The Mythical Origin of Vietnam - Dragons and Fairies
All cultures around the world have some kind of creation myth. Many of the world's peoples have lost their connection to the traditions of their ancestors. The Vietnamese have a particularly interesting culture, as highlighted by their incredible creation myth. While other cultures lost their founding myths to the encroachment of Christianity, Vietnam held onto theirs. This is the story of Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ, and the birth of a people.
Blood of Dragons
Lạc Long Quân was born in the time of gods and legends. The son of Kinh Dương Vương (a mountain god) and Long Mẫu Thần Long (the Divine Mother Goddess of Sea Dragons), Lạc Long Quân was born with superhuman abilities. He possessed superhuman strength and a mastery of the ocean that enabled him to swim at great speeds. Due to his father being a mountain god and his mother being a sea dragon, Lạc Long Quân is considered to be the first truly Vietnamese king.
Lạc Long Quân is known for defeating the demons that plagued Vietnam for thousands of years. He was aware of growing unrest between the people of the northern mountains and those of the southern lowlands. When he came to power, he set out on a quest to unite his people. The victories he achieved during this campaign would transform him from hero to legend.
Much like the Greek demigod Hercules, Lạc Long Quân was faced with several great labors. Unlike the Greek hero, he undertook the labors of his own accord. Vietnam was plagued by 3 mighty demons in the days of Lạc Long Quân. The first was a colossal sea-beast called Ngu Tinh. This monster of the waves was known to swallow whole boats of fishermen in a single bite. Ngu Tinh stalked the coasts of southeastern Vietnam for generations. Fishermen stayed close to shore for fear of this mighty creature's wrath. Lạc Long Quân arrived in the region to find a people in mourning. Wives lost their husbands and children their mothers to the jaws of Ngu Tinh.
Lạc Long Quân was determined to rid his people of their deadly enemy. He forged a large metal cube and placed it on a large boat that he also crafted. The mighty hero then sailed to the cave where Ngu Tinh resided. Lạc Long Quân heated the metal cube until it glowed red. Ngu Tinh surged from the cave with its jaws agape, eager to swallow what presumably was a fresh batch of fishermen. Lạc Long Quân cast the burning metal cube into the beast's open mouth, burning its throat. The sea monster retaliated with vicious fury, destroying the hero's vessel and casting him into the water. They battled for three days and three nights, churning up a great storm in their rage. Finally, after the third day, Lạc Long Quân cut the demon into three pieces. Ngu Tinh's tail was cast to sea, becoming the Bạch Long Vĩ (tail of the white dragon) island. The seas were now safe for the fishermen to return to deeper water.
The second demon on Lạc Long Quân's list was the nine-tailed fox, Hồ Tinh. He traveled to western Long Biên, where Hồ Tinh lived in a cave. This monster plagued the residents of Long Biên for thousands of years by transforming into a human and luring women out to its cave to eat them. Lạc Long Quân entered the nine-tailed fox's lair ready for a fight. Sensing his presence, Hồ Tinh attacked. They struggled for three days before the nine-tailed fox turned to flee. Lạc Long Quân called upon the wind and thunder to trap the demon. He decapitated the demon before releasing its surviving victims. The people were once again free to return to the farms that had been untenable under Hồ Tinh's tyranny.
Lạc Long Quân's final labor was to defeat a demonically possessed tree in Phong Châu, to the northwest of modern Hanoi. The evil spirit within the tree delighted in tricking and torturing people passing through the forest. Due to its nature as a trickster, it took Lạc Long Quân many days to find it. When they finally clashed, their battle lasted for 100 days. This monstrous tree was truly the hero's greatest test. He nearly fell to the creature's magical might many times before using various musical instruments to defeat it. The mighty Lạc Long Quân's determination won through in the end, and the evil spirit was banished from Vietnam.
Âu Cơ - Immortal Mountain Fairy
Lạc Long Quân never met his equal during his travels, no human woman could tame his stormy heart. Not until he met Âu Cơ, daughter of king Đế Lai, an immortal mountain fairy with her own formidable powers. The two met after Lạc Long Quân rescued Âu Cơ from a monster that was attacking her. Despite her magical powers, she was no warrior and would have been in serious trouble without him. The two became inseparable from that day onward, despite her father's misgivings. They married soon after meeting and went to live in the palace built by the grateful people of Vietnam for Lạc Long Quân.
Âu Cơ was a powerful shape-shifter and healer. She would later impart her great wisdom to the children she took to the north.
Union of Dragon and Fairy
Âu Cơ and Lạc Long Quân's love for each other was great, but not as great as their respective loves for the mountains and the sea. Lạc Long Quân, being part sea dragon, longed to be near the water. She was most at home in the mountains of the north. Despite the forces pulling them apart, they spent some time together. Their unique biologies, being a fairy and a dragon-man, mixed uniquely. Âu Cơ soon fell pregnant, much to the delight of her husband. Due to the unique circumstances of their union, she soon laid an egg-sac containing 100 eggs. The sac hatched, and 100 baby boys spilled forth.
These 100 children are the ancestors of all Vietnamese people, according to the myth. The children grew to adulthood very quickly, and soon the couple had 100 strapping young bachelors to deal with.
Lạc Long Quân could no longer bear being away from the sea, and one day he said to Âu Cơ that fire and water could not mix. They agreed to each take 50 of their sons and go their separate ways. Âu Cơ took her sons to the north to rule over the mountains. Lạc Long Quân took his 50 to rule over the lowlands to the south. They each taught their batch of children different skills and values. Âu Cơ raised her sons to be wise and strong leaders, and they became the Hùng Vương. Their eldest son became the king of the Hùng Vương. Lạc Long Quân taught his sons the arts of fishing and tattoos. The tattoos designed to scare off the monsters of the deep.
Although the couple split and ended up ruling separate areas of Vietnam, they vowed to support and protect one another. Should the north require aid, the south would rise to the challenge and vice versa.
This is the legend of Vietnam's legendary founding. Vietnamese people are therefore all descended from mighty dragons and mystical fairies. Legend holds that Lạc Long Quân will return in times of trouble to save his people from danger. So far, they've been more than capable of protecting themselves.