Part 3 of the epic myth A War Between Gods plus I added entries on myths set during the reigns of Hung Vuong III and Hung Vuong IV. For the full epic and entries on other Vietnamese gods Click here: https://glitternight.com/vietnamese-myth-2/
CANTO III – The day eventually arrived when Hung Vuong XVIII offered up Mi Nuong’s hand in marriage. Aristocrats came from as far away as ancient India to compete for the hand of the legendarily beautiful princess. The patriarch of the Thuc family, who plotted to overthrow Hung Vuong XVIII, was among the suitors and so were the gods Tan Vien and Thuy Tinh.
The suitors had to compete against each other in various undertakings, similar to the Indian tradition of svayamvara featured in many Hindu myths. Sailing and hunting competitions were held, as were duels and archery competitions. Exotic gift competitions were held and the suitors were also subjected to tests of skill in languages, music and poetry.
The scheming patriarch of the Thuc family was among the last of the mortal suitors to be eliminated as at long last only the gods Tan Vien and Thuy Tinh remained as potential husbands for Mi Nuong. The patriarch of the Thuc family was outraged at being dismissed from competition for the hand of the princess and brooded bitterly over that turn of events. Thuc’s already intense hatred of Hung Vuong XVIII grew even stronger and that hatred would fuel him to engineer the end of the Hung Vuong Dynasty through his yet unborn son.
HUNG VUONG III – The most prominent myth associated with this third Hung Vuong ruler involves the marital custom of chewing the fruit of the areca tree and a sliver of quicklime wrapped in betel leaves. There is a virtual duplicate of this myth and custom in Philippine mythology. Some people question my dwelling on parallels in Vietnamese and Philippine myths but my answer is always the same: look at a map. Plus I can’t imagine I’m alone in noting the occassional similar features in the two mythic systems.
To the story: A woman named Thao was beloved by two brothers, Tan and Lang. She agreed to marry the older brother, Tan, before she knew that Lang loved her as well. As all three parties gradually became aware of their situation it caused a great deal of emotional strain on all of them since the three were poor and lived in the same home. Thao, Tan and Lang were all virtuous and none of them ever dreamed of doing anything unethical.
Thao loved both brothers equally but remained faithful to her husband. Lang loved his brother just as much as he loved Thao and so never made advances to her. For his part Tan was so selfless he often wished his brother had married Thao instead so that the two of them could be happy. At last, unable to bear the situation any longer Lang went off by himself, traveling into the jungle until he was exhausted, whereupon he sat down, wept and died of a broken heart. (?) Tan Vien, god of the hunt and the jungle with all its gifts both plant and animal, took pity on Lang and transformed him into the white rock subsequently called quicklime.
After several days Tan went looking for his brother and happened to stop at the rock that used to be his brother. Fearing that Lang had taken his own life Tan also wept and died of a broken heart. Tan Vien pitied him as well and transformed him into what became known as the areca tree. Thao eventually came looking for both brothers and, happening to stop at the rock and tree which had been Tan and Lang (small world), wept with hopeless despair at the whole painful love triangle and became a grief counselor. No, I’m kidding – she too died of a broken heart.
Tan Vien pitied Thao as well and transformed her into the betel plant which often wraps itself around areca trees. The villagers who lived near the spot and knew the sad story of Thao, Lang and Tan constructed a shrine at the spot of the stone, tree and betel vines. Years later Hung Vuong III and his royal party happened to stop at the shrine while traveling.
Hung Vuong III took some of the fruit of the areca tree and a small bit of quicklime, wrapped them in a betel leaf (just go with me on this) and was delighted at the way the taste of all three combined was better than any of them chewed singly or in a pair. Learning the full story of Tan, Lang and Thao Hung Vuong III was touched and decreed that henceforth exchanging and chewing the trio of items at weddings would be the new custom. Some versions instead place these events in the reign of either Hung Vuong II or Hung Vuong IV.
HUNG VUONG IV – The saga of the god Chu Dong Tu and Hung Vuong IV’s daughter Tien Dung took place during the reign of this ruler. (See my first Vietnamese myth page for details ) Some versions instead place that story in the reign of Hung Vuong VI.
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