Monday, 16 February 2009

The mosquito

In Vietnam, mosquitoes are troublesome and even unbearable at certain times of the year.
Every one detests them, but very few know their history and the reasons why these cursed insects buzz unceasingly in our ears and attempt to such our blood. This legend will explain their origin.
Ngoc Tam, a modest farmer, had married Nhan Diep. The two young people were poor but in excellent health, and they seemed destined to enjoy the happiness of a simple rural life. The husband worked in the paddy and cultivated a small field of mulberry trees, and the wife engaged in raising silkworms.
But Nhan Diep was a coquette at heart. She was lazy, and dreamed of luxury and pleasures. She was also clever enough to hide her desires and ambitions from her husband, whose love for her was genuine. The husband supposed his wife to be content with her lot and happy in her daily chores.
Ngoc Tam toiled diligently, hoping to ease their poverty and improve their station in life.
Oneday, Nhan Diep was suddenly carried away by death. Ngoc Tam was plunged into such deep sorrow that he would not leave his wife's body and opposed her burial.
One day, after having sold his possessions, he embarked in a sampan with the coffin and sailed away.
One morning he found himself at the foot of a fragrant, green hill which perfumed the countryside.
He went ashore and discovered a thousand rare flowers and orchards of trees laden with the most varied kinds of fruit.
There he met an old man who supported himself with a bamboo cane. His hair white as cotton and his face wrinkled and sunburned, but under his blond eyelashes his eyes sparkled like those of a young boy. By this last trait, Ngoc Tam recognized the genie of medicine, who traveled throughout the world on his mountain, Thien Thai, to teach his science to the men of the earth, and to alleviate their ills.
Ngoc Tam threw himself at the genie's feet.
Then the genie spoke to him:
"Having learned of your virtues, Ngoc Tam, I have stopped my mountain on your route. If you wish, I will admit you to the company of my disciples"
Ngoc Tam thanked him profusely but said that he of any life other than the one he would lead with her, and he begged the genie to bring her back to life.
The genie looked at him with kindness mixed with pity and said:
"Why do you cling to this world of bitterness and gall? The rare joys of this life are only a snare. How foolish you were to entrust your destiny to a weak and inconstant being! I want to grant your wishes, but I fear that you will regret it later."

Then, on the genie's order, Ngoc Tam opened the coffin; he cut the tip of his finger and let three drops of blood fall on Nhan Diep's body. The latter opened her eyes slowly, as if awakening from a deep sleep. Then her faculties quickly returned.
"Do not forget your obligations," the genie said to her. "Remember your husband's devotion. May you both be happy."
On the voyage home Ngoc Tam rowed day and night, eager to reach his native land again. One evening he went ashore in a certain port to buy provisions. During his absence a large ship came alongside the wharf, and the owner, a rich merchant, was struck by Nhan Diep's beauty. He entered into conversation with her and invited her to have refreshments aboard his vessel. As soon as she was aboard, he gave the order to cast off and sailed away.
Ngoc Tam searched an entire month for his wife before locating her abroad the merchant's vessel. She answered his questions without the least hesitation, but had grown accustomed to her new life. It satisfied her completely and she refused to return home with him.
Then for the first time, Ngoc Tam saw her in her true light. Suddenly he felt all love for her vanished, and he no longer desired her return.
"You are free," he said to-her. "Only return to me the three drops of blood that I gave to bring you back to life. I do not want to leave the least trace of myself in you."
Happy to be set free so cheaply, Nhan Diep took a knife and cut the tip of her finger. But, as soon as the blood began to flow, she turned pale and sank to the ground. An instant later she was dead.
Even so, the light-hearted frivolous woman could not resign herself to leave this world forever. She returned in the form of a small insect and fol- lowed Ngoc Tam relentlessly, in order to steal the three drops of blood from him, which would restore her to human life. Day and night she worried her former husband, buzzing around him incessantly, protesting her innocence, and begging his pardon. Later, she received the name of "mosquito." Unfor- tunately for us, her race has multiplied many times.