Monthly Archives: October 2013

Two Cakes Fit for a King Folktales from Vietnam A Latitude 20 Book

Two Cakes Fit for a King Folktales from Vietnam A Latitude 20 Book

For centuries, Vietnamese have sustained the history of their nation, both actual and mythic, through their folklore. These stories, passed from generation to generation, contain not only the national saga, but also fundamental cultural values that Vietnamese hold dear. Some stories, like “A Daughter’s Love,” are imaginative accounts of early Vietnamese history. Others, like “The Anger of the Waters” and the title story, “Two Cakes Fit for a King,” provide colorful explanations of the world and how it works. “The Story of Watermelon Island” offers readers a glimpse of the traditional agrarian values and way of life that are the foundation of Vietnamese society. Imaginative and captivating, funny and sometimes tragic, these tales have remained popular and culturally significant for Vietnamese, young and old, for hundreds of years. The intricate illustrations draw on centuries-old painting styles and on natural imagery and everyday life in Vietnam.

User Ratings and Reviews

5 Stars Ten Tales Fit for Everyone
“Two Cakes Fit for a King” is a delightfully entertaining and informative little volume featuring ten Vietnamese folktales, each fascinating in its own way. Something about these deceptively simple stories vividly reveals the worldview and attitudes of the many anonymous people who passed them down from generation to generation by word of mouth while also in their own very particular idiom addressing universal concerns that speak to us all–hard work and self-reliance, love and heartbreak, loyalty and patriotism, filial respect and family solidarity, and so on, to say nothing of a healthy regard for the many forces of nature in all of their awesome and yet precariously capricious power.

The translations are straightforward and have a nice storytelling feel to them in an unpretentiously authentic manner. An introduction by Bui Hoai Mai (whose wonderfully if self-consciously folkish illustrations grace each tale) helpfully describes the characteristics and history of Vietnamese folklore in general and then gives a brief outline of each tale’s background and context of ideas and ideals. The tone throughout is very clear and accessible, making this a great book for the interested generalist as well as for those who wish to leapfrog from this introduction onto more detailed and specific treatments of Vietnamese culture and/or folklore studies. It’s a thin, short little book but sitting back with it makes for an afternoon well spent.

Included in this book are the following folk tales:

1. A Daughter’s Love

2. The Anger of the Waters

3. The Golden Voice

4. Princess Lieu Hanh, Tea-Seller of Ngang Mountain

5. The Infant General of Phu Dong Village

6. Three Drops of Blood

7. The Toad Is the Uncle of the King of Heaven

8. Two Cakes Fit for a King

9. The Story of Watermelon Island

10. The Story of Thach Sanh

4 Stars A good contribution.
The authors are to be thanked for bringing to us ten folktales from Vietnam.

The stories dealt with love, betrayal, hope, but also disappointment. There were kings, lovely princesses, as well as smart commoners. Like in any folktale, the good guy ended up winning. The story about the “three drops of blood” does not seem to be genuinely Vietnamese though.

This is a good introductory book for readers who would like to understand a little more about the Vietnamese and their folklore.

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