Vietnamese Legends: Thánh Gióng

At BAM we think bamboo is great.  You probably think so too. It’s sustainable, functional and can be used for pretty much anything.  It’s also played a massive part in Vietnamese history.  Here in Vietnam, it’s used to build everything from houses to instruments.  For Vietnamese people it symbolises how strong and tough their country is.  We definitely don’t disagree. There are loads of legends in Vietnamese history that contain bamboo.  One of our favourites, and one of the most popular, is the story of the giant baby warrior: Thanh Giong

The Beginning

Once upon a time (apparently three thousand years ago!) there was a poor, hard-working couple.  The couple were happy enough, but they were childless, and the woman really wanted to have a child.  So far, so Vietnamese legend. One day as she was walking home, exhausted from a day working in the fields, she saw a huge footprint.  When she saw the footprint, she decided to stand in it, as you do. Magically, the very next day, she realised she was pregnant. Again, so far, so Vietnamese legend.  After nine months and ten days, the baby still hadn’t been born. It wasn’t for another three whole months that a massive, bright-eyed baby was born. His name was Thanh Giong.  The baby, however, was pretty weird: for the first three years of his life he didn’t speak, smile or move.     

Invasion

At around the same time, the people of Vietnam faced attacks from the An people.  The King was desperate to save the country. I mean, which Vietnamese story doesn’t deal with some kind of invasion.  He sent out messengers to the four corners of his kingdom to find anyone who could help. When a messenger came to Thanh Giong’s village, he finally sat up and told his mother to bring the messenger to him. His mother was a bit shocked, to say the least, at her son’s strange request.  He’d gone from a motionless lump to asking to speak with a King’s messenger. When she asked him why he wanted to speak to the messenger, he just said he’d deffo be able to help. Finally, she gave in.

As you can guess, the messenger wasn’t best pleased.  He’d asked for people to help in the coming war and here he was faced with a three-year-old. He jumped with surprise, however, when he heard Thanh Giong’s words.  Giong commanded the messenger to prepare a horse, armour and iron rod for him. The messenger agreed and said he’d return to the King with the request. To be honest, if a baby told you to do something you’d trust his or her judgement and get on with it, right?

Growing Up

Thanh Giong began to grow, and we mean he seriously began to grow.  He ate all the rice and aubergines his mum could throw at him, this was all they had to eat you see, and outgrew all his clothes at a ridiculous pace.  When the enemy got to Trau mountain, near Giong’s village, the messenger returned with the horse, armour and rod. Giong finally stood up as a giant of a man (though we prefer to think of him as a giant baby).  Giong fought off the invading army single-handedly, like the Vietnamese legend he was, until his iron rod snapped. Not to be put off, seeing a nearby bamboo grove, he tore it up and proceeded to defeat the An using nothing more than these trees.

The Moral

There are lots of morals to take from this particular Vietnamese legend but the one we like is this: bamboo is the best weapon we have to fight off this plastic invasion.  Sure you can get so far using other stuff but bamboo is without a doubt the best.  And also how amazing is the image of a giant baby smacking soldiers round the head with a bamboo grove?