Before the Mongols invade, be sure to distribute mangoes equitably.

Before the Mongols invaded Vietnam for the first time in 1257, the Trần Dynasty emperor gave mangoes to his assisting officers, but for whatever reason, he did not give any to Commandant Hoàng Cự Đà. When the Mongols invaded, Hoàng Cự Đà got in a boat and fled downstream. He then met the heir apparent coming upstream to engage the Mongols in battle. The heir apparent’s men called out to Hoàng Cự Đà and asked where the Mongols were. He responded, “I don’t know. You should ask those who ate the mangoes.”

I have read countless times how the Vietnamese historically always united to fight against foreign invaders. Perhaps that statement should be qualified to say that those Vietnamese who got to eat mangoes united against foreign invaders.

I can understand the attraction. The mango is indeed a powerful fruit. I once walked a kilometer through the torrential rains of an oncoming typhoon to eat mango shaved ice before the shop closed. I have no idea why I thought the shop would still be open, but miraculously it was.

That said, I’m not entirely sure if the fruit in question here was in fact a mango. It is called am la/anluo 菴蘿 in classical Chinese, and in modern Vietnamese it has been translated as xoài and muỗm, both of which are translated into English as “mango.”