Tag Archives: vietnamese legends

Lady Triệu

Background: My informant is a Vietnamese college student. Their parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when their parents were around 20, for religious and other reasons. My informant’s identity and worldview is largely shaped by their Vietnamese culture and immigrant upbringing. One of my informant’s main life goals is to one day move back to Vietnam and be in their homeland. My informant is interested in studying decolonization and has done so in college. Thus, this story about Vietnamese decolonization is especially important to them, although they did express that they are not certain about how this history of Vietnam being colonized affects their identity.

Context: Context: This conversation was recorded on a zoom meeting that we had on a Monday evening. My informant is a friend of mine, and the conversation occurred in both of our rooms. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. After our call, some other people joined the zoom call and the atmosphere was generally friendly.

Main Piece:

For most of our existence as a country(Vietnam), we’ve been colonized, and mostly by China. So we have a lot of like … we have stories about warrior people who fight and like try to rebel against China, meaning that and a lot of these stories are usually women. Because apparently Vietnam used to be a matriarchy or something so a lot of our stories usually involve women fighting against China. 

Here’s this woman. Her name is Lady Triệu. Orphan woman. But she lives with her brother and his family. And her sister in law was kind of horrible to her. And so she killed her sister in law and runs away to the mountains and like starts mountain training. And her brother tries to convince her to come down and that sort of thing but she doesn’t because because she wants to train and so she enlists in the army. 

So sometime between like the mountains and her listing she gets married has baby or at least one baby.

And like in all the depictions of her. It’s like she’s a fierce woman with long boobs. And when she goes into battle she throws her boobs over her shoulders.

Me: So like, just for, like, so I can categorize this. Like do people actually think this happened?

Think of it more like like the story of Hercules where it may happen, but a lot of the stuff is exaggerated, all the time.

Thoughts: Thoughts: This was interesting to me because I was previously unaware of Vietnam being colonized by China. The first time I heard of this story was in friendly conversation and we made light of the fact that the woman is primarily characterized as having long boobs. This was obviously sexualized in our discussion and I wonder if that feature had the same context when it was told throughout history. Lady Triệu also plays into the tendency of warrior leaders in uprising who tend to become historical legends or folk heroes.

Why Only Female Mosquitos Drink Blood

Main Piece

“A long time ago, there was a man and a woman who were married to each other. The wife became sick and was about to die. So, the husband called the witch doctor who diagnosed her and said that if the man gives his wife 3 drops of his blood to swallow, then her disease will be cured. So he gives her 3 drops of his blood and she was cured and wouldn’t die. They lived with each other for quite a while. But one day, the man wasn’t home, the wife got kidnapped by a rich merchant. At first the woman was terrified, but then she got used to a life of luxury and refused to go back to her husband. The man was so outraged and asked for his blood back for her betrayal. So the woman agreed said, “Ok, I’ll give you back your 3 drops of blood!” She gave back the blood and died. But when she died, she became a mosquito. So to this day, she searches, as a mosquito, trying to get her 3 drops of blood back so she can become human again.”



My mom escaped from Vietnam during the war when she was 12. In Vietnam, her grandma would tell her bedtime stories and this was one of them. When I was little, my mom would tell me this story at the dinner table after we ate to entertain me.



I enjoy hearing legends like this that explain the odd phenomenon of nature that science cannot explain. I think they are a lot of fun to hear and imagine. Science can explain perhaps why it happens, but nobody can really say why it is that way. I also think it’s interesting that the rule of 3’s (common in the U.S.) is in a Vietnamese legend too.

Why Ducks Sleep on One Leg


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. For context of the story, the Jade emperor is the king of heaven.


Main Piece

Grandma: “Oh I remember. Do you know why the duck sleeps on one leg?”


Me: “No, why?”


Grandma: A long time ago, there were 3 ducks that each only have 1 leg. So, the other animals ridiculed them. They were embarrassed and felt that they were short changed.


They were talking to each other saying, “It’s really unfair that the jade emperor only gave us one leg!”


So, they asked the rooster and the goose for help. Together, they all rode to the Jade emperor.


When they got to his palace the Jade Emperor was shocked with himself, “I forgot to give you two legs when I made you,” and decided to give them each an extra golden leg as compensation.


But the emperor warned them that from then on, they need to guard their appendages carefully. So now when they sleep, ducks sleep on one leg to protect their golden leg.”



This legend is a fun story to explain something about nature people in the past may have questioned. It also incorporates Vietnamese religion and culture of the Jade emperor who created all animals.

Why Lotuses are Pink and White

Main Piece

There were 2 sisters whose parents died, they were orphans. So one day, this generous Vietnamese opera singer finds them and brings them home to raise them like his children. He taught them how to sing and dance. They grew up and became very beautiful girls who sang and dance. The village loved them for their amazing talents! But…in the next village, there was a rich man who was very cruel. One day, the father went on a business trip and asked the girls if they wanted anything from his trip.


The older girl said, “I want white ballet slippers with golden thread and embroidery.”


The younger girl said, “I want a pink slipper with golden embroidery.”


While their father was away, the rich old man tried to kidnap the sisters. They fought and fought but they both got kidnapped. But the older sister didn’t want to be raped by the man, so she jumped in the pond and she died. The younger sister saw her jump and jumper after her older sister into the pond and they both died in the lake. The father came back and couldn’t find the girls so he went to the lake and cried. At the lake, he saw round, beautiful green leaves as big as the hat his daughters used to wear. Then there was one with white petals and one with pink petals but both with golden pistils, and those were the girls.”



My grandma would tell me stories like this when I was little. It would usually be while we were baking, eating, or when she was playing with me. My grandma moved to the U.S. from Vietnam during the war so she knows a lot of stories that her parents and grandparents used to tell her.



There are a lot of different aspects of this story related to Vietnamese culture. One being comparing girls to flowers, loving and caring for your family like how the man took the two girls under his wing, and the bond of family going so deep that even the two sisters die together. It also explains why some lotuses have pink flowers and some have white flowers.

The Boy Who Defeated China


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.


Main Piece

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).