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Thanh Giong (Thánh Gióng)

Vietnamese. ‘Saint Giong’. Name of a Vietnamese mythical folk hero. The epic story relates that when a woman was working in her field she came across a giant footprint and stepped into it to investigate. Upon doing so she felt a strange sensation and she nine months later gave birth to a boy whom she named Giong. When the boy was around 3 years old, invaders from China begun attacking the kingdom in which he and his mother lived. When the King sent out a herald to all the villages in his kingdom in search of a hero to defeat the army of invaders, the three-year old boy volunteered and in order to carry out the task he requested from the King an armor and helmet of iron, a staff of iron, and a fire-breathing horse of iron, which the King ordered custom made for the boy by letting every blacksmith of the country work day and night. Before setting off, Giong, still a small child, ate food from his mother, and grew bigger, yet could not be satiated and asked for more. As he ate, he grew until there was no more food left in his mother’s home, so the villagers brought him more food until he had grown to the size of a small giant. Then Giong donned the helm and armor, bore the staff of iron and rode the iron horse to fight off the invaders. He fought fiercely with his iron staff and ferocious iron horse, but in the midst of fighting his staff broke. Hence, Giong pulled out a bamboo stick from the ground and continued the fight, and eventually emerged victorious. After having saved the kingdom, Giong returned to his village to wish his mother farewell and then guided his horse to the Soc Son Mountain, where he ascended to the sky and was deified, becoming one of the Four Immortals. In honour of his courage and for saving the kingdom, the King ordered for a temple to be erected not far from the place where Giong ascended. Since then, people call him Phu Dong Thien Vuong (Phù Đổng Thiên Vương), i.e. Heavenly King of Phu Dong, and a festival is held every year in memory of the brave hero.