble he had ever seen. He then took the pebble home with him and placed it atop the high altar above his head. After finishing his meager dinner, the farmer went to sleep. The next day, he was surprised to find that his white pebble had turned into a beautiful giant white swan. Upon seeing the farmer, the swan walked over to him.

The Land of Flowers

The Land of Flowers

“I can take you to a beautiful place far here, to the Land of Flowers. Once there, you can have whatever you wish.”

The farmer happily accepted the invitation and climbed atop the swan. As soon as he did, the swan beat her broad and powerful wings and off they went, soaring higher and higher into the crisp morning air. Once there, the farmer took in the beautiful scenery of the Land of Flowers and its abundance of scents and array of colors. He could not remember another time when he was so happy.

He picked one flower and found it to be surprisingly heavy. He picked a second flower and found it to be heavier. He picked a third and found it to be almost unbearably heavy.

“Oh, I don’t think you should pick any more flowers!” The swan said. “It will be much too heavy for me to carry both you and all of those flowers!” Feeling sorry for the swan, the man stopped picking any more flowers and soon enough, the two were flying back to the farmer’s house. Once there, the farmer placed the new and beautiful flowers inside. The next day when the farmer awoke, he found that all his flowers had turned into gold! He was rich!

The news of his wealth traveled fast and so reached the ears of his friend who became very curious. He insisted that the farmer tell him everything and so he did.


The very next day, his friend went to fish in the river with his long net just like his friend the farmer before him. And just like his friend, he cast out his net once, twice, three times and found his net to be empty. He cast out his net one last time and pulled. “Oh, it is so heavy,” he said while pulling up his net. He found a white pebble inside the net, just like his friend told him he would. He then took the white pebble home and placed it high above his head at the altar. He was so excited he could barely fall asleep that night. He was going to rich tomorrow!

When he awoke the next day, he found the swan standing in front of him, patiently waiting. She walked over to him and spoke:

“I can take you to a beautiful place far away to the Land of Flowers. Once there, you can have whatever you wish.” The man smiled and soon enough the two were off into the early morning.

“Oh, I don’t think you should pick any more flowers!” The swan said, after the man picked his third flower. “It will be much too heavy for me to carry both you and all of those flowers!”

“But it’s only three flowers!” The man argued. “I’m sure you can carry more than that!” And so the man went back to the garden and helped himself to two armfuls of flowers. “Okay, take me home now.” the man demanded. “I will put these away and then we can come back for more.” He then jumped atop the swan (who winced when he did) and the swan began beating her wings as hard as she could. She barely managed to take off because of all the extra weight she was carrying. The two flew, swaying side to side with the weight of all the man’s flowers. The swan managed to land but only with great difficulty. The swan rested her head on the lawn completely exhausted. The man jumped off her back and turned to look at her.

“Now wait here,” the man said to her while carrying his armful of flowers. “Don’t go away! I still want to go back and pick more flowers.” The man then walked inside his house. When he returned, the swan had disappeared. In horror, the man ran inside his room and found that his flowers were just ordinary flowers instead of a treasure trove of gold. And that’s the story.


© 2009 dohn121


Bugra on July 26, 2013:

It's posts like this that make surfing so much pleurase

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 25, 2012:

Thank you, Tya. Much appreciated.

Tya on August 12, 2012:

love this story

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on March 30, 2012:

Thank you and I totally agree :D Do not bite the hand that feeds you.

CenterAll72 from New York on March 01, 2012:

Moral of the story listen to whatever the magical swan says. Greed tends to get the best of us even when we get a blessing.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on February 09, 2010:

Thanks, Rochelle. This is one of my favorite stories as a kid. The color of the swan and the pebble are some of the most important attributes as in Buddhism, it's associated with goodness and purity.

I'm so happy that you stopped in, Rochelle. They are a treat to see first hand. I used to feed them all the time when I was a kid while fishing in New York.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on February 09, 2010:

A lovely tale-- maybe some resemblance to the "Goose that laid the golden egg"?

Swans are so magical. We once experienced two of them flying a short distance above us us-- and yes, they do have big powerful wings. They are more usually seen floating peacefully on a pond.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on February 09, 2010:

Ha! It's great to read comments from you again :D The moral of this story is great and I enjoyed hearing this very much when I was a kid. To be able to share this with so many good people is really a blessing.

I look forward to hearing what you think of Revenge, Inc. Talk to you soon.

Gous Ahmed from Muslim Nation on February 09, 2010:

Very nice story my friend! There is a similar folk tale from Bangladesh, which i may write one day.

Just shows what people get is what they deserve. A clean heart is a peaceful heart with happinness in abundance from small things. Greed is

awarded by unhappiness, but the person will be surrounded by material possessions which end up being worthless. (If all that makes sense, lol!).

Very heart warming story, thank you for sharing it!

It's fantastic to be back to reading your hubs again, i feel i've missed out. I will be back to reading your Revenge Inc. Stories very soon!

Take care mate.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on January 06, 2010:

Thanks, UH. I too enjoy hearing folktales for all cultures. Some of my favorites aside from Lao Folktales are of the Native American variety. I'll be sure to post more as soon as possible.

Ultimate Hubber on January 06, 2010:

Interesting one!

BTW I believe folktales round the globe are interesting and teach us some really useful morals.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on January 02, 2010:

LOL. Thanks so much, apricot! Some guys get all the luck :P I'm still impressed that I was nominated!!!

Bengali Bratisha from Italy on January 02, 2010:

Phew! I was getting worried for a minute! Congrats on your win!! Needless to say it was very well deserved!

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on January 01, 2010:

Ahhh! I meant 2010! Geez, I'm always getting ahead of myself! I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

Bengali Bratisha from Italy on January 01, 2010:

2011?! Dohn, I'm getting worried - have I been asleep a whole year? Aaaagh!

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on December 31, 2009:

Ha! A book on Lao Folktales is going to take a bit of time to compile. My Creative Writing professor published a Korean Folktale compilation last year (in which I got a signed copy, free of charge of course). I'd love to partake in it someday (I have three so far). You are quite the thinker, my friend! Keep on writing too! I hope you have a wonderful New Year's (is it 2011 in Italy yet???) Thanks again!

Bengali Bratisha from Italy on December 31, 2009:

Yes, please write a book of Lao folktales! I will be ordering my copy now! No, I had no idea that 'the boy in striped pajamas' had been made into a film - I just told my nephew and as usual he's more clued up than I am! It's only a short book so I expect I'll finish it before the film.

I'm still mulling over the folktale though - the pebble represents purity but not for the person who finds it, perhaps? Because the second farmer was already riddled with greed - and I can't help wondering - perhaps the first one could have got greedy too if he'd known what was coming? I always tie myself in knots with these things! But the message that happiness is all around us - they've definitely got it right there. Ooh, and I just thought of another one - being content with little doesn't mean you'll be embracing a life of poverty - after all, the simple stone turned into a beautiful swan and brought the farmer good fortune. It's amazing how a little story can be so thought provoking!

I know, it is disgraceful but I think I'm going to have to limit myself on reading - I just end up analysing every chapter over and over again and never getting any writing done! Ok, I'm off to mull it over again! Happy new year Dohn!!!

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on December 30, 2009:

Okay, all right...I'll give you my take!: The story's message is very Buddhist. It points to the fact that happiness is all around us and does not exist in only folktales. To appreciate and to be contented with the gifts of life is surely a blessing. The man (or woman) who is grateful for even the slightest of good fortunes shall have wealth in this world or the next in abundance and the man or woman who cannot be satisfied with the even the slightest of all fortunes will not. The fisherman that is happy with his meager catch who lives in a thatched-roof hut with a wife that loves him is the richest and most envied man!

I hope this cleared some things up! I could be wrong, you know!

Oh, and about the stone, the only thing that I gather from it is purity of good works (in Lao, it's called 'boun'). Stones/pebbles/rocks are usually speckled or earth-colored. The white color of the pebble and the Magic Swan is associated with being free of sin and impurities, from what I'm told by my dad and abbot...

Thanks so much, apricot. I'm elated that you took the time to read this and to enjoy it. Maybe someday I'll write a book on Lao Folktales. I'd love to one day!

One day, huh? Which one was it? You didn't tell me yet (as you were keeping it secret or something!) "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" was a very very good movie! I watched it last week and was floored! You should definitely watch the movie (I didn't read the book beforehand :( unfortunately)

Not read? The horror! I hope that you enjoy your New Year's, apricot! I hope to hear from you soon!

Bengali Bratisha from Italy on December 30, 2009:

Very thoughtprovoking! That was only one thing missing - I searched and searched and didn't find your own interpretation of the story - I know it's pretty self explanatory but then again, it's one of those stories you could discuss for hours and well, I like hearing your own take on it! I did wonder at first if the flowers would change according to what the man was after in his own heart and the flower would be light or heavy depending on the man's wish...but grrr! I always end up complicating things and the beautiful thing about this story is that it's so simple but very very memorable. (I shall be keeping it up my proverbial sleeve).

I did wonder - does the fact that the stone turns into a swan signify something particular? Perhaps that perseverence pays off..but then the second man didn't seem so deserving of the swan I thought...I'm off again.

Your tales always inspire me - I have to thank you for getting me back into reading as well although now I'm back into it again I realise why I stopped - it's like Pringles with me when I pick up a book - all or nothing. I polished off Jane Austen in one day and now I'm onto a book my nephew's lent me called 'the boy in striped pyjamas'. And I've got a book on order called 'the Gods were astronauts' which I think is going to be rather mind boggling, and I think I'll going to down the road to getting addicted to Lao folktales! Actually, perhaps I shouldn't have got back into reading...!

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on December 28, 2009:

Thanks, Brenda. I'm happy to hear that you did. Just to hear that you did is enough ;)

poetlorraine on December 28, 2009:

i so enjoyed reading this, sorry it took me so long to get round to reading it....

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on December 27, 2009:

Thank you! I hope that you do read the other two that I have (so far).

tnderhrt23 on December 27, 2009:

This was a lovely read with a powerful moral...I look forward to more folktales!

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on November 28, 2009:

Thanks, Bbudoyono. I'm glad that you did. Sadly and for the most part, you are indeed correct. I did however learned a lot in college and read a great deal of eastern literature. However, all nations of the world have their own set of folktales. It's always a treat for me to hear any and all of them as it reveals so much about each culture. Thank you again.

Bbudoyono on November 28, 2009:

Beautiful story! I like it dohn. In Asia we know very little about other Asian cultures. We know more about western culture. Thanks for sharing it.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on November 11, 2009:

I'm glad that you enjoyed it, Pretty. This is one of my own personal favorites. I think that this story also speaks volumes on the lesson of complacency as well. Many of us take for granted our loved ones--I know that I argue with my brothers, sisters, and parents all the time...We tend to hurt those we love more than our own enemies, mainly because we're expected to love our family (I know, it's a paradox, I know). Thank you again!

prettydarkhorse from US on November 11, 2009:

hi DOHN, very nice lesson to learn, dont use other people for your greediness, I love the flowers (flowers are my favorite)and the beautiful swan too. Folklores at its best, thanks for introducing us to one of Laos folklore. I am learning more about Lao now!

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on September 16, 2009:

Thank you, thanglynn07. This was my favorite story as well! I have a few more, but need to speak to my dad about them. I used to harass him when I was a kid just so he'd tell me another story. I could never get enough!

thanglynn07 from Long Beach, CA on September 16, 2009:

Beautiful story! Greed...especially at the expense of another will get you no where. Love this story best...my bf is still fishing lol. Kidding kidding...

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on September 03, 2009:

Yes, and very much so! Thank you again!

dokdumduan on September 03, 2009:

To Dohn. are you lao?

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 23, 2009:

I'm glad you enjoyed this, Larry. Thank you for commenting. Aside from greed, discontent is also at work here, which is surely a Buddhist theme that needs to be conquered.

Larry Conners from Northern Arizona on August 23, 2009:

Thanks dohn...I enjoyed this bit of Laotian lore...a common thread across many cultures...Larry

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 23, 2009:

There are more that I vaguely remember and that I have to hear again before I write them out...You should think about sharing those stories with us Fiery. I'd like to hear them if you do! Think about it!

fierycj on August 23, 2009:

Ha ha ha another good one. We've got so many folktales in my country lecturing on the consequences of greed. Its a killer really. You gotta know when to stop! :)

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 06, 2009:

Thank you, ER. I have a few more that I want to write. We have such a beautiful culture and it needs to be shared with the rest of the world. Our stories is what sets us apart from other cultures. Soke dee!

EnrapturedFlame on August 06, 2009:

I loved this story. I can't wait to read more! Kaup jai!

countrywomen from Washington, USA on August 01, 2009:

Looking forward to more stories. Good luck with 30/30 challenge.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 01, 2009:

Thank you, countrywomen. I have a few more stories that have been told to me that I would like very much to share, especially since I'm doing the 30/30 HubChallenge! There are a few more stories that I do want to share. Thank you for becoming a fan!

countrywomen from Washington, USA on August 01, 2009:

WOW!! Wonderful story. And you have a gift for story telling. Please continue writing more such folk lore stories. I love them. Thumbs up. :D

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 01, 2009:

Thank you K@ri! Lao folktales are usually not written down which is a fact that I really like because it allows me the autonomy to write it. All of the basics are pretty much the same but I just airbrushed it a bit, if you know what I mean!

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on August 01, 2009:

I love folktales and this is a great one! Thanks for sharing it. I love your "field of flowers", it's a beautiful picture.

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on August 01, 2009:

Thanks Cris A! Yeah, greed definitely gets you nowhere. This is one of my favorite folktales from my homeland. I gotta remember this moral whenever I win a little at the casino! Know when to say when!

Cris A from Manila, Philippines on August 01, 2009:

Poor man, he must have not heard of the 7 deadly sins - the 7th in particular! Anyway, I enjoyed the read. Hmm how does the pebble look like exactly? I might go afishin' tomorrow! LOL :D

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on July 26, 2009:

I'm happy to share, Wesley. I have a few more that I'd like to share, but I have to call my dad to make sure that I get the story right before I do. One thing I thought of is that this could be thought of in the way of a failed marriage...Think about it.

wesleycox from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012 on July 26, 2009:

This is a great story. I enjoyed the moral of it very much. Thanks

dohn121 (author) from Hudson Valley, New York on July 26, 2009:

Thanks, Lisa. This is one of my favorite Lao folktales. Amazingly, it was never told to me by my parents. I actually had to search for it and then reproduce it my own words. In my country and much like Native cultures, we usually don't write them down and so pass them on orally.

Lisa Chronister from Florida on July 26, 2009:

This story has a wonderful moral to it. if we were all only as wise as the first man!!

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