This folktale was adapted from “The Treasury of Vietnamese Fairy Tales”
Illustrator: Tran Xuan Binh
Once upon a time many millennia ago, the King of the Kinh People married a female Dragon, the daughter of the God of Dinh Ho Cave. The couple bore a son named Sung Lam, whose royal title was Lac Long Quan. Lac Long Quan was of the dragon lineage, fond of swimming and exceptionally strong. He inherited his father’s throne and ruled the Lac Viet Kingdom.
At that time, Lac Viet was sparsely populated and fraught with evils that wrought havoc on the people. In the East Sea dwelled a huge, long monster called the Evil Fish. It often opened its vast mouth and swallowed entire fishing vessels. Hearing of this, Lac Long Quan stood on a big boat, holding a sharp trident. When he came upon the monster, Lac Long Quan threw his trident into its mouth with all his might. The injured Evil Fish writhed, tossing up waves and froth. Lac Long Quan immediately chopped off its head.
Traveling to Long Bien, he met a nine-tailed fox called the Evil Fox. This fox usually snuck out of its cave at night to prey on children. Lac Long Quan used five coloured threads to make a rope and placed it by the cave’s entrance. When the Evil Fox snuck out, it was strangled. Leaving Long Bien for the mountains of Phong Chau, Lac Long Quan encountered a gigantic pine tree. Having lived for over a thousand years, this tree had turned evil. The Evil Tree usually broke into villages in human disguise and stole cattle and poultry. Lac Long Quan chopped it down with a giant axe, killing it.
Having eliminated these three evils, Lac Long Quan taught his subjects to grow glutinous rice plants. Ripened paddy was collected and pounded. The rice was then poured into bamboo pipes and soaked in water. The open end of these pipes were plugged with banana leaves and grilled over a fire. This recipe was called lam rice. Lac Long Quan also taught fishermen to tattoo horrible monsters with bared teeth and claws onto their backs. Their fishing boats were also decorated with two big eyes on the prows. Lac Long Quan said this would help to scare away sea monsters.
At this time, King De Lai and his daughter Au Co from the North went to visit the South. Finding Lac Long Quan both strong and excellent at swimming, De Lai helped Lac Long Quan to win his daughter’s hand. The couple held a joyful wedding party. The locals danced and sang odes to the young couple. The party lasted for three days.
After one year of marriage, Au Co fell pregnant. When it was time for her to give birth, people came to help the new mother. They boiled water and sewed clothes and diapers. However, Au Co gave birth to a big bundle rather than to an infant. The bundle kept growing. Seven days later, it hatched into one hundred eggs. Each egg then broke open to reveal a bonny son. These newborns were able to stand up immediately and scurry around their mother.
Despite having a family, Lac Long Quan often traveled to the Sea Palace to visit his mother. Au Co grew restless after long days spent alone. Lac Long Quan eventually suggested: “I’m of the dragon lineage and enjoy living underwater. You are of the fairy lineage and prefer to stay ashore. We can’t maintain this relationship for long. Now we should agree that I will take 50 children into the sea and you will take the other 50 up to the mountains.”
And so, Lac Long Quan and Au Co parted ways. Au Co established her life in the mountains and Lac Long Quan traveled to the coast to live, resulting in the ancestors of the Lac Viet. The eldest son remained in Phong Chau and was proclaimed the King of Van Lang, officially King Hung. Thus, all Vietnamese people are the offspring of dragons and fairies.