The Legendary Origins of the Viet People
Thousands of years ago in the country of Linh Nam, there lived a clan chief with superhuman strength called Loc Tuc who took the title of King Kinh Duong. Endowed with magical powers, he could walk as easily on water as on land.
One day, during a walk on Lake Dong Dinh, he met Long Nu, daughter of King Long Vuong (Dragon). From their union, a son was born who received the name Sung Lam. As he grew up, Sung Lam revealed his herculean strength, lifting a stone block like a piece of straw that two men could not manage to encircle with their arms.
Sung Lam also inherited the supernatural gifts of his father, succeeded him as leader of the country under the name Lac Long Quan (Dragon, King of the Country of the Lac).
At this time, there was neither order nor peace in Linh Nam and King Lac Long resolved to travel his country from north to south.
The Giant Fish
Thus it was that one day he met a fish of extraordinary size in the southern waters. Measuring over hundred feet in length, its tail stood up like a huge sail. It could swallow more than ten men in a single mouthful. When it swam, it raised waves sky-high and boats gliding in the vicinity were at risk of being swept away. The fishermen were very afraid of the demon-fish. It lived in a deep cavern leading to the bottom of the sea and an opening on top of a mountain chain that divided the country into two zones.
King Lac Long wanted to rid the people of this threatening danger. He made a solid boat and forged a block of iron with sharp, white-hot sides. Then he sailed toward the demon's abode. Raising the block above his head, he gave the beast the illusion of throwing a man at him as bait. Then he thrust the burning metal into the enormous open mouth of the creature. Mad with pain, the monster rose up, trying to overturn the boat. But quick as lightning, Lac Long sliced the monster into three pieces with his sword.
At once, the head turned into a dogfish and Lac Long started tearing up lumps of the shore and made a dike to keep the animal from escaping. Cutting off the head, he threw it onto the mountain that has ever since been called Cau Dau Son (Mountain of the Dog's Head).
The body was carried away by the current and landed in the country of Man Cau. As for the tail, skinned by Lac Long, it still envelops the island of Bach Long Vi (Tail of the White Dragon).
Having delivered the area of its monster, King Lac Long pursued his route as far as Long Vien. A task awaited him there.
The Nine-Tailed Fox
There was a fox who was more than a thousand years old. He had nine tails and he hid himself in an obscure grotto at the foot of a mountain on the west side of the city. This evil spirit often assumed a human form to mingle with the crowd and to carry away young girls whom he kidnapped for his lair. In the region stretching from Long Bien to Tan Vien Mountain, all the families had, alas, paid their "tribute" to this ignoble being. The population lived in a permanent state of terror. Many were those, who abandoning house, fields and gardens, had carried their households elsewhere.
King Lac Long was filled with deep pity and decided to get rid of this monster as well. Alone and armed with his sword, he went toward the entrance to the grotto. On seeing him, the enemy attacked. Using his magic power, Lac Long called winds, rain and storms to his aid. The fight lasted three days and nights.
Weakened, the monster tried to flee. The king pursued it and cut off its head. Then the monster took its original form and only the body of a nine-tailed fox remained at Lac Long's feet. Entering the grotto, the king released the prisoners, then called on the water powers to destroy this cursed place. The river flowed there in cascading torments, raking the mountain. Whirlwinds produced a deep abyss that the people of the time called "Sea of the Fox's Body" and which is now called Tay Ho (West Lake in Hanoi).
The liberated population returned to their homes and replanted their fields. Peace reigned throughout the region and Lac Long returned to the road through the hills and forests. Thus he came one day to Phong Chau.
The Evil Genie of the Forest
There was an old tree called Chien don in the region that was two thousand feet tall, but its formerly luxuriant foliage was withered. The old tree had then been changed into an evil genie of the woods. The inhabitants of the area called it the Demon Tree. It was wicked and played diabolical tricks, ceaselessly changing forms and moving its lair to better surprise its prey and devour it. Continued heart-rending cries and complaints were heard in the forest.
Lac Long left once more to fight against evil. For days and nights, he sneaked in and out of the forest looking from tree to tree for the demon; after much difficulty, he managed to find it.
The fight lasted one hundred days and nights. Thousands of trees were uprooted, innumerable rocks split in half and clouds of dust obscured the sky and land without the evil spirit giving up. Finally, Lac Long had a brilliant idea. He made such a huge noise with gongs, tom-toms and other musical instruments that the terrified demon fled toward the southwest where he no doubt lives today!
The grateful people built a fortress for their benefactor on a high mountain. But Lac Long rarely stayed there, spending part of his life in his mother's submarine palace. However, he had instructed the people to call him if any danger whatsoever menaced them again.
At this time, a northern chieftain called De Lai invaded the south. His gorgeous daughter, Au Co, of a singular beauty, accompanied him. Dazzled by the splendor of the land and the rich variety of the fauna and flora of Linh Nam, he ordered his troops to build a fortress with the aim of settling down there. Unable to endure the heavy work faced by their invader, they turned toward the south to appeal to Lac Long,
"Oh Father! Why do you not come to our aid?"
From the Hundred Eggs to the Eighteen Hung Kings
In the twinkling of an eye, Lac Long came back. He listened to the complaints of his subjects and then suddenly, he changed into the shape of handsome young man and went off to the invader's fortress. The latter was not there; instead, there was an extraordinarily beautiful young girl surrounded by servants and soldiers. It was Au Co.
Captivated by the majesty and distinction of the young prince, she implored him to take her away. And Lac Long escorted her to his mountain fortress. When the invader returned to his home and found his daughter gone, De Lai sent hundreds of soldiers to look for her. But day after day, with his powers, Lac Long was able to cause thousands of savage beasts to be born that thwarted and attacked the enemy troops. Panic-stricken, the invaders fled and their chieftain finally had to withdraw to the north.
Au Co lived with Lac Long for some time and became pregnant. She gave birth to a pouch filled with one hundred eggs, each of which produced a baby boy at the end of seven days. These hundred boys grew amazingly fast and became handsome men surpassing those of the same age in physical strength and intelligence.
For dozens of years, the couple lived in the most complete harmony. But Lac Long always had nostalgia for the submarine palace. One day he said goodbye to his wife and children and, transforming himself into a dragon, took off toward the sea. Au Co and her sons wanted to follow him but, not being able to fly, they sadly took the mountain road again. Days full of sadness passed without news of him. Upset by the memory of her loved one, Au Co stood on the highest summit and turned toward the south. Anguishly, she cried out,
"Oh Lac Long, why don't you return home?"
And Lac Long was immediately at her side. Au Co reproached him softly
"I am a native of the high mountains and large grottos. I have brought a hundred sons into the world in order to live with you in perfect harmony, but this still has not stopped you from leaving us."
Lac Long replied,
"I am of the Dragon race, you are of the Immortals. We cannot live together. We must separate. I am going to leave for the maritime regions with fifty of our children and you will go with the other fifty to the country of the mountains and the forests. We still divide this country between us to run it as best we can."
And they separated. Thus, the hundred boys became the ancestors of the Viets. Only the eldest lived in the Phong Chau and was proclaimed King as Hung Vuong (King Hung). He divided the country into fifteen provinces, each being the cradle of a tribe. Eighteen Hung kings succeeded him on the throne.
The story of Lac Long and Au Co is at the origin of popular beliefs that the Viets are descended from the race of the Dragons and the Tien.