This content is also available in: Vietnamese

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]oming from the land where there are only two seasons: sunny and rainy, where tropical storms were part of life, to a land where seasons are clearly divided, and storms – if any – are usually winter’s white blizzards, Vietnamese people who have made Canada home, enjoy a wide gamut of weather and climate. If we live in the Northern territories of Canada, we can chat with the sun at midnight. From the atrocious tropical storms in the Central Region of Vietnam to the bright sunlight at midnight in the Snow Country, scientific explanations are in surplus. In this article, I would like to invite you to travel with me back to the childhood trail, and find out what legends have said about floods, storms, and hurricanes in Vietnam – and why the Sun does not want to set in North Canada.

A Fascinating Destination

In the area located above the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets from May until mid-July. Life flourishes under hours of intense sunlight as the land hosts millions of migratory birds and explodes in wildflower blooms. The further north one travels, the higher the sun and the longer the season of the midnight sun. All over the Yukon, summer is a busy time of festivals and outdoor play. The sun still shines at midnight because of the Crow…

Crow Brings the Daylight

A very long time ago, when the earth was still young, the northern part of what is now known as Canada had no sunlight and people lived in darkness. There was a Crow who traveled everywhere, including the southern part of this land and he had the chance to see sunlight. As he came back to the north, he told people about daylight. “Long ways, long lies.” Many people did not believe him.

However, images of land in the south covered with sunlight stuck in the mind of many young people. In their imagination, their hunting would be much easier with sunlight; they would be able to see the polar bears from afar and avoid being attacked.

Day after day, with so much hope in the daylight, the Inuit people implored the Crow to bring sunlight to them. The pleadings were so eager that the Crow agreed to make the long journey to the south.

The trip seemed endless and many times the Crow wanted to give up. Finally he caught a rim of light at the horizon which meant that daylight was within reach.

Gathering all his might, the Crow flew toward the light, and all of a sudden, his world was inundated with bright light from the sun. Everything seemed to be taking shape right in front of his eyes. The world was so colourful and glamorous with the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds. The Crow perched on the branch of a tree near a village and rested. As the Crow was dozing off, a young woman – a daughter of the Chief – came to the river near the tree to fetch water. As the woman passed beneath the tree, the Crow turned himself into a tiny speck of dust then drifted down and settled onto her fur cloak. After getting the water, the woman returned to her lodge. Inside the lodge, the Crow saw a box that glowed around the edges. That must be Daylight, he thought.

On the floor, a little boy was playing by himself.  The Crow – still in the form of dust – floated into the ear of the little boy. Immediately, the child sat up and rubbed his ear. He started to cry, and the chief, who was a doting grandfather, came running into the lodge to see what was wrong.

Hidden inside the little boy’s ear, the Crow whispered: “I want to play with a ball of daylight.” The little boy repeated the Crow’s words.

The grandfather took the glowing box and removed a glowing ball, tied it with a string, and gave it to the little boy. It was full of light and shadow, colours and forms. The child laughed happily, tugging at the string and watching the ball bounce.

Then the Crow scratched the inside of the boy’s ear again, and the little boy gasped and cried. “Tell Grandpa what’s wrong,” the grandfather said anxiously. The Crow whispered inside the boy’s ear: “I want to go outside to play.” The boy repeated the Crow’s words to his grandfather.

The grandfather took the little boy outside.

The Midnight Sun

As soon as they were outside, the Crow flew out of the child’s ear to resume his natural form. He plunged down and grabbed the string from the boy. Then he rose up and flew away, with the ball of daylight sailing along behind him.

One day, in the far north, through the darkness, the Inuit saw a spark of light coming toward them. It grew brighter and brighter, until they could see the Crow flapping his wings as he flew toward them.

The Crow dropped the ball, and it shattered upon the ground, releasing daylight, illuminating every dark place and chasing away every shadow. The sky grew bright and turned blue. The dark mountains took on colours, light and forms. The snow and ice sparkled so brightly that the Inuit had to shade their eyes.

The people were ecstatic over their good fortune. But the Crow said that the daylight would not last forever. The ball of daylight would need to rest for six months every year to regain its strength. During that six month period, darkness would return.

The people were satisfied because having half a year of daylight was still better than being in the dark their whole lives. Then they thanked the Crow over and over again.

For that reason, in the far north, a day as well as a night lasts up to six months; and because of that, the far north of Canada is now known as The Land of the Midnight Sun.

Back to the Tropical

During my childhood in Sơn Trà, a small village that borders the mountain and is covered by the sea, near the city of Da Nang, Central Vietnam, I “lived” through many storms and floods. Torrential currents erased all the trails including the one leading to our school. Cringed in the swaying frail thatched shelter, my siblings and I peeked frequently through the leaks on the roof, looked toward the dark mountain, where waterfalls ran ferociously, and mumbled to ourselves, whether Sơn Tinh, the Mountain God would elevate our tiny village up to his mountain when he is fighting against Thủy Tinh, the Water God.

The Feud of the Gods

The 18th king of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty had a very beautiful daughter named Mỵ Nương. When she grew up and became a woman, the king was looking to arrange for her marriage. The king wanted to seek an outstanding son-in-law who was not only handsome but also talented.

So the king proclaimed a contest for anyone who could prove his worthiness. Many princes, famous writers, great artists, wealthy businessmen, and men with many talents from everywhere came to try their best. Among them were two extraordinary men: Sơn Tinh, the Mountain God, and Thủy Tinh, the Water God. The King asked both of them to present their powers. Sơn Tinh just waved his hand and many trees spruced up, making a forest. He just said a word and many mountains rose up. Thủy Tinh also had the same power. When he waved his hand, the wind began to blow. When he spoke a word, the sea level rose.

Six of One and Half a Dozen of the Other

Because both Sơn Tinh and Thủy Tinh met all the criteria to become Mỵ Nương’s husband, it was difficult for the king to choose between them. Finally, the king decided that whoever was the first to bring wedding gifts on the next day would be able to marry the princess. Early the next morning, Sơn Tinh was the first one to arrive with gifts, and was able to take Mỵ Nương back to Tản Viên Mountain, where he lived. Thủy Tinh came in a few minutes later. Realizing that Mỵ Nương was gone, he became very angry and furious. He and his servants ran after Sơn Tinh to try to take Mỵ Nương back. He called on heavy rain, strong wind and thunder, and commanded sea levels to rise to defeat Sơn Tinh. However, as the sea levels rose up, Sơn Tinh used his magic to rise up the mountains as well.

Everyone had to suffer the anger of Thủy Tinh. The floods that he caused destroyed the lands and houses. Sơn Tinh created dikes to protect people and their properties.

The battle between the two Gods lasted many days. Finally, Thủy Tinh withdrew his tides. However, he had never given up the idea of taking revenge to get Mỵ Nương back. Thus every year, people have to suffer floods as a consequence of Thủy Tinh’s eternal bitterness and vengefulness.

As a Conclusion…

Having witnessed “God made us suffer with the flood each year”* part of my life, while another part listened to the howling wind to determine whether the snow storm would subside soon, and dreaming of a visit to the Land of the Midnight Sun where summer lasts six months, I am no stranger to scientific explanations for the change of weather and the slant axis of the Earth. However, for some unknown reasons, I still love the image of the Crow dragging the ball, bringing sunlight to the north of Canada, making Yukon, Nunavut and North-West Territories the Land of the Midnight Sun; and whenever news from Vietnam report natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, I always blame the inconsolable jealousy of the Water God.

*Lyric from the famous song “The Voice of Hương River” by Phạm Đình Chương.