A Trickster

A folk hero of Vietnam, Trạng Quỳnh has bequeathed laughter to generations of Vietnamese. This folk character is based on a historical figure, Nguyễn Quỳnh who lived during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Trạng Quỳnh exploits the polyglossic and heteroglossic conditions of Vietnam, a boundary-crosser who disrupts and transforms the established Truth of his time. As a mandarin at the imperial court, he ignores hierarchical social forms, decorum, and ceremonies. In the story “Thi Ngũ Quả,” for example, he presents the Lord Trịnh with a painting of a woman rather than a platter of five fruits, depicting his portrait as follows:

The lady’s head is a pomelo, her eyes like longans, breasts like peaches, palms like Buddha’s Hands, her garden, a fragrant wedge of jackfruit.