Creation Myth of Vietnam: Sự Tích Bà Âu Cơ

Main Piece:

G:  Bà Âu Cơ, nghe nói là đẻ ra một bọc. Trong bọc nó nở một trăm cái trứng. Ông Lạc Long Quân lấy bà Âu Cơ, get ready với bà Âu cơ. Đẻ ra một trăm trứng. Một trăm trứng đó nó ra một trăm người con. Những người con đó, sau lớn lên, mỗi người… lớn lên thì mỗi người ngự trị một vùng… giống người ở bắc, người ở nam, người ở trung, người thì ở xa xôi trên rừng núi, còn người thì xuống biển. Năm mươi người con lên rừng, và năm mươi người con xuống biển. Tức là vùng biển. Rồi mới sinh ra những người trên rừng đó thì mới lập ra những, cũng như là vùng thượng du, rồi cao nguyên, này kia. Năm mươi người con xưống biển, thì ở những cái vùng thấp đồng bằng giống như mình. 

  • Translation: “Lady Âu Cơ, I heard that she birthed a pouch. Inside the pouch was one hundred eggs. Sir Lạc Long Quân married Lady Âu Cơ, get ready with Lady Âu Cơ. She gave birth to one hundred eggs. From those one hundred eggs emerged one hundred children.  Those children, when they grew up, each child… when they grew up, each child came to rule a certain area… like the people from the North, people from the South, people from the central area, those people split up far from each other, some living in the jungle while others lived by the sea. Fifty people went to live in the jungle, while fifty people went to live by the sea. That is the sea. When the children were born and came to live in and rule the jungle, they established the Northern region, then the highlands, and things like that. Fifty of the other children who lived by the sea, established the lowland Delta region who we are today.


My informant is my grandmother, who was born and raised in Vietnam. She grew up in the Delta region of Vietnam, and first heard pieces of this creation myth from her father (my great-grandfather), but learned the long-form written version while she was in school. She explains that her father was told this story by his father, who was told the story from his father, and onwards. It is a story that is thus passed down from generation to generation, but also became a part of Vietnamese history taught in schools when my grandmother was in third grade. She likes this story because of the fond memories she has attached to it.


This is a transcription of a live conversation between my grandmother and I. I have been able to visit her from time to time during the pandemic and recorded this conversation during one of those visits.


The creation myth of Lady Âu Cơ can be complex and complicated, and this telling of it is a very simplified version of the myth. Many other details regarding the relationship between Âu Cơ and Lạc Long Quân were not included in my grandmother’s telling of the myth. One element that is not clearly explained is how Lady Âu Cơ is a fairy deity, while Lạc Long Quân is a dragon deity. Their separation then is due to the difference of their needs; Âu Cơ wanted to live in the mountains while Lạc Long Quân needed to live by the sea. Despite the simplicity of this telling, most of the main points of the myth are covered. That is, eggs often appear in creation myths due to their symbolism of life. Such is the case with this myth, in which the first people of Vietnam emerged from one hundred eggs. I love this story because it captures how different groups of Vietnamese people (those from the Delta and those from the Highlands) came to be through a loving relationship between two deities. One note to make about myths and legends is how their classification depends on the storyteller’s belief. For my grandmother, this is a sacred creation myth that details how the Vietnamese people came to be. For me, who was not raised with the story, it is more of a legend.