This traditional story was adapted from the “Treasury of Vietnamese Folk Tales”
Illustrator: Nguyen Van Duc
Upon their parents’ death, two brothers inherited a fortune. It wasn’t long before the elder brother got married. He told his younger brother: “It’s now time to divide our property so you can learn to live and work in this world.” He showed his younger brother the will, saying: “Our parents divided their wealth into three categories: masculine, feminine and neutral. Since you’re younger, I’ll give you the masculine and take the feminine and neutral possessions. If you agree, sign here!”
The naive younger brother was happy to sign. However, in Vietnamese, all nouns are categorised as either feminine or neutral. The older brother tallied everything up. “The house, mine. The buﬀalo, mine. The plough, mine.” This continued for hours until darkness fell. Every single item was claimed by the older brother.
In outrage, the younger brother grabbed a machete. “This is a masculine machete!” he cried.
His older brother laughed as the younger brother fled, carrying the machete.
With no other way to survive, the younger brother went into the forest to cut wood. With no house, he had to stay with friends and relatives and moved often. Sometimes, he had to sleep in temples, pagodas or under bridges. Yet he worked hard to support himself.
One night the younger brother was woken by the light of a full moon. It was so bright he thought it was morning and ventured into the forest. In the woods, he realised it was still night and lay down beneath a huge tree.
A group of monkeys came upon the sleeping man. Thinking that he was dead, they carried him oﬀ to bury him. The young man awoke to hear a monkey say: “Ha ram ha rac, bury him in the silver hole, not the gold hole! But the leading monkey protested: “Ha ram ha rac, bury him in the gold hole, not the silver hole!”
The monkeys laid the young man down and returned to their favourite tree. The younger brother looked around, amazed to see that he was surrounded by gold nuggets. He collected some gold and walked out of the forest.
Back in his village, the younger brother bought land and cows and built several houses. News of this poor woodcutter’s good luck spread far and wide.
Hearing of his brother’s newfound wealth, the elder brother was skeptical but curious. On the death anniversary of their father, the younger brother invited the elder to his house. Entering his younger brother’s house, the elder was flabbergasted. “How did you become so successful?” he asked. The younger brother told him.
After hearing about the monkeys, the older brother immediately borrowed a machete and walked into the forest. It was a moonlit night and he pretended to sleep under the same huge tree. Soon, the monkeys gathered around him. Again, they thought the man was dead and carried him oﬀ to bury him.
Upon hearing a monkey say, “Ha ram ha rac, bury him in the silver hole, not the gold hole!”, the elder brother sat up and shouted: “No! Bury me in the gold hole! Bury me in the gold hole!”
Realising the man wasn’t dead, the monkeys panicked and dropped him. The older brother fell into a ravine and broke his skull.