Today’s folk tale, “The Hundred-knot Bamboo Tree,” comes from Vietnam. It has several familiar fairy tale themes including a magical helper and the underdog winning in the end.
The story is about a laborer, Khoai, who is exploited by a wealthy landowner. In order to keep and motivate the laborer, the landowner promises to reward him with marriage to his beautiful daughter after three years of labor. When the time for marriage arrives, the landowner breaks his promise by offering his daughter to the village chief’s son. When the laborer complains, the landowner tries to trick him again by sending him in search of a bamboo stalk with one hundred segments, again promising him his daughter if the laborer can find the bamboo stalk.
Khoai set off in search of the bamboo, which is of course impossible to find, so he sits down and weeps. An old, cheery man comes by and asks what is wrong. Khoai tells him what he is searching for and the old man has him bring 100 pieces of bamboo. After it is brough the old man commands, “”Stick together! Stick together!” and it does, making a bamboo with one hundred knots. Khoai can’t carry it though, so the old man, who Khoai realizes must be Buddha, commands it to unstick.
Khoai carries the bundle of one hundred bamboo pieces back home, where he find the preparations for the wedding feast have already begun and the village chief and his son are there. When the landowner laughs at Khoai, he tells them all to come out and see the bamboo. As the landowner approached the pile of bamboo, Khoai said in a low voice “stick together! stick together!”. Immediately the bamboo stems came together and the landowner was also stuck at the end of the bamboo. The landowner tried to pull himself away but can’t. When the village chief tries to help, Khoai utters the command again and the village chief becomes stuck, and his son does next. None can pull away. The families realize they can’t fix the situation and ask Khoai to forgive the three men.
Khoai had the landowner once again promise his daughter to him and the village chief agreed not to seek vengeance. Then Khoai said “unstick! unstick!” and they all became free. The village chief and his family quickly left, and Khoai moved into the bridegroom chair and the celebration continued!
I’m not sure how well Khoai’s going to get along with his father-in-law, but I guess it doesn’t matter. I think this qualifies as a happy ending. I’m going to assume the wife is happy to marry him, though her opinion probably counts for little, arranged marriages were probably standard. I find it interesting that even in the story from Vietnam, the forest, like the woods in European tales, is where the magic lives.
You can read the story several places, including here.
Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.
Thursday’s Tale: The Hundred-know Bamboo Tree