Basic Science

The Cambodian myth of lightning, thunder, and rain

Once, a long time ago, there was a powerful hermit named Lok Ta Moni Eysei. He had three promising students: Moni Mekhala, the brilliant goddess of the seas, Vorachhun, the princely manifestation of the earth, and Ream Eyso, a demon whose heart burned with passionate fire.

Lok Ta wished to bestow a gift upon his most deserving student. To determine which of the three that was, he announced a contest: whoever first brought back a glass full of morning dew would be master of this mysterious gift. When dusk came, Vorachhun and Ream Eyso ventured into the forest.

They left not one leaf or blade of grass untouched, impatiently shaking the precious fluid into their glasses. When they returned to the hermit’s hut, they found Moni Mekhala sitting patiently with a full glass of morning dew. She had left her shawl out overnight and won the contest by simply wringing out the fabric over her glass.

Proud of all his students, and loving them like his own children, Lok Ta surprised all three with gifts. He turned the dew Ream Eyso collected into a diamond axe, Vorachhun’s into a magic dagger, and Moni Mekhala’s into a crystal ball unlike anything ever seen.

Soon Ream Eyso grew covetous and decided he must have Mekhala’s prize. He and Vorachhun tried to woo the goddess so they could get the precious gem. But after she rejected their advances and flew off, Ream Eyso resolved to take the crystal ball by force. Ream Eyso flew through the air in search of Moni Mekhala, propelled on by a jealous rage. On his way, he encountered Vorachhun and attacked him, knowing that the righteous prince would never allow him to steal the crystal.

The demon gained the upper hand in the heat of battle, and hurled Vorachhun against the side of a mountain. Sure of Vorachhun’s death, Ream Eyso continued his search until he finally found Moni Mekhala. He demanded that she and her friends either submit to him, the most brilliant of Lok Ta’s students and rightful master of the crystal ball, or die like Vorachhun. Mekhala, without fear, refused and flew off into the clouds, hoping to draw the demon away from her friends. Ream Eyso took the bait, ripping through nimbus after nimbus in his crazed pursuit.

Once far enough away, Mekhala confronted her pursuer. Ream Eyso made one last demand but the goddess remained unfazed. Enraged, he began to swing his diamond axe. Before he could hurl the weapon, Mekhala threw her crystal into the air. As it climbed the height of the sky, it emitted powerful flashes of lightning that blinded the demon. Ream Eyso let his axe loose in wild desperation. As the weapon flew through the air it cut through clouds, creating deep, rolling peals of thunder.

And when the lightning and thunder mixed, precious seeds of water fell from heaven: rain. Mekhala drew close to Ream Eyso, now blind and impotent without his axe. She pondered what she should do to the murderer. Remembering the kindness and love of her teacher, Moni Mekhala chose compassion and flew into the sky. Shortly later, Ream Eyso regained his strength, found his axe, and followed her. Thunder, lightning, and rain continued to dance across the earth. Some drops fell on Vorachhun and revived him, his skin golden like a rice field ready for harvest. Grabbing his magic dagger, he flew into the sky in search of Ream Eyso and Moni Mekhala.

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