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Revisit the Legend of Hoàn Kiếm via Stunning Illustrations by Artist Rồng Phạm

At the heart of Hanoi is Hồ Hoàn Kiếm with a legend that has been told countless times. 

The tale inspired local artist Rồng Phạm to create a set of vibrant artworks that are not only stunning to look, at but also portray an important Vietnamese folk tale. For this reason, the Kim Đồng publishing company requested permission to use these illustrations in their new children's book, The Legend of the Sword Lake. The story combines both historical and magical realism elements to depict the original story of Hanoi's central lake.

In the 14th century, China’s Ming Dynasty invaded Vietnam. Theirs was a cruel rule, and in Lam Son, Thanh Hoa, the youngest son of a nobleman, Lê Lợi, raised an army of 500 soldiers — the Lam Son uprising. The insurgents waged war in the hope to win their country back, but the enemy was too strong, and they kept losing battles.

After witnessing the faith and courage of the Lam Son army, the Dragon King decided to let them borrow his magic sword. The blade was sent to a fisherman in Thanh Hoa; the hilt was found by Lê Lợi himself.

When the blade and hilt were joined, the sword glowed and became razor-sharp. Two words were inscribed on the blade: Thuận Thiên (Heaven's Will).

Seeing the sword, everybody knelt down before Lê Lợi and said: “Perhaps this is a magic sword given by the heavens to help us fight the invaders. We ask the general to take the sword and lead our army to drive the Ming invaders out of our country, so that the people can enjoy a peaceful life."

The sword gave Lê Lợi the strength of a thousand men. The tide of the war began to turn, and the Lam Son army won all the battles thereafter. The Ming invaders were driven from the land. Lê Lợi became king, and peace reigned once again.

One year later, when Lê Lợi and his servants were enjoying a boat trip on what was then called Tả Vọng Lake, suddenly a golden turtle rose from the clear blue water and said: “Your Majesty, in the past, the Dragon King lent you a magic sword to fight the enemy. Now that the great work is done, please return the sword to the King.”

Hearing this, Lê Lợi took off the sword beside him, held it in both hands, and offered it to the golden turtle. The sword suddenly flew from the king's hand to the turtle's mouth. The golden turtle took the sword, dove into the lake and disappeared.

That day, Tả Vọng Lake was renamed Hoàn Kiếm, with hoàn meaning to return, and kiếm meaning sword.

To view more artworks by Rồng Phạm, visit his Behance page here.

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