While at my grandma’s house, she was serving me lunch. She used to live in Vietnam and came to the U.S. during the Vietnam War. I asked her to tell me a story she used to tell me when I was little and spend the day at her house. First, she told me the story of why ducks sleep on one leg and then she told me the tale of a young boy who defeated the Chinese army that was attacking Vietnam.
Grandma: In Saigon, there is a statue of a young boy on top of a horse. There was a woman who lived by herself. One day she went into her garden and saw a huge footstep and she said, “Whose footstep is this?”
She put her foot inside the foot step to see how big it was. So, she went home and all of a sudden, she was pregnant. She gave birth to a baby boy.
She raised her child and always tried to get him to talk. But even when he turned 3 he couldn’t talk, he just wanted to eat! That year, the North Vietnam was invaded by a group of Chinese soldiers. So, the Vietnamese king sent out people and tried to recruit them to come fight the Chinese army. One of the king’s ambassadors came to the woman’s village and recruited people. The mother came home and said, “My dear boy, grow up so you can help the king with the Chinese invaders.”
The boy spoke for the first time and said, “Go and tell the ambassador and tell him I need to talk to him.”
His mother replied, “This is the ambassador, you shouldn’t bother him.”
But the boy insisted, “You need to go and tell them, you need to go and tell them!”
The neighbors heard and the old woman said, “Ok, I’ll tell the ambassador.”
She told the ambassador and the ambassador came and said, “This boy is only 3…how can he fight?”
The boy said, speaking like an adult, “You need to tell the king he needs to bring me a horse made of steel, a sword made of steel, and armor and a helmet and I’ll help the king fight.”
Everyone was so surprised! The ambassador told the king and the king thought this was the will of God. So, he had the steel horse, the steel sword, the helmet, and armor made and brought to the boy. When the boy saw that, he told his mother, “You need to cook me some rice so I can eat.”
She cooked pots and pots and pots of rice and as he eats, he grows and grows and touched her ceiling. He told his mother to make him clothes, she found fabric and made him clothes. He put on his armor and jumped on the horse. After, he said, “I am a general sent to you from God.”
He jumped on the horse and the horse reared, breathed out fire, and galloped off. The general fought the Chinese army and of course the Chinese army ran away.
Until this day, there are 3 villages in North Vietnam, and in those 3 villages, they have a lot of round ponds in a line and the legend said that those are the horse’s hoof prints. There were also woods in the forest where there are leftovers of burnt trees and that was from the fire from the horse. There is also this bamboo tree, that when it’s young, it’s green, and when it’s old, it’s yellow with dark spots, which is also from the horse’s fire because it burned the bamboo forest.”
This story incorporates the rule of 3s that is common in the U.S. In this story, the boy begins talking when he is 3 and the footprints from the horse are present as ponds in 3 villages. The story also incorporates Vietnamese mythology of kings taking orders from their god (the Jade Emperor).