This story is adapted from the Vietnamese Collection of Folklore
Illustrated by: Nguyen Kieu My
Once upon a time in the mountainous Northwest region there lived a man named Khum, who was deeply in love with a maiden called Ban. Khum was a good farmer and hunter, while Ban excelled at weaving, and had a beautiful voice that charmed many men.
Hoping to become rich, Ban’s greedy father arranged her engagement to the son of the Tao Muong family – a lazy fellow with a hunchback.
Despite his daughter’s protests, Ban’s father refused to break off the engagement. He even urged the Tao Muong family to hold the wedding as soon as possible. In desperation, Ban ran to Khum’s village, only to find that Khum was far away buying buffaloes. She removed her Pieu headscarf, tied it to his stairs, and dashed away to find her lover. She traveled through mountains and forests, and strained her voice calling for Khum, only to be met with silence.
Eventually, Ban died of exhaustion. From where she fell grew a tree with flowers as white as the delicate hands of a woman. These flowers soon bloomed all over the Northwest mountains, covering the area in cottony white with each new spring. The Muong people called this species “Ban flower”, and regard it as a symbol of faithful love.
When he arrived home, Khum spied his lover’s Pieu headscarf tied to his stairs. Worried about what this might mean, he rushed out to find her. After asking in her village, he learned that Ban had run away. Seeking her through various villages with no trace, he grew exhausted and collapsed. After his death, Khum turned into a bird that lives alone in the forest and sings during the season of Ban blossoms, its cries like fervent calls for a long -lost lover.
Ever since, each time spring comes and white Ban flowers dot the mountains, the men and women of Muong villages attend highland festivals and pick flowers to welcome spring. This is a time for couples to have fun, sing, play instruments, dance, and give and receive affection – wishing for a love as loyal as the love of Ban and Khum.