This story tells how the delicious fruit the watermelon came to Vietnam many centuries ago.
The hero of the legend is Prince Mai An Tiem who was adopted by the king of Vietnam. His brother grew envious of him, and started to plot against him. If you want to know how watermelons come into it all - well you had better listen to the story.
Today watermelons are associated with the New Year in Vietnam - called the Tet festival. People eat roast watermelon seeds at the time of the festival.
Read by Natasha. Version by Bertie. Duration 10.10.
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
The Watermelon Prince
Many centuries ago, a gale blew across the land of Vietnam. It leaned on the palm trees so that they bent their branches to the ground, and it grabbed red tiles from the roof of the great palace and chucked them across the courtyard. Out at sea, great waves made war on the cliffs, pounding them with all the force of nature. Most of the local fisherman had seen the storm coming from afar, and had pulled their boats well back from the shore, and tied them fast to the ground. But a merchant ship was caught in the storm, and its hull was dashed to splinters on the rocks. Everyone on board was drowned, except for one. By some miracle, the waves carried a basket containing a newly born baby, and deposited it on the beach not far from the great palace. The morning after the storm, a fisherman’s wife was out walking along along the beach and searching through the debris for anything of value. She heard the baby’s cries, and discovered its basket under some torn-off palm leaves. She knew from the swaddling clothes of the child that he belonged to a rich family, and not knowing what else to do, she took him to the palace in search of a reward.
When the king heard of this infant who had been saved from the storm by a miracle, he thought that it must be a very special child indeed. He adopted him as his own, and he grew up to be Prince Mai An Tiem.
Mai An Tiem proved to be a popular young man, with wisdom and knowledge beyond his years. Often the king’s councillors would consult his opinion before reaching an decision, because he understood the king’s heart and his wishes better than anyone else. His adopted father loved him as much, if not more, than his natural sons.
When Mai An Tiem turned twenty years old, the king arranged for him to marry one of his daughters, Princess Ko Ba, who had been his friend since childhood. The celebration was the most extravagant of the king’s reign. So much so, that the king’s own son, Prince Hau, grew envious, for the lavishness of the wedding party far exceeded his own.
“My father means to adopt Mai An Tiem as his successor,” he thought to himself. “I must stop this.”
So Prince Hau bought a large bribe to the head of the king’s bodyguards, and a slightly smaller bribe to the head of his household. In return for this payment, these officials started to spread ugly rumours about Main An Tiem.
"He grows arrogant."
"The king’s favoritism has gone to his head."
"He is plotting a coup."
The further the rumours spread, the less clear it was where they had begun. Eventually the head bodyguard came to the king and said that Mai An Tiem had tried to recruit his services to overthrow the king. At first the king would not believe this lie against his adopted son, but soon others in the palace, who confused rumour for fact, backed it up. With great sorrow in his heart the king decreed that Mai An Tiem was guilty of plotting treason, and must be banished from the kingdom forevermore. His wife, Princess Ko Ba, swore that she would follow him to the ends of the earth. Soon the couple boarded a ship, which took them far out to sea, and deposited them on a desert island.
Mai An Tiem and Ko Ba did not despair, for although they had lost all the privileges, friends, and comforts, they had each other at least. They found a stream with fresh water, and they built a hut for themselves out of leaves and branches. They made nets for fishing and they learned how to climb trees to pick bananas and shake down coconuts. Although everything they ate was fresh and good, their diet lacked anything that you might call a special treat. Ko Ba began to dream of sumptuous banquets.
One day, after they had been on the island for several years, Mai An Tiem was walking along the cliffs when he saw a flock of birds, squabbling excitedly amongst themselves. As he drew closer, he saw that the cause of all their excitement were some black seeds. He picked up a handful, and when he reached home, he scattered them on the ground around their hut and along the stream.
Many months later, during one of the hottest times of the year, he noticed that some unusual plants had begun to sprout on the spot where he had spread the seeds. Over the coming weeks, they spread like a vine along the ground, and then some fruits started to bud under the leaves. These grew into enormous green fruits, the likes of which he had never seen before. On cutting them open, he discovered within them soft, red flesh. He cut off a piece and popped it into his mouth, and it melted on his tongue like no other. When, a little later, Ko Ba tasted the fruit, she was enormously happy and pleased. It was her first treat in seven years.
The couple decided to call the fruit the red melon, and the were careful to spread the seeds and grow a second crop. The red melons – which we know as watermelons – were one of the greatest joys of their life on the island.
One day, when Mai An Tiem was sitting on the beach, contemplating the vast ocean, and the way his life had turned out. He idly carved his name on a watermelon, and tossed it into the waves, wondering where it would wash up. Perhaps some one in some far away land would be lucky enough to find the delicious fruit, and would forever more thank the name of Mai An Tiem that was engraved on its skin.
Just as the ocean tide had been a friend to Mai An Tiem when he was a baby, so it proved now. The current carried the watermelon back to the Kingdom of Vietnam. A fisherman’s wife found the wondrous fruit on the beach, and she took it to the palace in hope of a reward. When the king saw the name that was carved on the fruit, he marvelled at the reminder of his long banished son. He tasted the red flesh of the fruit inside, and it was so delicious that he thought it was the greatest present that could be bestowed on a king, who was so wealthy that he had every other pleasure that a human being could desire. He thought with love of Mai An Tiem and in his heart he forgave him. Two weeks after that, a ship sent by the king, came to the desert island to bring Mai An Tiem and Ko Ba back to the palace. Eventually Mai An Tiem became king of Vietnam and he ruled wisely to the end of his days.