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The Rainbow

On some stairways of pagodas in Yangon or Thanlyin the balustrades are often in the form of long crocodiles; he is Nga Moe Yeik, (Rain Cloud) a crocodile with good intentions and a helpful nature, but unhappily he brought tragedy to his friends.

A long, long time ago, in the Kingdom of Okkalapa, (what is now Yangon) there lived a great king who was devoted to his only son, Min Nandar, a handsome prince much loved by the people. His pet was Nga Moe Yeik: a strong, big crocodile who would often come to the bank when Min Nandar called him. He lived up a little stream which still bears his name.

Now across the river is Thanlyin; and the king there many years ago had lost his beloved queen in childbirth. At the graveside, it was discovered that the child, still in her mother's womb, was not dead. So she was kept in a separate palace erected in the graveyard, for the people believed that if she were brought back inside the city walls, she would bring bad luck.

The princess, Shin Mwe Nune grew up lonely and isolated in her tower, waited upon by handmaidens. She also grew up lovely and fair. Somehow the two young people met, and fell in love. The King who was Prince Min Nanar's father was furious that his beloved son should plan to make queen a girl of such bad fortune, so he forbade every boatman to take the prince across the river. But Min Nandar managed to sneak across the river every night to see his princess and he traveled not by boat, but by croc: he rode on the back of Nga Moe Yeik. His pet was glad to help him, and to carry him back at dawn before his father could find out.

Now there was a lady crocodile in love with Nga Moe Yeik, but he already had a wife, so he ignored her seduction. Ma Let To, (Miss Short-fingered) which was the lady croc's name, was furious, as all females scorned; and decided to get Nga Moe Yeik into trouble.

She changed into human form, as all crocodiles can do, and went to serve the princess. She smelled very fishy, the other maids said, but the princess was kind, and allowed her to stay.

The Noble Strength of a man is believed to rest in the right arm; and nothing or no one of ill fortune must rest on it. The crocodile maid urged the princess to ask her lover to let her rest her head on his right arm: and so great was his love that one night he did.

Early the next morning, just as the prince and Nga Moe Yeik were about to leave, a storm came up. Waves rose high in the river, so the prince decided to travel lying in the long jaws of his pet. As they left, the crocodile maid changed into her true form, slipped into the river, and began to attack Nga Moe Yeik. He was kept so busy fighting her off that he stayed too long underwater: and the poor prince drowned.

On hearing the news, the princess died of a broken heart; on opposite banks of the river their funeral pyres were set up. Smoke rose from each, to meet in the sky, and then to turn into a rainbow.

As for Nga Moe Yeik, he was executed by the king. His wife buried his bones a few miles out of the city, and built a pagoda over it. The spot where the princess was cremated is marked by a pagoda in Thanlyin the Shin Mwe Nune pagoda, on a small hill.

 

Moral of the story: never go for rides inside a crocodile’s mouth.

 

 

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