David Lan Pham

The lazy nephew and his uncle


<=== Illustration: Wilf Tilley



Mo was an orphan teenager.  His uncle took care of him after his parents’ death.  His uncle was a landless farmer.  His social situation was mediocre while his nephew, Mo, was lazy and artful.

The uncle was greedy, brutal and heartless.  He disliked his nephew’s laziness and slyness.  He expelled him from his slum many times.  Vainly.  The nephew needed to cling to his uncle.

His uncle was very furious.  He built a cage and put Mo in it.  His wicked plan was to throw the cage into the sea. 

Arriving at the beach the nephew said to his uncle:

“Uncle!  I deserve the death because of my laziness and slyness.  Please come home and bring the Book I put behind our ancestral altar for me.  I need it to make my living in the Yellow Spring.  You leave the cage here.  I am in the cage.  I have no way to escape.”

When the uncle came home, a leprous man came to the cage and asked Mo, the lazy teenager:

“Why are you in this cage?”

“This cage is very sacred.  Many years ago, my leprosy was more serious than yours.  My uncle put me in this cage.  My leprosy improved visibly as you see,”  Mo replied.

“Let me come into the cage to treat my leprosy,” the leprous man solicited.

“No.  The cage is narrow.  It has no room for both of us,” Mo said.

“Please!  Please!  I need my leprosy curing,”  the leprous man solicited.

“I allow you to take my place in the cage.  You have to look for a hammer and some nails.  We open the cage with the hammer so that I can get out and you can get in.  After that I use the hammer to nail the cage door.  Now it’s your duty to look for the hammer and nails.  I wait for you,”  Mo said.

The leprous man went to the hamlet near the beach to get a hammer and some nails.  He returned to the beach to open the cage door.  Mo got out of the cage.  The leprous man came into the cage.  Mo nailed the cage door.  The leprous man’s hope came true.  He looked very happy.


Mo’s uncle wasted time without finding the Book.  He got very angry.  He thought he was deceived by his artful nephew.  He ran to the beach and used all of his strength to throw the cage into the sea.  He didn’t have any remorse after getting rid of his lazy and artful nephew.


Mo walked around the market to beg money.  One morning, he saw a rich mandarin’s son riding a white horse.  The rich mandarin’s son stopped at a Chinese restaurant to have breakfast.  He tied his horse to a tree and went to he restaurant in leaving a big bag on the horse’s back.  Mo stole his horse.  He rode to the the forest and stopped there to open the bag.  What a surprise!  There were many sapeques (1),gold, diamonds, precious stone and a Book of Poems in Chinese characters in the bag. 

Mo became rich.  He moved faraway from his birthplace.  He changed his name from Mo to Quyen (Power).  He put on leather slippers.  He wore expensive clothes.  His house was pretty.  His wife was beautiful.  She was daughter of a powerful tong doc (2)Quyen (Mo’s new name) had friendly relations with the local notables and rich people.

One day, he rode his horse to his native village to see his uncle, who thought he died in the seabed.  Seeing him his uncle was scared.  Was this poor Mo, his nephew? Or the ghost?  How was he rich?

“Uncle!  Don’t be surprised!  I am your nephew.  Now my name is Quyen,”  Quyen said.

“Tell me how you get rich quickly?  The uncle asked.

“I was very lucky after you threw the cage into the sea.  I don’t know why all of our dead relatives were there to welcome me.  It’s unthinkable.  They were wealthy.  They gave me money, gold, silver and precious stone.  Our  dead relatives in the seabed asked me to change my name.  One of them gave me a castle as if I were a member of the royal family.  He hired a Chinese geomancer to show me where to live to perpetuate wealth and prosperity.  I am about forgetting to tell you that our dead relatives asked about you.  They said they had something precious for you.  I told them you have unhappy life on Earth.  Learning that news they cried lamentably.  They seemed to love you very much.  Uncle!  I thank you very much.  You turned me into the happiest man.,”  Quyen said.

“I don’t know how to get there to see our dead relatives,” the uncle said.

“You build a cage.  I bring it to the beach and throw it into the sea.  Doing so, you don’t waste your time in the hope of seeing our dead relatives,”  Quyen suggested.

The uncle was in a hurry to build the cage.  He sat in it.  His nephew brought it to the beach and threw it into the see, saying “Bye bye, Uncle!”


(1)  Sapeques:  Coins made from nickel or copper.

(2) Tong doc:  chief of a big and populous province.


David Lan Pham, F.A.B.I.



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Cái Đình - 2024