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The Great Flood According to Hmong

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Long, long ago, there was a great flood that engulfed the world. People and animals were tragically swept away with their homes. Mountains disappeared into the water, and boats could not withstand the raging storms. Among the chaos, there was a loving Hmong couple who hatched a plan to save their children—a son and a daughter of nine and ten. They placed the children into a large, red drum and sealed them inside with an enchantment. The drum had two faces made from cow skin, one at each end of the wooden body. This particular drum was created and used only for funerals to accompany another instrument that ferries the dead to the afterlife. Within a day, the sea swallowed the earth, and all that remain was the enchanted drum with the children safely inside.

After the waters of the great flood had receded, the drum that had been the children's refuge came to rest in a deep green valley. The brother and sister soon realized they were no longer floating on water. They knew they had landed on stable ground, so they unsealed the drum and emerged from it. As they ventured out, their feet greeted the fertile earth, and the valley embraced them with its lush greenery. The aromatic blend of flora and damp moss, rain, and wet tree trunks filled the air. The sun-kissed valley was a paradise, flowing with waterfalls and a wide, clear river. Schools of fish danced in the waters as the children continued to explore their new home. They found food growing on trees and vines, and found animals, cotton, and wool. They made tools and built shelter. Over time, the siblings discovered that they were the only two humans left alive.

As time passed, the siblings grew into adults, the brother, with hair as dark as the twilight shadows, looked upon his sister, whose golden locks caught the sun's rays, and her beauty was a reflection of their lost mother. With checks and lips the shade of pink petals, the brother often thought his sister was quite pretty to look at besides his own reflection in the water, stirring feelings within him that transcended their bond as siblings.

One day, the brother proposed earnestly, “We should get married, since we are the last two people left on earth.” Perhaps it was because they spent every day together hunting, gathering, cooking, and protecting each other in wild. Whatever the reason, they were still the only people left on earth.

The sister, however, greatly disagreed as they were family. She took the uneasy feeling in her stomach as a sign, and made a different suggestion, “Let’s ask the god in the sky for guidance?”

The siblings stood on a high mountain. The brother shouted to the sky, “Great god! There are no other humans left on earth. Can we be married?”

Golden light beamed through the fluffy white clouds and a majestic voice from the heavens replied, “Stand at separate ends of the valley, each person on an opposite mountain top. Then each of you, roll a stone into the valley. If the stones land on each other, then you are meant to be married companions. If the stones do not cover one another, then you are not meant for each other.”

The siblings stood on separate peaks facing each other with the valley below. They each held a stone bigger than their hands could carry. They pushed the heavy rocks down the slopes, watching them roll down the side of the mountains. The sister followed the path of her rolling stone, while the brother chased his tumbling stone into the valley.

The brother arrived at the scene first and saw that fate did not join the stones that had passed each other. In his desperation, the brother quickly picked up his stone and covered the other, an act that was seen by the sister. “There! They have landed on each other,” lied the brother.

“That’s not right. I saw you cover my stone with yours,” said the sister. “Let us ask the great god again.” She did not want this strange marriage.

So once again the siblings found themselves on the highest peak. This time the sister spoke into the fluffy white clouds, seeking divine help, “Great god! What shall we do?”

The majestic voice from the heavens replied, “Since there are no other humans, then you must perform another task to see if you are both meant to be together. Return to your mountains once more. This time the sister will have a needle, and the brother will have a thread. Both of you, cast your items into the valley. If the thread pierces through the needle hole, then you two are allowed to be married.”

The siblings did as they were told by the great god in the sky. Under the vast blue sky, the siblings stood on opposite ranges again with a challenge that seemed simple yet impossible. The sister launched the needle spinning through the air. At the same time, the brother cast the thread into the valley. Fate had the items passed by one another without contact, but the brother arrived at the scene first again, and he quickly threaded the needle. The sister arrived just in time for him to show her the proof of their items—miraculously, the thread had looped through the needle’s eye.

“The needle is threaded!” claimed the brother, overjoyed.

The sister was defeated, and though doubt whispered in her heart that something is not right, but she had no say in this matter anymore.

The siblings soon became husband and wife. After the first year, the wife gave birth to a child, but the poor creature was without a head nor limbs. The child was nothing more than a round lump of flesh the size of their fists. Confused, the married couple traveled up the steep mountain and presented their child to the great god.

“What should we do with this unusual child?” asked the husband.

The heavenly voice spoke, “Divide it into equal pieces. Place two pieces among the sheep, the pigs, bamboos, and even on your bed. Spread the pieces in pairs in as many places as you can.”

The couple went back to the valley and did as they were instructed by the great god. They divided the round ball of flesh into equal pieces and laid them in as many places as they could find. The next morning, the husband and wife woke up a to chattering noise and the smokey smell of wood-fire.

They ran to where the sheep lay and found a young human couple cooking on the land.

“Who are you?” asked the wife.

“We are Hmong Lee,” replied the other human couple.

Excited, the married couple hurried to where the pigs roamed and discovered a second human couple working in the field. They asked, “Who are you?”

“We are Hmong Moua,” said the second human couple.

The married couple dashed into the bamboo forest to see a young man and woman building a home out of bamboo. They asked, “Who are you?”

“We are Hmong Xiong,” answered the third human couple.

Wherever the married couple had spread the pieces of their child, in that place a new human couple had emerged. Perfect human beings, fully grown, and speaking the same language. Be it eighteen or twenty places, each were a unique and different clan of people. So began the origins of Hmong.

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