The Children of the Dragon and Fairy – World History and the Meaning of Being Human – by Francesca Do. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Pic #1: I am the little girl wearing the yellow “Ao Dai” meaning “long shirt” in the front
Growing up from a traditional Vietnamese family, the myth of the Vietnam’s origin is one of the most famous folktales to tell at festivals and big events. My ancestors believed that it is important to tell the Legend of Lac Long and Au Co to their future generations, for it implies significant messages and lessons to the people of Vietnam. The first time I have heard this tale was at Lunar New Year’s festival at my church. It all started when I was waiting to perform a traditional Vietnamese dance when a storyteller was present into the tent clearing her throat as she began her story…
Long, long ago, there was a god named Kinh Duong Vuong, who had the ability live on both land and water. He was the ruler of a kingdom, stretching from the unknown vast land on the East, facing the borders of the shoreline. One day, when he was out for a swim he met the daughter of the Dragon King and fell in love with her. They got married and blessed with a son, who inherit both of their abilities; he was known as Lac Long Quan, the “Dragon Lord of Lac”. Growing up he had a fascination of exploring the oceans, it brings him great calmness and happiness whenever he is near water. As he matured into an adult, he became a hero to his people, defeating sea monsters, the nine-tailed fox, and even the evil giant tree spirit. The Dragon Lord also taught his people how to build stable houses, cook delicious meals, making comfortable clothes, and creating strong weapons to protect themselves. After his quest to protect the village, he met a beautiful woman named Au Co, who is the daughter of the Northern Tribe Kingdom from the Fairy Clan, who live in highlands. It was love at first sight and both kingdoms agree to unite their lands by celebrating their unity. As time goes by Au Co gave birth to a pouch filled with one hundred eggs that will eventually all hatch into sons. The children grew up strong and smart like their father, and as kind-hearted and skillful like their mother. The couple taught them to cultivate their lands and live nobly. However, the couple started to grow unhappy for Lac Long Quan always finds his heart longing for the waters, while Au Co constantly yearns for her homeland in the highlands. The couple decided to divide their children, Lac Long Quan will take fifty to live with him along the coasts and Au Co will bring the other fifty to the highlands. Before they leave to go their own way, they made an eternal promise to each other that despite the distance and separation, they must look after each other and always be there to lend a hand no matter what happens. The fifty children who live on the coast learned skills of fishing and the art of tattoos to scare off sea creatures as they hunt and dive for food from their father. The other fifty children was taught how to live in the jungles and mountains, breed animals, and cultivate the soil to grow fruit trees for food. They lived in peace and unity growing in numbers passing down their cultural norms and rituals through the generation and the next.
Pic #2: I am the girl wearing the white fairy outfit on the very right Song MẸ ÂU CƠ: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44IWGh7yBRk
The descendants of Lac Long Quan and Au Co were believed to be my ancestors from Vietnam. Therefore, we call ourselves “the children of the Dragon and the Fairy” connecting it to Lac Long Quan’s direct bloodline from the Dragon realm and Au Co’s Fairy Clan from the highlands. This legend gives a clear understanding that no matter what region of Vietnam one is from, they should love, honor and unite as one to protect one another, just as the Dragon Lord and the Fairy Princess promised to each other.
After the tale was finished, I was intrigued in the context and then, later on, realized that my performance was about the love story between Lac Long Quan and Au Co. I was too young to understand the meaning of the song that we performed, called “MẸ ÂU CƠ”, but as I mature older, I understood the lyrics and was obsessed with the song. However, I have noticed that my dance teacher also incorporate the dragon dance that the boys performed with us, they represented the Dragon Lord Realm, while us girls represented the Fairy Princess Clan.
According to Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, by Robert Tignor, there are many myths told throughout the chapters of our history book. Specifically, on page 182 of the text, it talks about Olmec Art as Ideology. “The Olmec ideology emphasized ties among the natural, supernatural, and human worlds” [Tignor]. They made small, portable figures that unified their belief systems. Therefore, they can be always be connected to their roots whenever they leave their hometown. The figure is divided into three parts, representing the three layers of the cosmos, the supernatural, the terrestrial, and the underworld, the figure has the power to travel bringing messages to believers and nonbelievers alike [Tignor]. There are not a physical art piece representing the Dragon and the Fairy myth in the Vietnamese culture, but we express the story of our origin by the beauty of song and dance.
We learned in the film, Ancient Voices, Modern World: The Amazon, that humans are civilized in their own unique way. Civilization has different meaning and understanding based on one’s social location. We adapt to our surroundings, cultivating it with our traditions and rituals that come from our ancestors. Our ancestors communicate with us throughout their artworks, songs, and tales, without this necessity, we are not able to survive in this world. An example in the film would be the sacred place down the river, where the Basarnas had to get permission from their god to visit. It is believed that it was a battlefield between the lightning bolt and their god warrior, fighting to the death. The remnants of the fight is still there today, and if a person stays there for too long then they are going to get bad luck. We as human beings tend to preserve our culture by performing rituals and traditions; just had our ancestors did long ago. We use objects to symbolize a deeper meaning, songs, and dance to express our culture throughout our lives, and storytelling to continue our roots and origin to our children’s, children.
Long ago, my ancestors created myths to explain how life originated. They incorporate lessons and values to the story to give meaning and purpose to life. I believe the legends told to us when we were younger, are messages from our ancestors, teaching us morals and values. The concept of myths is what make us humans exist, trying to understand the world around us and developing a story that can be passed down through generations with teachable lessons, creating history through our origins. Although not everyone believes in mythology, the tales has the ability for humans to continue the path of existing in this world. This tie back to the question Professor Liang always asked about, “What is the meaning of being human?” I concluded that humans are born as social animals, therefore we are contradicting and complex, we are capable of great kindness and selfishness, and altruism and ugliness. Humans are multifaceted, we are materialistic and selfish, no human community lacked music, art, religion, it makes us or those we love happy without rewards or materials gains. Humans are teachable and adaptable, even on our worst days we can learn, improve, and can always be better [Liang]. We as human, make myths to become human beings.
From Professor Liang’s Spring 2017 World History I class
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