This story was adapted from The Treasury of Vietnamese Folk Tales.

 Illustrator: Nguyen Minh Son

A long time ago a poor couple had two children: an eleven-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter. Whenever they had farm work or errands to run, the couple left the children at home and had their son watch over his little sister. One day, before going out to farm, the mother gave her children a piece of sugar cane. She told her son to chop the cane and give some to his sister. As usual, she warned him: “Don’t make her cry, or dad will beat you to death!”

The son took his sister to play in the courtyard. They built houses with piles of stones and played with the neighborhood kids. Later, the boy took his sister indoors. He found a machete to chop the sugarcane. Suddenly, as he was preparing to chop the cane, the loosened blade flew off and hit his sister in the head. The little girl collapsed, unconscious. Her blood soaked the ground. The boy was horrified and thought: “My mistake is too terrible. Dad will beat me to death.” He left his sister unaided and fled.

The boy wandered from place to place. Traveling thousands of miles, from time to time, he stayed with different households. After 15 years, he could hardly recall where he had roamed or how many families he had stayed with. Finally, he was adopted by a fishing family in the Center and decided to settle down and fish.

Time flew. The young man married a woman who excelled at making nets. When her husband’s boat returned to the harbor, she gathered his catch to sell in the market. Two years later, to the couple’s joy, the wife delivered a child.

One day, the sea was roaring. The husband stayed home to fix his nets. After lunch, his wife asked him to help catch lice. Their child toddled about their courtyard and played on the beach alone. The husband was astonished to find a coin-shaped scar above his wife’s right ear, as it was usually covered by her long black hair. He asked her how she got it.

The wife said: “It happened over 20 years ago. I was too little to remember. My brother tried to chop a piece of sugar cane. Alas, he used a malicious machete! I passed out. I later discovered that my neighbors gave me first aid before my parents came home and summoned a doctor. Luckily, I lived to see my parents. However, I lost my brother, who fled in terror. My parents kept searching for him but to no avail. Later, weakened by sorrow, they passed away. I was left alone, tricked into losing all my wealth, and sold to a merchant fleet. I wandered here and there before settling down with you…”

As he stood behind his wife, the husband turned pale with horror, having realized he’d committed incest. He was further torn by the tragic news about his home and his parents. However, he managed to hide his emotions and conceal his broken heart.

Several days later, the weather turned calm again. But the husband’s heart could find no peace. As usual, he sailed away to fish. But this time, he never returned.

Longing for her husband, the wife languished away. Why had he sailed away when other men returned after a long day of fishing? He was hard-working and loved his wife and child. It was impossible to understand. Every afternoon, she carried her child up a big rock by the shore and gazed far and wide toward the dim horizon.

Three lunar weeks passed… then six… then nine. Although the wife had no tears left to cry, she still climbed the rock to watch for her husband. She became a familiar sight for the fishermen. Eventually, the woman and her child turned to rock, becoming an eternal figure known as the ‘Stone of Spousal Longing’.