The Muong Epic Cycle of ‘The Birth of the Earth and Water’: Main Themes, Motifs and Culture Heroes
This article seeks to introduce into comparative folkloristics an epic tradition of the Muong, one of minority groups in Northern Vietnam. More precisely, it deals with the epic cycle of ‘The Birth of the Earth and Water’ which represents an essential part of the Muong ritual narratives. This cycle was presumably created no later than fifteenth century and intended for practicing mourning rituals. Though in 2015 ritual narratives of the Muong were recognized as national intangible cultural heritage in Vietnam, the Muong epics remain practically unknown and unexplored in Western scholarship.
The article discuss the most common epic themes such as creation, man’s origin and reproduction, acquisition of culture, deeds and fights of the main culture heroes through a number of motifs represented in tales constituting the Muong epic cycle. Comparative analysis of these themes and motifs in global and regional perspectives reveals obvious parallels with their representations in the world folklore as well as some specific variations and local links.