The Genie of the Mountains and the Genie of the Waters
Son Tinh, the healer
A very long time ago there lived in the forest a woodcutter of the family of Lac Long, the
Dragon-King. Of noble origin, but very poor, he cut down trees to earn his living.
One day he brought down a tree much taller than the others and returned to his straw hut.
Great was his surprise the next day on seeing that the tree that he wanted to saw up was
again upright in front of him. He set to work. His axe struck hard and the wood shavings
flew into splinters, and soon the giant was lying down again. But, oh miracle, the
following morning it was upright again, without any injury on its smooth trunk.
Three times the woodcutter started again. A waste of time! He must solve this mystery.
After cutting the tree down once more he decided to camp near it under a light shelter of
bamboos and creepers. He soon saw a marvelous woman whom he judged to be a Tien (fairy)
approach and touch the giant with a light tap of wood. At this contact the tree slowly
stood upright and the wounds in its bark were obliterated while the sap revived anew its
Leaving his shelter the woodcutter approached the Tien.
"I work hard, but you deprive me of my labour," he politely but firmly told her.
"I’m a fairy," replied the apparition, "and this tree is my favourite
resting place. I know that you’re poor and I wish to compensate you. Take this wand
which has restored the tree. It can also heal human wounds and sickness. Thanks to it, you
can become the greatest healer in the country. Only remember your days of poverty and be
charitable towards poor people." On saying this, the fairy disappeared.
The woodcutter abandoned his trade and left in search of all those who suffered. He
performed miracles. Soon his fame, and the gratitude of those he had delivered from their
suffering, extended throughout the country.
One day, when he was following the river bank, he saw a group of young buffalo boys around
a snake which they had killed. The healer, seeing the character Vuong (King) on the
reptile’s head, touched it with his wand. Immediately the restored snake glided as
far as the river and disappeared.
Some time later, the healer was resting at home when a man of noble bearing came to see
him, offering him precious objects of pure gold, clear jade and shining gems.
"My father is Long Vuong, the Dragon-King of the Southern Sea. It is I whom you saved
the other day and I have come to thank you."
The old woodcutter refused the rich presents but accepted the invitation of the young
prince to his submarine palace where, thanks to a rhinoceros horn which had the power to
part the waters, the generous healer could follow him.
In the kingdom of the Southern Sea the welcome which Long Vuong reserved for his guest was
sumptuous, in a fairyland of a coralline architecture. There the healer again refused the
rarest presents but accepted an antique book of magic for wishes and hopes.
Returning home he deciphered the manuscript which showed him the formulas to have his
wishes granted instantly. His new power allowed him to disentangle the most inextricable
situations and to thus increase its benefits.
Finally, he again followed the course of the Red River towards the Highlands where he
thought he would settle down. The air there was healthy, the people simple, generous and
well-mannered. He crossed Thang Long, old Hanoi, but did not feel attracted by the
corrupting pleasures of the city. Thus he went on his way as far as Phu Lo, from where he
saw the Tan Vien with its three peaks.
He hoped for a route which would skirt the mountain mass on the south. It immediately
To rest, he only had to hope for a palace and it rose from the ground.
He settled on Mount Tan Vien, but he wanted to descend to the edge of the river, and to
scale the mountainous spurs from where he admired the countryside. He was called Son Tinh
(the Genie of the Mountains) or the genie of the Tan Vien.
The external conflicts
King Hung the eighteenth reigned over the country at this time. His daughter, Princess My
Nuong, was of a remarkable beauty.
But it came about that he Genie of the Mountains and the Genie of the Waters both fell
madly in love with the Princess.
The double request for the hand of his daughter in marriage plunged the King into
perplexity. "One single woman and two men! What to do?" Both were handsome and
very talented. The Genie of the Mountains had only uttered his wishes and they were
granted. The Genie of the Waters had the power to unleash the wind and the rain.
The King did not know which of the suitors to choose and no one could advise him. Then he
"Both of you equally meet my requirements, it is therefore impossible to decide which
of you deserves to be my Son-in-law. I will therefore give my daughter to the first one
who, tomorrow, will bring me a hundred of plates of sticky rice, two hundred rice cakes,
an elephant with nine tusks, a cock with nine spurs and a horse with nine red hairs.
This was easy for the Genie of the Mountains who arrived first at the Palace with the
required presents. He also led the Princess to his cattle on the mountain.
The Genie of the Waters, who had more difficulty in procuring the tribute, on arrival
found the object of his love gone.
He became violently angry and let loose typhoons which shook heaven and earth. Giant
forest trees were uprooted, men’s houses carried away, the harvests destroyed.
Torrential rains carried away everything in their wake, harvest and villages. The Genie of
the Mountains displaced the hills and raised up mountains to stop the waters. The
inhabitants came to the aid of their threatened benefactor. They dammed up the mounting
waters with wattle. Armed with harpoons and lances, they struggled against assault. Tigers
and bears of the forest also came to the rescue of the good Genie. A merciless struggle
unfolded in a storm of wind and rain which made the day as dark as the nigh. When it grew
light, the flotsam and bodies confirmed the defeat of the Prince of the Waters and his
But the anger of the defeated suitor never grew less. He still returns to the fight every
year at the time of the monsoon, while the Genie of the Mountains continues his protective
Told by HUU NGOC
(From Vietnamese Legends and Folk Tales)
Note: This mythical legend is a symbol of the struggle which is repeated yearly between
the Genie of the Mountains and the Genie of the Waters when the population of the Red
River delta fights against disastrous floods.