Diamond Cuts Diamond (Thai Folktale)

diamond cuts diamond (thai)In this Thai folktale, a poor traveler smells some delicious curry being cooked for a rich man’s lunch. He stops to eat his own lunch of plain rice, and enjoys it more than ever because he imagines eating it with the curry. The rich man tries to make him pay for the smell of his curry, but things don’t go as he planned.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Elementary level Simplified English story which are not in our 800 word list are: , , , , , , , , and .

General Comments on the Story

This is one of two folktales we have published with this name. The two folktales come from different countries and have very different plots. At first sight the title appears to have little to do with either story as the word “diamond” does not appear anywhere. However, , which is an English , is an appropriate title in both cases. The first written record of the proverb was in the 1604 John Marston play The Malcontent:

Take Maquerelle with thee; for ’tis found none cuts a diamond but a diamond.

In 1693 it also appeared in the William Congreve play The Double Dealer:

And wit must be foiled by wit; cut a diamond with a diamond.

In the Thai folktale, the rich man is unfairly trying to take the poor traveler’s only coin for smelling his curry. The traveler is not in a position of power and is at the mercy of the village chief. Fortunately, the village chief is not only fair but also a match for the rich man. He cleverly comes up with a way for the poor man to pay for the smell without losing the coin.

To read our other story with this title (from India), click here.

There are thousands of folktales around the world that have similar plots to those of other cultures. In many cases there are enough differences to show that this has probably happened by chance. However, sometimes parts of stories are so similar as to make it appear as if either one is taken from the other, or they both developed from a common earlier story. We have included above a very short folktale from Japan called Smells and Jingles which may well be a source for Diamond Cuts Diamond. In this story a greedy merchant saves money every day by eating his boiled rice while enjoying the smell of broiled eels coming from a neighbor’s shop. Ancient Siam had strong trade links with Japan, and during the 16th and 17th centuries there was a Japanese community of several thousand living in its capital of Ayutthaya.


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chief(n: chief pl chiefs) The person who is the leader of a group of people, an organization, etc. A police chief, a fire chief, an Indian chief, a village chief, etc. 2000

coin(n: coin pl coins) A small, flat, and usually round piece of metal issued by a government as money. 3000

curry(n: curry pl curries) An originally Indian dish of meat, vegetables etc cooked with a mixture of spices. We had chicken curry for dinner. 5000

delicious(adj: delicious) Having a very nice taste or smell. 6000

enjoy(v: enjoy, enjoys, enjoyed, enjoying) To find pleasure in something. I enjoyed that movie.
(n: enjoyment) A feeling of pleasure caused by doing or experiencing something you like. Playing music was a source of great enjoyment.
(adj: enjoyable) Something that provides enjoyment. We had an enjoyable time together. 1000

greedy(adj: greedy, greedier, greediest) Having or showing a selfish desire to have more of something (such as money or food) than is right.
(adv: greedily) In a greedy manner. 3000

imagine(v: imagine, imagines, imagined, imagining) 1. To form a picture of something in your mind that is not there or not real. I can imagine how you felt. 2. To see or hear etc something which is not true or does not exist. There is no-one there. You're just imagining things! 3. To think; to suppose. I imagine that he will be late. 1000

prepare(v: prepare, prepares, prepared, preparing) To make or get ready for something. My mother prepares dinner before she goes to work.
(adj: prepared) Willing or ready to do something. I am not prepared to lie for him. 1000

respect(n: respect, noncount) Admiration or high opinion of someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
(adj: respectful) Treating someone or something that is important, serious, etc., in an appropriate way.
(v: respect, respects, respected, respecting) To show or feel respect. 1000

(proverb: Diamond cuts Diamond) Diamond is the hardest substance known, and can only be cut by another diamond. The phrase is used to describe a situation where two opponents who are an equal match in wit, cunning, or strong-mindedness meet. It has been used several times in literature to suggest that, in the same way that a diamond can only be cut by another diamond, the only match for a clever or cunning person is someone who is equally clever or cunning.

(n: proverb pl proverbs) An old but well-known saying that either gives advice about how people should live, or expresses an idea that is generally thought to be true. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A rolling stone gathers no moss. 6000

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