Tam & Cam

    Whew!  Well, that was a bumpy ride.  Hope you didn't lose any of your valuables along the ride.  Well, here we are in Vietnam hundreds of years ago.  Do you have any questions so far?  None?  Well, that's shocking.  I'm sure you're excited to see the next story.  All I have to do is say the magic words and the story will begin.  Ready?  Well, here we go.  Khac, Nhap, Chak.
    "Oh father, why must you marry that woman?  I am sure that she does not like me.  I like our family the way it is, just you and I.  Can we just keep it that way?" said Tam. 
    "Oh Tam, cheer up!  I am certain that my marriage will bring nothing but blessings!  You need a mother in your life.  A father can only teach you so much," said the man.
    Soon after the wedding, things became very bad for Tam.  She found out that the woman her father married was actually a wicked woman with dangerous intentions.  She treated Tam very badly and often spanked her with a large paddle.  The woman told so many lies about Tam that her father began to distance himself from her and eventually would have nothing else to do with her.
    A few years later the couple had a little girl of their own and things only got worse for Tam.  The wicked woman named her daughter Cam and treated her like a little princess.  Tam became the house slave, doing all the cooking and cleaning.  It was even her duty to go into the woods to fetch wood and water for the house. 
    One day, the wicked woman sent out the girls to fetch fish from the creek.  "Tam, do not come back to this house without filling this bucket with fish or else you will pay,"
said the wicked woman.  Tam became very frightened, and she worked very hard all day while her sister played.  At the end of the day her bucket was filled with fish but when Cam realized that she had no
fish she told Tam to go wash up in the creek.  While Tam was 
washing up Cam stole her fish.  Tam began to cry when she realized what Cam had done and suddenly the Goddess of Mercy Guanyin appeared. 
"What is wrong, my dear child?" said Guanyin.  Tam told Guanyin what had happened and Guanyin assured her that everything would be okay.  "Here, Tam, take this fish and place it in the well by your house, feed it three times a day and many blessings will begin to come your way,"  said Guanyin.
      Tam did just as she was told and was blessed far more than ever before.  Her stepmother became very suspicious of Tam and one day went out to the well and killed the fish.  Tam was heartbroken, but Guanyin assured her that more blessings were to come.  One day the king announced that he would be throwing a ball.  Tam was so excited, but her wicked stepmother made sure she would not be able to attend by giving her one week's worth of chores to do the night of the ball.  Tam cried and suddenly Guanyin appeared. 
    "What is wrong, my dear child?" she asked. 
    "Oh Guanyin!  How I want so badly to go to the ball, but my stepmother has given me so many chores to do tonight so that I can't go," said Tam.  Guanyin waved her green wand just once, and all the chores were finished.  Tam changed into a gorgeous dress and slipped on a beautiful pair of shoes and hurried to the ball. 
    Once she got to the ball, Tam noticed that Cam was staring at her suspiciously, and she dashed out of the ball leaving one slipper behind.  One of the king's soldiers found
the slipper and brought it to the king.  The king examined the slipper and sent word that he would marry the woman whose foot fit the slipper.  He searched for months and finally came to Tam and asked her to try it on.  It was a perfect fit.  Tam became Queen and began to lead a marvelous life.  This angered her stepmother and when Tam went home to visit her father, her stepmother tricked and killed her by
making her fall from a tree.  Cam became queen but Tam's soul could not find rest and instead was transformed into a nightingale.  The king became fascinated with the nightingale for he knew that the bird was really Tam.  He gave so much attention to the bird that Cam became jealous and killed the bird.  The king was again heartbroken and Tam's pour soul was transformed into an apple. 
    One day an old woman picked the apple and set it on her dining room table.  She left and returned home to find the place had been cleaned and dinner had been made.  She pretended to leave the next day but instead hid inside a closet to see who had cleaned her house and prepared supper.  She saw a beautiful woman climbing out of the fruit and confronted the woman.  The beautiful girl was actually Tam and the woman told Tam that she may live with her. 
    One day the king went hunting and became lost.  He stumbled upon the old woman's house and entered to seek shelter for the night.  The old woman offered him tea and pie. He tasted the pie and realized that it tasted just like his beloved Tam's pie.  He asked to see the woman who had made the pie and Tam came out.  The two rejoiced and Tam again became the king's first lady.  Cam again became jealous of Tam and asked her how to get her complexion as fair as hers.  Tam told her to jump into a pot of boiling water and she did, which naturally killed her instantly.  Cam's mother died of a broken heart when she heard the news, and Tam lived happily ever after.

The images above all come from Vietnamese Cinderella.  They represent pivotal moments in the story as it is being told.

Author's Note:  I told the story of Tam and Cam.  I kept the story as close as possible to the original but I shortened it to make it fit within the 1000 word maximum.  There are some details that I had to leave out of my version like how the wicked stepmother was able to kill Tam and why Tam was up in the tree.  Also in the original story the old woman had promised the apple that she would not eat it, only use it for smell and that is why Tam dropped to the ground for her; she did not 'pick' the fruit.  One other thing that I changed in my version is when the king went to the house of the old lady she gave him tea and betel in the original story but I told it as tea and pie. 
There is a special reason why betel appeared in this story:
  Throughout Asia, and especially in Vietnam, betel nuts are wrapped in betel leaves and then chewed.  I chose this story because it fits in with my concept of my storybook.  I found this story to be a very interesting version of Cinderella because even though it has a lot of twists and turns throughout the story, while reading it a person will still think back to the more modern version of Cinderella.

Bibliography Information:
Title:  Tam & Cam
Author:  L.T. Bach-Lan
Year Published:  1957
Web Source: Tam & Cam