“A long time ago, there were twin men. Both of their parents were dead. So, the twins stayed together in the same house. One of the brothers got married to a woman. Usually the twin who got married first came home from work first. But one day, for some reason, the younger twin came home first. So, the wife thought that he was the younger twin. She greeted him as his brother, made dinner for him, and acted flirtatious with him. The younger twin told her who he really was and she was very embarrassed. The younger twin thought to himself, “I might be a bother to my brother’s family because the wife could not recognize who is who!” So, he left the house and walked and walked, not sure where to go, and died by a river bank. When he died, he became the limestone by the bank. The older brother came home and noticed the other brother left and didn’t know why. He left the house to search for his brother. He followed his brother’s trail to the river bank but didn’t see his brother, so he lied down by the limestone and died too. Then he became the betel palm tree. The wife noticed that her husband never came home and his brother was gone all evening. So, she went to go look for them and followed their trails to the river. But she couldn’t find them and in despair sat down by the bank and died too, becoming the vine and leaves that climbed up the betel tree of her husband, like a wife hugging her husband. This became the symbol of family in Vietnam because they were always very close.”
My mom escaped from Vietnam during the war when she was 12 years old. Back in Vietnam, her grandma told her this story as a bedtime store. It is meant to show how close Vietnamese families are and that even after death, they will always be together. My mom told me this story when I was little and I would ask her to repeat it a lot. I got her to repeat it for me again while we were on the phone so I could hear her tell it.
I think it’s interesting that many of the Vietnamese legends explain traditions through things that happen in nature. This legend also acts in a proverb in a way that tells families nature intended for them to always stay together and close. The younger brother leaving the house and dying because he did not want to interfere with his brother’s family also shows the extreme sacrifices nature intended for families to take for each other.