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Literature Referenced in The Rent Collector

Since several pieces of classical literature (and one or two contemporary pieces) are referenced or quoted in The Rent Collector, I thought it may be of interest to readers if I provide added history on those pieces. I used some in their entirety; others I simply referenced. With one noted exception, the works are all in the public domain and are readily available online. I have listed them in their order of appearance.

Dancing Monkeys, a short piece of literature I included in its entirety, is attributed to Aesop. If you trust Wikipedia (and in this case I do), Aesop was a Greek writer credited with a number of popular fables. Some accounts say he was a slave, others a black Ethiopian. Regardless, it’s astounding to consider that over 2,500 years later, his work is still being recited in books, films, plays and television programs.

Tum Teav, referenced in The Rent Collector, has been called Cambodia’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s a classic tragic love story attributed to Buddhist monk Preah Botumthera Som, and was popularized by writer George Chigas in 1915.

Reamker, again simply referenced, is a Cambodian epic poem known among the Khmer people for its portrayal in dance theatre. In the Reamker, topics of trust, loyalty, love, and revenge play out in dramatic encounters among princes and giants, monkeys and mermaids, and a forlorn princess.

Moby Dick, by American author Herman Melville, was first published in 1851. A shortened version of the translated story is read by Sang Ly, and several lines of dialogue revolve around the plot. Melville’s work is rich with symbolism and metaphor, and is considered by many to be a treasure in the world of literature.

The download is a large file, so be patient. It's worth the wait, however, as it's Melville's orginal 1851 version of the classic.

Sarann, the story of the Khmer Cinderella, crafted to meet the specific needs of pacing and style for The Rent Collector, was patterned after numerous similar versions from an array of countries. Sarann is indeed Ye Xian in China, Tattercoats in England, Aschenputtel in Germany, Critheanach in Scotland, Nyasha in Africa, and Cinderella in North America. If there is an interest, an actual Khmer version of the Cinderella story was documented and told by Dr. Jewell R. Coburn in her book, Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella.

Love Forever, a poem presented as Sopeap’s book, is included in its entirety. It was written by Joni Buehner, and is the one work referenced (besides those I created) that is not in the public domain. It simply fit so well into the story, I asked for Joni’s permission to use it and she kindly agreed.

Tiger Road was actually derived from Long Odds, a story by Sir Henry Rider Haggard. The final version included in The Rent Collector aptly demonstrates the countless factors one must consider when crafting a novel.

Originally I had Sang Ly read the short story, Long Odds, in its entirety on her bus trip to the province. However, the story's length and alternate style so removed the reader from my own story, I was concerned about bringing them back. As a solution, Long Odds was edited down—but that didn’t quite do it. Then, rather than have Sang Ly read it directly, I had her relate the story to us, the reader, from her own point of view. Almost there, but not quite.

In order to offer a more Asian feeling to the scene (it is Cambodia, after all), I changed the names and location to protect the innocent. The lions in Long Odds became tigers. I switched the country of origin from Africa to India, and the result was Tiger Road. Yes, I’m sure Rider Haggard is rolling over in his grave, but that’s the way it is. That all said, I highly recommend you give the original version a read. Haggard was a celebrated writer and his work is most entertaining.

Pyramus and Thisbe are characters of Roman mythology in a story of ill-fated love that is said to have inspired Romeo and Juliet. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is mentioned by Sang Ly as being one she read with Sopeap. Like Long Odds, noted above, I had originally included the entire story, but later opted only to reference selected parts.

(There are several versions. This link references one. The others can be found online.)

The Phoenix Bird, much like the story of Cinderella, can be found in the mythologies of numerous civilizations—Arabian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian and (according to Sanchuniathon) Phoenician. Once again, for reasons of style and pacing, I chose to use the version (slightly edited) by Hans Christian Andersen (1850).

Other classical works (from Cambodia and around the world) that were only mentioned by name in The Rent Collector are not listed here.