The Lady of Nam Xuong is a moving legend. It’s a favorite story of many young Vietnamese at leisure time. However, with the popularity of Internet, this legend is mainly told in the countryside.
As a nation that has seldom known relief from war, Vietnam’s women have grown accustomed to being left alone and not knowing whether or not they will ever see their husbands alive again. The following legend tells the story of a family in such a situation.
Once upon a time, in the region of Nam Xuong, there lived a woman whose husband had been sent with the army to a border guard post on the northern front. Communications were almost impossible and she rarely heard from him. She resigned herself to her fate and stayed at home doing agricultural and house-work and looked after their small son. Each evening, she would cast her eyes on the horizon and yearn for her husband to come home.
One winter evening a storm came up creating a frightful noise. Their little house shook with the wind and the oil light blew out, leaving the mother and child in darkness. The child began to scream in fear.
The mother held the child to her breast and re-lit the oil lamp. As she did so, her shadow appeared on the wall and a thought occurred to her. She said to her son, “Don’t be afraid, darling, daddy will protect you.” She then pointed her finger at the shadow on the wall and said, “see daddy.” The little boy looked up at the quivering shadow and stopped crying immediately. His mother hummed a sweet tune and he fell asleep.
The next evening before going to bed, the little boy called for his father. His mother’s face lit up with a smile and she placed herself so that her son could see the shadow on the wall again. Then she taught him to clasp his hands in a mark of respect and bow to the shadow and say, “Goodnight, daddy!” This grew into a habit and took place every evening.
Some time later, the man returned to his home and family. His wife was overcome with happiness, but as was traditional with Vietnamese women of her time, she said nothing to reveal her feelings. She could not keep her joy to herself and tears flowed down her cheeks. She said to him, “We must have a thanksgiving to our ancestors, I am going to get some food. Prepare the altar and look after your son and I will be back shortly.”
The man began to get acquainted with his little boy. Each time he told the child, “Come, I am your father,” the child would refuse and say, “You are not my daddy. Daddy isn’t here now and I always say goodnight to may father before I go to bed.”
The father got a big shock, but was too proud to say anything to his wife. He did nothing and kept quiet. When his wife returned from the market, she had a feeling something was wrong and that misfortune was coming to her home. It had come, indeed! When she spoke to her husband, he turned away in silence. Her usual reserved manner only inflamed the doubt in her husband’s heart.
Silently, he prostrated himself before the family ancestral altar and just as silently, he folded up the mat to keep his wife from performing her rites. When the meal was ready, he did not even touch the chopsticks or taste a morsel of the food. After the food had cooled, he walked from the house.
His wife spent many days in solitude awaiting his return. One day, she could stand the sorrow no longer and she embraced her child and entrusted him to a neighbour. Then running like a mad woman, she threw herself into the river and drowned.
The death of his wife was a severe shock to the man’s cold heart. Suspicion gave away to sorrow. He returned home and claimed his child. One evening when he lit the oil lamp, his own shadow appeared on the wall. To his surprise, he saw his son clasp his little hands together, bow to the shadow and say, “Good-night daddy!”
At once he knew what had happened, but now it was too late to do anything for his poor wife. He had an altar set up on the river bank and with three-day and night requiem mass celebration.
The man never married again, but spent his entire life caring for and educating his son.
More Popular Legends In Vietnam
– Spreading of Lime Powder Around the House of Tet
– The Apricot Tree Legend
– The Legend of The Narcissus
– The Legend of Firecrackers
– The Betel And The Areca Tree
– The Compassionate Protectress of Children