This story was adapted from the Treasury of Vietnamese Folk Tales
Illustrator: Ngo Xuan Khoi
Once upon a time there lived a strong and kind peasant who worked for a wealthy family. He was hard-working and good at farm work, but the greedy landlord wanted him to work even harder. One day, the tricky landlord summoned the peasant and lied: “Please work harder and overcome all rivals, for I will help you win my daughter’s hand in marriage.”
Believing the landlord’s manipulation, the peasant worked tirelessly, helping the landlord grow rich. Three years later, thanks to the peasant’s diligence, the landlord had built another tiled mansion with a brick yard and bought extensive plots of land. However, he had no intention of keeping his word, and arranged for his daughter to marry the son of another wealthy clan in his village.
One day, feigning kindness, he told the peasant: “You have done such a great job for my family. You have worked hard for three years and it’s about to bear fruit. All I need now is a one hundred-knuckled bamboo. Please go into the woods to find one. Then my daughter will marry you.”
Excited, the light-hearted peasant carried his machete into the woods. Meanwhile, the two wealthy landlords arranged a huge wedding for their son and daughter. This evil pair conspired: “That idiot will never find a piece of bamboo with a hundred knuckles! He will definitely fall prey to a snake or to a tiger’s claws!”
The peasant waded across streams, climbed steep hills and crossed broad valleys in his long, futile search. He found only normal bamboo, the tallest of which had less than fifty knuckles. Crestfallen, he collapsed in tears.
Hearing his cries, the Buddha appeared and said: “Why are you crying?
After listening to the peasant’s troubles, the Buddha laughed and said: “It is not so difficult. Chop down a hundred bamboo knuckles, lay them together and say, ‘Merge! Merge!’ and you will have a piece of hundred-knuckled bamboo.”
After the Buddha vanished, the peasant did as he’d said, and the hundred bamboo knuckles merged into a single stick with one hundred knuckles. But when the delighted peasant tried to carry this stick home, he found it was too long to lug out of the woods. Again, he sat down and sobbed.
The Buddha appeared once more. “You have a stick of hundred-knuckled bamboo. Why are you still crying?”
The young man explained that the bamboo was too long to carry on his shoulders.
“Just yell ‘Split! Split!’ and the knuckles will fall apart,” said the Buddha. The boy did as he was told and, sure enough, the bamboo broke into one hundred pieces. Feeling happy, he tied them with flax ropes and bore them homeward.
In the courtyard, he saw both clans enjoying a feast and preparing to welcome the bride. Realizing that the landlord had deceived him, the peasant laid out the hundred pieces of bamboo and said: “Merge! Merge!”
A lustrous piece of bamboo with one hundred knuckles rose in front of the startled guests. Confused, the lying landlord rushed out and touched the bamboo. Again, the peasant cried “Merge! Merge!” and the landlord was glued to the long stick. The groom’s father rushed out to pull him off and again the peasant said: “Merge! Merge!”
The two unscrupulous landlords were both glued to the bamboo stick. Crying in despair, they bowed before the peasant and begged him to free them, promising that the landlord’s daughter would become his wife, as promised.
When the peasant slowly said “Split! Split”, the two landlords fell away from the stick, which broke into one hundred pieces. The peasant then married the landlord’s daughter and the pair lived happily ever after.