Why Girls Pierce Their Ears


A Cambodian legend, translated from the Khmer to German by Claudia Götze-Sam, re-translated from the German to English and elaborated upon a bit by FTS – in the hope that at least the essence of the original remains.


A very long time ago there lived a man who was very rich and had many servants as well as gold and precious stones. One of his servant girls was young and comely, whereas his wife, though once beautiful and plump, had become fat and ugly. It is therefore understandable that the rich man deceived his wife with the servant girl. After a while, the wife found out about her husband’s affair with the girl (such things are seldom kept secret for long, especially when there are other jealous girls around who whisper in wives’ ears), but there was nothing she could do about it while her husband was present. One day he went on a trip and was gone for three days. The wife took advantage of this absence and went with another servant girl to the loved one’s room. She beat, kicked and cursed her in the most awful manner. Then she took some nails and hammered them through the poor girl’s earlobes. “That will take care of you,” she said, and left.


When the rich man returned and saw his lover, he asked her, “Why have you put nails through your earlobes?” She moaned and answered, “I did not do such a thing to myself.” And she told him everything. The man pulled the nails out and applied a medicine to the earlobes. He arranged for the girl to live in an apartment far from his house.


The girl was very ashamed that her earlobes had holes in them. She begged the rich man to do something to make the holes disappear. The man, who still loved her, promised to find a way of making the holes and scars disappear. One night he lay in bed and thought: If I have a goldsmith make golden nails and put them in the holes, it will certainly look good. After thinking all night he decided it was an excellent idea. The next morning he commissioned a goldsmith to make the golden nails. The goldsmith placed diamonds in the settings amidst beautiful ornamentation. When the girl saw the golden nails set with diamonds, she found them lovely and was very pleased. That night she did her best – which was very good indeed – to please the rich man in bed.


At first the wife thought that the servant girl had run away, but the other jealous servant girl whispered into her ear again, telling her where her husband’s lover now lived. The wife called for a carriage and rode to the girl’s abode. She saw her in the garden with beautifully sparkling earlobes – the same earlobes she thought she had ruined by driving ugly nails through them.


“What do you have on your earlobes?” she asked the girl.


“I am wearing diamond-studded golden nails instead of the ugly nails you pierced my earlobes with,” the girl answered haughtily.


When the wife heard that, she had the other servant girl pierce her earlobes with nails. Then she ran to the goldsmith and ordered him to make her diamond-studded nails, just like the ones her husband’s lover had.


When the other women saw the rich women’s sparkling ears, they began to pierce their daughters’ earlobes at an early age, so that they could wear beautiful earrings when they were older. From that time on, all the girls have their earlobes pierced and wear earrings.