Âu Cơ (嫗姬) was, according to the creation myth of the Vietnamese people, an immortal mountain fairy who married Lạc Long Quân (literally: "Dragon Lord of Lac"), and bore an egg sac that hatched a hundred children known collectively as Bach Viet, ancestors to the Vietnamese people. Âu Cơ is often honored as the mother of Vietnamese civilization.
Âu Cơ was a young, beautiful fairy who lived high in the mountains. She traveled to heal those who suffered because she was skillful in medicine and had a sympathetic heart. One day, a monster frightened her, so she turned into a crane to fly away. Lạc Long Quân, a dragon king from the sea, saw her in danger, so he grabbed a rock and killed the monster. When Au Co stopped to see who helped her, she turned back into a fairy and fell instantly in love with her benefactor. She bore an egg sac from which hatched 100 children. However, despite their love, she desired to be in the mountains again and he yearned for the sea. They separated, each taking 50 children. Au Co settled in mountainous northern Vietnam where she raised 50 young, intelligent, strong leaders, later known as the Hùng Vương, Hùng kings.
In Vietnamese literature
The books Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (from the 15th century) and Lĩnh Nam chích quái (Wonders plucked from the dust of Linh-nam, from the 14th century) mention the legend. In Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư Âu Cơ is the daughter of Đế Lai (also known as Đế Ai 帝哀, or Emperor Ai, who was a descendant of Shennong), while in Lĩnh Nam chích quái she is the wife of Đế Lai. The story of Âu Cơ and Lạc Long Quân is taught widely in Vietnamese schools.
In her pamphlet about the Vietnam War, called simply Vietnam, the American author Mary McCarthy mentions the use of the Vietnamese creation myth by American agents seeking to rally patriotic support for South Vietnam.
- Dông Phong Papy, conte-nous ta terre lointaine Page 15 2009 "En effet, le peuple vietnamien descend du mariage du Roi Dragon et de la fée Âu Cơ. Le Roi Dragon avait son royaume dans les profondeurs de la mer et la fée Âu Cơ était originaire des montagnes qui bordent encore le delta du Fleuve ..."
- Philip Taylor Modernity and Re-Enchantment: Religion in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam 2007 Page 68 "According to legend, all Vietnamese people can trace their ancestry back to the marriage of the dragon father Lạc Long Quân and the fairy mother Âu Cơ. This magical union produced an egg sac from which hatched one hundred human ..."
- Leeming, David Adams, Creation myths of the world: an encyclopedia, Vol. 1, ABC-CLIO, 2010. p. 270.
- Nghia M. Vo Saigon: A History 2011- Page 285 "According to legend, King Lạc Long Quân wed fairy Âu Cơ who gave him 100 children. Both considered to be the ancestors of the Vietnamese nation, they later split up; taking 50 children, he settled along the coastal area and founded the ..."
- Keith Weller Taylor: The Birth of Vietnam. Revision of thesis (Ph.D.). Appendix A, p. 303. University of California Press (1991); ISBN 0-520-07417-3
- Huangfu Mi. Records on Generations of Kings and Emperors 帝王世紀. Article "Shennong-shi". Rulers from Shennong-shi were: (1) Shennong-shi 神農氏; (2) Emperor Lin Kui 帝临魁; (3) Emperor Cheng 帝承; (4) Emperor Ming 帝明; (5) Emperor Zhi 帝直; (6) Emperor Li 帝釐; (7) Emperor Ai 帝哀; and (8) Emperor Yu Wang 帝榆罔.
- Marie-Carine Lall, Edward Vickers Education As a Political Tool in Asia 2009 Page 143 "... the cradle of 'Vietnamese-ness'. The history of the country really started around 800 bc with the Văn Lang kingship. Children learn about the legends of the nation's birth, which feature heroic figures such as Kinh Dương Vương, Âu Cơ – Lạc Long Quân ..."
- Jonathan D London Education in Vietnam 2011 Page 68 "Âu Cơ origin goddess"
- Friedman, Amy. "One Hundred Kings - a Legend of Ancient Vietnam", South Florida Sun Sentinel, 12 July 2005, pg. 8
- Taylor, Sandra C. Vietnamese Women at War (Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1999)
- Turner, Karen Gottschang. Even the Women Must Fight (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998)
- Willing, Indigo A. “The Adopted Vietnamese Community: From Fairy Tales to the Diaspora”, Michigan Quarterly Review 43, no. 4 (2004)