The unique shape of the Twin Mountains of Ha Giang, Northern Vietnam has inspired many poets and story tellers. Driving past them in my Ultimate Motorbiking Adventure In Ha Giang, I could see why – Here, I retell the two main tales of how they were formed, ‘The Giant’s Task’ and ‘The Trapped Fairy’:
TALE 1: The Giant’s Task
A Terrible Burden
It is a terrible burden to be a giant. One is feared and respected for his might but also scorned and shunned for his clumsy, bouldered features. Love is almost impossible, because there are almost no female giantesses left this side of the sun and humans would never dream of loving us. That’s what I thought, until I met Ha*.
As warm as the sunshine in her name, she smiled up at me as she offered me water after I climbed down from the mountain. I was taken by her radiant beauty and kind eyes. Fate also smiled at me when she shyly invited me to meet her parents.
My palms sweated and stomach churned as I stepped into the small house. It was a clean home, with a delicious smell wafting towards me. But I hardly noticed that. I was busy thinking how foolish I looked as my head bumped against the wooden slats of the roof. Her father coughed anxiously “You are a fine…Um… specimen… We are prepared to recognize you as a son-in-law on one condition.”
He paused “You must prove your dedication to our daughter by stopping the Dong Ha River from flowing into our valley.” I must admit, I was taken aback at this strange request, but when I saw Ha’s trust in me, I agreed willingly.
I decided to show my strength and do what no man or giant had done before me; To move a mountain. Two in fact, to stem the flow of the river. And so I began. Rock by rock, stone by stone. My back ached and my muscles groaned but Ha was always by my side.
Alas for that day when the raven came bearing bad news. It told me that my mother had died suddenly. My heart was suddenly wrenched from my chest to my throat and I cried unending tears of guilt and woe. Why had I not been there for her? I will never forgive myself for this. Ha watched silently and told me calmly to go. “I will wait.” She said.
Fires Of Devastation
I reached home and found devastation. Our lands had been scorched by dragons and our families were starving. My mother had died from hunger and I had not helped. Day and night I toiled, building, planting, helping, feeding. At the end of each tiresome day, I remembered my love. Sadly the days turned to months turned to years. Twenty years passed before I could return to fulfill my promise.
The Other Twin
But fate had long stopped smiling at me. For when I returned I searched valley and cliff for Ha and found her nowhere. A local farmer saw me and asked who it was I searched so desperately for. I told him of my plight and in his eyes I saw pity. “She waited” He said. “She waited for years. She sat at the edge of that mountain that you built and would not move. She sat so still that the grass grew around her and slowly she turned into the Twin Mountain.” I looked in the direction he was pointing in and sure enough, there were now two mountains, as alike as twins. The one which I had moved and the one she had become.
Slowly I stepped towards Ha and touched her. Green and mossy, she lay still as stone. If I looked closely, I could even see a very faint outline of her beautiful face. Then I stopped, for I had to look away. Tears crept into my eyes and I cursed myself and my fate. Guilt had led me to yet more guilt. Today I live in my town of birth, fighting dragons and thinking of the only two women in my life who had mattered to me and how I had abandoned them both.
*Writer’s Note: Ha is a name I gave the character, to make the story more readable
TALE 2: The Trapped Fairy
Fairy of Cloud and Mountain
They say love has no boundaries. They are wrong. They say love is blind. That it has no preference over whom it takes captive. In this, they are right.
I lived in the clouds when I was young. Very close to the point at which they touched the mighty mountains of North Vietnam. When I was growing up I walked at intervals on mist and air and then on the wild and jagged peaks. My name is Hoa Dao and I am a fairy of the lower heavens. Now, I see the clouds no more… You will understand why when I explain my sad story.
My crime was that I loved. I loved without discrimination or prejudice. I loved without seeing the past or the future. I just… Loved.
A Forbidden Love
I felt my feet tapping when I first heard the rhythm of his Dan Moi (Jew’s harp) playing. It sounded like birds chattering and streams laughing. I ran, dancing to the source of the sound and there it was him I found. The handsome Hmong boy smiling in the breeze. He played his flute and I danced for seven days. Then we married. I thought not about difference in race, religion or type of being. It just didn’t matter.
We fashioned a small hut for ourselves, grew rice and crops and soon I was pregnant. Life was happy and the sun smiled down on our fortune. But my father, the Jade Emperor did not. When he knew the reason for my prolonged absence, he sent his winged underlings to drag me screaming back to heaven.
I wept and begged to remain in my home. But in his face were etched lines of stone. I told him that his grandson and son-in-law were down there, but he replied that earthlings had a place neither in his lands nor in my heart.
Trapped In Heaven
For my disobedience I was to remain banished to the higher heavens, never to descend upon earth again. One plea he did listen to though. I wished for my new baby son to live well without me. Yet he needed my milk. So I was allowed to fashion my breasts into the Quang Ba mountains of Ha Giang for him to lactate on.
Today I am a prisoner in the very heaven that earthlings dream of entering. I pine for my son and husband and one of my maids brings news of them secretly to me. She says my son has grown into a fine man and plays the Dan Moi as well as his father. She also says that my breasts nourish the whole land and have brought with them a cool climate and fresh peaches, plums and pears. In this I take my only consolation, whilst I remain trapped in isolation.
Have you seen the twin mountains? What do you think of these stories? Let me know in the comments below :). Find out why Dong Van is a fantastic town to visit in Ha Giang HERE. Also, have you read the Vietnamese version of Cinderella?