Tum Teav

George Chigas translated Tum Teav
into English, he also provided an analysis of this Cambodian literary

Tum Teav is one of the best Khmer
poets and novels of all time. The story is about a love between a daughter of
one average family (Teav) and a young monk (Tum) in the Lovek (Lung-vek
Fortress) Era. Tum is famous of his beautiful voice, while Teav is famous
because of her beauty. Normally, a monk is forbidden from any kind of affection
and, on the other side, parent choose husband for their daughters, but this
story provides us some kind of tradition revolution.


Please notice some key points about
the Tum Teav novel:

It is written by many authors, but
the main one (the one which is brought into school textbook for literature
studying) is by a monk name Som or Soam. The other were from: Nu Korn,
So-don-Bre-Chea-In, and other one by unknown author. Nowaday, because of the
civil war, the records are not well-kept and the story is spread through
people’s mouth. Thus, there are some significant misunderstandings: in
accordance to the main one, Teav’s mother’s name is not given… thus the whole
story knows her as Teav’s mother only. But in Cambodian people thought, they
say Teav’s mother’s name is Phan. I believe that this thought comes from the
identity of the name Phan, which Khmer people refer to old mean woman. In the
story, Teav’s mother forces her daughter to marry men she doesn’t love and
forbids her from meeting Tum. Secondly, the main one tells the end story that
Teav’s mother dies by execution… in some other novels, however, point out that
she became insane. But some people still confused the story ending. 


Tum & Teav is studied in school
textbook, because of its magnificent point of view. Derive from the story, it
shows the fierce and cruel sovereignty of Lovek King, who execute some people
of Tbong-Kmum village (Teav’s hometown) and name the villagers as , Neak Nghea,
means Rebellion people or accusable ones, for avenging the death of Tum, who is
the royal singer and king’s favourite. One more things, which is shown above,
is the tradition of choosing spouse for their children. There is a saying
(which is well-known by this novel) “Num Min Thum Cheang Neal” which means
“anything is not bigger than its scale”, there is always a scale to measure
something… literately, its mean that children must listen to their parent.



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