The story of ‘Lac Long Quan and Au Co’ is important, because apart from being a legend of how the Vietnamese people originated from the mountains and the lakes, it emphasizes the values of tolerance, fairness and independence.
The ending can also be interpreted as a pro-feminist stance on female rulers – which is great! I became interested in it, because I lived on a road in Hanoi in between the big highway called Au Co and the road running parallel to the Westlake – Lac Long Quan.
Read more about my time in Hanoi HERE 🙂
The Children of Lac Long Quan and Au Co
We stared unhappily into the distance as we heard our mother and father arguing yet again. We tried not to choke on tears as we concentrated on the bamboo shoots swaying in the breeze. We played in an unusually subdued manner and we carried out our daily chores as we remembered the stories of how they had met. It was best to stay positive.
The Mountain God And The Mermaid
We will start with our grandfather; Kinh Duong Vuong was a mountain God in the land of Lac Viet, with incredible powers and the ability to live both on land and in water. One morning, he heard a strange and beautiful song being sung from the depths of the Red River and swam down to investigate. There he immediately fell in love with Long Nu, the mermaid daughter of the Dragon King beneath the water.
They soon married and had a son whom they named Sung Lam, but whom the people called Lac Long Quan. For Lac Long Quan means the ‘Dragon Lord Of Lac’ and Sung Lam, who had the spine of a dragon in addition to his supreme intelligence and fascination with the oceans was fully deserving of this title.
The Dragon Lord Of Lac
After the death of Kinh Duong Vuong, our father, Lac Long Quan ascended the throne and proved himself to be a powerful and benevolent ruler. We recalled with pride how our father had told us the stories of how he had slain the sea monster, the nine-tailed fox and the evil tree spirit. How he had taught his people to build houses, cook and make clothes and weapons.
A Lavish Marriage
The tribes of the Northern mountains had planned to occupy the fertile lands of Lac Viet. Lac Long Quan journeyed from afar to meet the King of the North and whilst he trekked through the perilous valleys, he encountered a woman of heavenly beauty; the fairy princess Au Co. We felt a stab of pain in our chests thinking about our father and mother meeting and wiped it away hastily. When Lac Long Quan and Au Co married, the two Kingdoms celebrated unity with a lavish feast that lasted nine days and nine nights.
The Peculiar Birth
Nine months later, our mother Au Co gave birth to us in a most peculiar fashion; from her womb came a sack filled with one hundred eggs. From these eggs, one hundred beautiful baby children were hatched. Us.
But now our world was being shaken, for mother desperately missed the mountain air and father longed to swim deep into the turquoise seas. We were anxious as to what would become of us. Our brothers and sisters assured us that our parents would sort everything out as they always did, but identical lines of worry were etched into all our foreheads.
Division Between Mountain and Lake
Eventually our parents summoned all one hundred of us to the throne room. We waited nervously as father cleared his throat. “Dear children, your mother and I have been faced with some troubles recently” he began. “We both love each other and we both love each and every one of you dearly, many though you are. Yet, we both desire different things in life and do not want to prevent each other’s happiness.” Mother gave her husband a meaningful look. “So we have decided to… to divide you.”
He paused, as though expecting an outcry, but we were still trying to work out what this meant. “Fifty of you shall live with your mother in the green and fresh mountain tops and fifty with me amidst the waves and currents of the seas.” Now we mumbled and whispered. We chattered and shivered. We groaned and quivered. One parent? Half our siblings gone? Moving to the mountains? Moving to the seas? What if we didn’t like it and missed each other?
But father’s mind was made up. Somberly and sullenly we climbed into boats destined for waters never to return. We clambered into chariots heading to mountain peaks never to descend. Some of us were excited, but many were sad.
Ancestors Of Vietnam
Twenty years passed and much of our sadness has subsided. Father has taught us how to govern fairly, how to be skilled fisherman, how to plant and harvest rice and how to cook in bamboo tubes. Mother, as a strong and independent ruler in her own right, has taught us how to govern also, how to live in the jungles and mountains, how to build houses on stilts to protect ourselves from wild animals and how to grow food in the soil.
Our parents promised to love and protect one another and so we siblings have an unspoken promise to do the same, regardless of where we live. Our own children of Vietnam will grow up in different regions and we hope they will also honour each other in turn.
Did you enjoy this story? What do you think about the meaning behind it and the values it promotes? Is it a statement on politics and how different countries should be ruled? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂
Have you read ‘Tales Of The Twin Mountains’ yet?