How the monsoons came to be

Far to the east is a beautiful place called Vietnam. It is a land of green paddy fields and strange-shaped mountains which rise from the sea. The monsoon rains wash the land and flood its rivers and canals. And when the monsoons are done, and the land is watery rich, people grow rice. For rice paddy loves water and would not grow without the monsoon.
Here is a story of how the monsoons came to Vietnam.

Long, long ago there ruled in Vietnam the Hung kings. Emperor Vuong Hung had a daughter, the Princess Mi Nuong. She was young and beautiful and obedient to her parents, like all good princesses normally were. Her skin was the colour of the pale pink lotus which blooms in lakes and ponds. Her grace was that of the willow which dances in the wind on riverbanks. She played the dan ty ba, which was like a mandolin and sat in her garden waiting for Prince Charming.

But the Emperor could find no suitor worthy of his daughter for he wanted a great many gifts. Princes and noblemen came from lands far and wide. The Emperor turned them all away. People began to wonder if Emperor Vuong would ever be satisfied and Princess Mi Nuong find her husband.

One day as she strummed her dan ty ba and wondered what will her future be, there sounded outside the palace gates drums and a great fanfare.
“Who could that be, announcing himself in so grand a way?” she wondered.
Mi Nuong sent her maidens to see, for it wasn’t seemly for a princess to peep over the garden wall, much as she wanted to. The maidens came back in great excitement.
“O princess it is not one but two suitors, come to seek your hand. Ooh, they are the handsomest men we have ever seen. And the gifts that they bring, stretches half way down the palace courtyard.”

Mi Nuong heard all this and sighed.
“Of what use is that! My father will not approve of them.” And in her heart she hoped that the Emperor would find at least one young man worthy to be her husband. For Mi Nuong was tired of waiting.

Meanwhile, the young suitors bowed to the Emperor. One stepped forward and said,
“I am Thuy Tinh – the Lord of the Seas. My realm extends beyond these lands- half way across the earth and to the depth of the waters. I command all the creatures of the seas and the wealth of the deeps. Your daughter will be rich and happy with me.

Then the other suitor said,
“I am the Lord of the Mountains -Son Tinh. All creatures on land and on high are mine to command. The forests, the mountains and hills are mine. Your daughter will be happy with me for I have a beautiful home for her, where the mountains touch the skies.”

Emperor Vuong was in a fix. He stroked his beard and closed his eyes. How to choose between such powerful and dashing princes. After a while he announced,
“Whoever will bring me the best bridal gifts – first thing tomorrow morning will wed my daughter Mi Nuong.” With that he stood up, bowed and left the court.

When Mi Nuong heard of her father’s decree, she was happy. At last she was to marry but which prince would it be. And such powerful princes too. Would she dwell in the highest mountains or the deepest seas? It made her quite a bit nervous. But there was no time for that.
All around her was a buzz of activity as the palace prepared for the wedding.

Next morning even before the palace gates opened at dawn, Son Tinh the Mountain Prince stood there ready with the bridal gifts. The Emperor was awakened and he rushed to the court with his courtiers. He was impressed by Prince Son Tinh’s promptness and even more by his gifts of jewels from mountain mines and silver wrought and many more wonderful things.

Mi Nuong was brought to the court, looking as radiant as the morning sun. Prince Son Tinh and Princess Mi Nuong were wedded and a great celebration started.

Just as they sat down to the feast, Thuy Tinh, the Prince of the Seas arrived with pearls and jewels which no man had ever seen. It had taken him a long time to gather them all and so he was late. The Emperor saw the bridal gifts and began to wonder if he should have waited a bit.

But Thuy Tinh, when he saw that the princess was already wedded, turned angry – his face the colour of the stormy sea.
“Seize the princess she will be mine.” he shouted to his men.
Mi Nuong trembled and thanked Lac the Dragon Lord that she had not married him.
“She is my wife now.” said Son Tinh. He stepped in front of the princess and drew his sword. He called to the creatures of the earth and sky.

Thuy Tinh called on the creatures of the sea. A terrible battle raged between the animals of the sea and land. The walruses fought the elephants and the crabs attacked the spiders. Tigers and bears and sharks and sword-fish set up such a battle that people ran up the mountains and trees to get out of their way.

“Let’s go home.” Son Tinh took his wife’s hand and they journeyed like the wind to their mountain home. This made Thuy Tinh angrier. He sent the waters of the rivers and seas to block their way. The lands were flooded. The Mountain Prince climbed faster. He turned to hurl lightning down on Thuy Tinh. The Prince of the Sea called the sea winds to his aid. The waters rose even higher to drown Son Tinh. Then a great storm broke out with thunder and lightning, raging waters and lashing rain.
It lasted for days. In that great flood people ran about in fear and many were drowned. Even the animals stopped their battle and tried to save themselves from the rushing waters and wind.

Mi Nuong hated it all. What had her people done to suffer so much. She began to pray for their lives. Son Tinh understood. He made the mountains rise higher and even higher. Many climbed up the mountains and were saved from the flood. At last Thuy Tinh could not make the waters rise anymore. In sullen rage, he called back his creatures of the sea and the winds.
Thuy Tinh shouted, “I’ll be back” And they all returned to the sea.
The rain stopped, the sky cleared and the sun began to shine. The waters began to go down.

After some days the people came down from their mountain shelters and rebuilt their homes. They planted rice seeds in the flooded and muddy fields. And the seeds grew well and strong and fast into green paddy. With time they turned golden. The harvest was rich and the people were happy.

Since then in the month of June, the sea prince Thuy Tinh comes back to try to steal Princess Mi Nuong. For a few months the waters rise, the winds howl and rain lashes down. Son Tinh answers with lightning and thunder. And the people find dry land before the battle.

They know it will soon end. Thuy Tinh will return to his home in the deeps and Son Tinh will stop hurling thunder. Then they can return to their lands and plant paddy in the flooded fields. And when the growing months have passed they have rich harvests.

They call it the monsoon – this battle of the princes of the mountains and the sea.

A Vietnamese folktale

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