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

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

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

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22 Comments

Filed under History, Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Professor Liang's Classes

22 responses to “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

    • Ashley DeJuliannie

      Francesca,
      Thank you for sharing. I have always been fascinated by the different folktale told throughout cultures. Humans truly are social beings and I find that expressing ourselves through art, literature, music, etc. is vital in forming human connections. Would you say that this traditional Vietnamese myth has helped shape who you are as a young adult and how you see the world?

      Again, thank you for sharing such an intriguing story.

    • Evan Wohlert

      Francesca,
      I have to start by saying that the story of your ancestors, of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, is the most interesting creation myth I’ve heard of in recent memory. Maybe it was because you worded the story and made it flow so well, or because the story itself was super interesting to me. One thing from your article that made me think was in the story, all of the 100 eggs were hatched into sons. In Tignor’s textbook, World’s Together, Worlds Apart, he wrote about gender differences in older societies stating, “An enhanced human power over the environment did not bring equal power to everyone, and it is possible that women were the net losers of the agricultural revolution” (Tignor 37). Do you think that because of the shift of power and duties between the genders favored men, that they had 100 boys instead of girls? Would the story change much if they had some or all of their children be girls? I would love to know your thoughts and great job on the article, I really enjoyed it!
      Evan

    • Averie Fredrickson-Seibert

      Francesca,
      This is a beautiful retelling of a creation myth that is obviously very near and dear to your heart. In Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, Tignor writes in regards to early civilization, “Men and women had been on an equal plane in hunting and gathering societies. Farming, herding, and settling down in villages brought radical changes in gender relations, elevating the status of men in their relationship with women”. Do you think that your creation myth challenges or reinforces these types of gender norms? I noticed that all of the eggs hatched into sons. Is there a particular meaning behind this occurrence?

  1. Samantha Willert

    Francesca,

    I quite enjoyed reading the legend about Lac Long Quan and Au Co! I especially liked how even though they had their differences, in the end, they decided to still look after each other. It must be exciting knowing that they are believed to be your ancestors! I also think it is pretty cool that the Vietnamese culture expresses the story with song and dance instead of an art piece! Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. Catherine Swenson

    Francesca, thank you for sharing this tale of how the Vietnamese people came to be! It’s always fun to learn about the art and writing of cultures other than our own. It is really interesting how gender and sex play a part in the story. You mentioned that both generations had only sons; the idea of male children being desired over female children is a common narrative in many cultures. I wonder if this was an intentional part of the story or not. I like how the story incorporates the promise of never being alone in the world with half the children on the coast and the other half inland.
    Thanks again for sharing this story,
    Catey

  3. Aleah Rubio

    Hi Francesca,

    This article is very powerful. I really enjoyed the background information about the Legend that your ancestors have told your family throughout the past decades. I enjoy how mythology tells a very entertaining story but has a deeper meaning in explaining morals and values within different cultures. Mythology can be used as a tool to improve ourselves as human beings through the deeper meanings of the myth or legend. Thank you so much for sharing this great post!

    -Aleah

  4. Elijah Ortega

    Hello,
    I enjoyed reading this article very much. I always find joy in reading the ancient stories within ones culture as there is much that can be learned from this. Reading stories like these always reminds me of the importance of passing the traditions and stories through generation to generation, it instills pride and teaches valuable lessons within a community which is extremely vital. Thank you for sharing this story

  5. Cassandra Mahlberg

    Thank you for writing this Francesca. It’s really beautiful that you were able to ground yourself in your own roots and culture to develop your answer of what it means to be human. I think that is something that is hard for many of us to do. The use of myths is just as important as the use of proven facts when considering the way humans work in relationship to one another. Having some sort of collective memory brings a group of people together on a deep, intangible level and most often motivates them in the future. As you said, humans are social animals, therefore to really exist as a human being, you must have some sort of ties to other human beings. This makes sense with regard to the creation of myths; one person did not wake up one day and say “This is the way of the world!”, it took many people to do that (although these days I’m concerned that those in power are waking up and making that declaration themselves). How would your life be different if you didn’t have an origin story to identify with? Is living in community with other humans a good enough way of determining our meaning in the world?

  6. Tamer Mische-Richter

    Francesca,
    I really enjoyed reading your work. Learning more about people’s backgrounds is very interesting as it adds an understanding of a person’s upbringing.
    “Contradicting and complex”, as you put it, describes humanity in such a grandiose way that I really enjoy. As you also say that some people believe in mythology and some do not, this can be seen in almost any issue. We have differing views and are able to accompany those views with arguments for and against. I may be blowing this a bit out of proportion for what you were using the statement for, however it can be recycled for any issue that arises. The complexity that is involved in creating a contradictory argument can be traced back to the upbringing of an individual.

  7. DyAnna Grondahl

    Francesca,

    Thank you for sharing the Vietnamese origin story. In your analysis, I am particularly fond of the line, “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.” I think this is a strong and beautiful value. In addition, your final paragraph in which you answer the question of what it means to be human, I really think you are on to something very important. Humans are contradicting, complex, kind, selfish, altruistic, ugly, materialistic, etc etc, but then, simultaneously, “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.” I appreciate your insights in this article, and I think the origin story you shared is absolutely beautiful. What are your thoughts on the impact of other specific origin stories and the way they impact the populations which ascribe to them? I think I would be quite different had I grown up hearing this origin story rather than Adam and Eve.

    Thank you for sharing!
    DyAnna

  8. Katelyn Fischer

    Hi Francesca!

    This article was fascinating to read. I have always been interested in stories and legends from other cultures. It is so cool to see how our ancestors explain objects, life, and natural events. It is also really cool to hear how you learned and connected parts of your life to the stories you have been told. Your definition of being human was an interesting perspective to me and I really appriciated your view on that.

  9. Marissa Mikrot

    Thank you so much for sharing, Francesca! It’s so interesting and wonderful to read people’s experiences with such rich cultures, especially when I grew up in a household that followed the bible rather than even sharing wonderful creation stories such as these. I think it’s great that you were able to learn these folktales at such a young age and have an understanding of overall morals that are placed in them. Not only does it create strong roots with your culture, but also prepares you for the mythology focus that school will bring. Hopefully you got to share stories like these with friends as you grew up. They are certainly worth sharing.

  10. Phillip Truax

    Francesca,
    What a empowering story, the idea of how cultures tell story’s to pass along morals. This idea has been used for so long in numerous amount of cultures. An inserting thought is, are how are people in today’s world still receiving and passing story’s that help create morals? Of course this is a question for all cultures. I believe that the communication we use to pass folklore is very interesting.

  11. Madina Tall

    Hi Francesca,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article! I loved reading about the Vietnamese legend. Throughout many cultures and civilizations, myths carry a lot of importance because it holds the traditions and values of ancestors and people who built the land. I love that you incorporated the philosophy of it as well because I think that is a very important aspect of life.

  12. Brett

    Hello,
    Quite an amazing article you have written here, I really enjoyed reading about the legends and how you feel they’re a way that your ancestors tried to teach you about morals and values and incorporate lessons into your life. I feel that myths and or legends such as the one you’ve explained are very important to our lives because they carry very important history and give us meaning to life. Thank you for sharing i really enjoyed this one.
    Brett,

  13. Brett Radford

    Hello,
    Quite an amazing article you have written here, I really enjoyed reading about the legends and how you feel they’re a way that your ancestors tried to teach you about morals and values and incorporate lessons into your life. I feel that myths and or legends such as the one you’ve explained are very important to our lives because they carry very important history and give us meaning to life. Thank you for sharing i really enjoyed this one.
    Brett,

  14. Hannah Holien

    Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this interesting creation story! I really enjoyed reading about it as I have never heard this story before. Creation myths are really crucial to cultural identities and to humans in general. Like you said, it gives us a sense of being. In “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart”, it states, “For thousands of years, humans have constructed, out of their values and available evidence, narratives of how the world- and humans- came to be” (p. 4). I think that humans crave answers and that is part of what makes us us. The creation stories provide us a space to answer questions and pass on traditions and values in a way that will be remembered. We all love stories and they usually stick in our mind better than just straight facts so we are able to recall and pass on the stories from generation to generation. Thanks again for sharing your story!
    – Hannah Holien

  15. Dawson Ness

    Francesca,
    Thank you for such a compelling read. The connection to the mythology is so intriguing to hear. It was interesting to see that the mythology also contained gender roles for the offspring who were to be “strong and smart like their father, and as kind-hearted and skillful like their mother.” In Tignor’s analysis on the Han dynasty and its influence on Asian culture it is stated that “families also sharply distinguished gender roles to increase the authority of the father figure (p.249).” Do you feel that these gender roles are present in the Vietnam Tradition?

  16. Sarah Symanietz

    Francesca,
    What a beautiful story you can share with your relatives, family, and peers. I believe it is stores like these that truly make us human. When we have stories and bonds to others that also relate back to our ancestors and a specific cultural group it creates a unique bond and feeling a belonging- a feeling all humans strive for. This specific story was very intriguing and I enjoyed hearing about the parents that each took 50 of their children to different areas. This also shows how different skills can be obtained depending on our environment. For example, the Egyptians masters the art and geometry involved in pyramid making and Mayan’s also had unique architectural skills. In history, where you live dictates not only skills, but stories, rituals, and much more that will be a unique, yet shared quality within a culture.
    Sarah

  17. Francesca,
    This a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I love how you express this story through song and dance, that is super cool! I think creation myths are important to continue to pass on from generation to generation. It is a part of who we are as humans and it is important to keep these stories alive. In Tignors “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart” I have learned a lot about the importance of creation myths as well as learned what it means to be human. Thank you so much for sharing this story.
    Morgan

  18. Shelby Olson

    Francesca,
    I wasn’t familiar with Vietnamese culture and myths before reading this, but I find the values and morals described through this myth to be incredibly important. In class I’ve been learning a lot about how varying cultures view competition vs. working together and I think that your story is a perfect example of the latter. While people in the US tend to compete against each other for personal gain, the story of Lac Long Quan and Au Co agreeing that “despite the distance and separation, they must look after each other and always be there to lend a hand no matter what happens” shows how important community and cooperation is. I think that many of today’s current issues could be resolved or at least improved if these principles were taught universally. Thanks for sharing!

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