Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vietnamenglish Fairy Tails: The Dirty King Guy

I used to boast that we were raising our kids to be bilingual.  My wife spoke to them mostly in Vietnamese, and I spoke to them mostly in English.  There was a time when they knew almost the same number of words in each language.  The problem is that everyone else, aside from their Vietnamese relatives, spoke to them mostly in English too.  So the Vietnamese has fallen by the wayside.  They still say a few random phrases in their mother's mother tongue, like "earrings" and "go to work" (much to the confusion of their preschool teachers), but, yeah, they're pretty much monolingual.

And yet, they continue to love the Vietnamese books that we got for them when they were younger.  Every once in a while, Mom reads the books in their original language; but more often, the girls want me to "read" them in English.  Since I only know enough Vietnamese to get through about a third of the menu at a Banh Mi shop, this entails making shit up.  It's kind of fun, but a lot more difficult than saying words that are already written while daydreaming about pie.

The following is a "translation" of one of their favorite Vietnamese books, which I call:

The Dirty King Guy

(The Dirty King Guy)

 (There was once a boy named Jeremy, who loved more than anything to have his father sit on his back while he did push-ups.  Jeremy was very strong!  But one day, a worm popped out of a loaf of bread and said, "Hey old man--either that kid goes, or I do."

Since it's very bad luck to disagree with a worm, Jeremy's dad sent the boy out to fend for himself.)

 (Jeremy learned to live on fungus and owl guano that he found near the cottage where he used to live.  Hoping that the worm would allow him to return home one day, Jeremy never wandered far from his father's house. 

But one day, he followed a mysterious trail of marzipan balls deep into the forest.

After hours of walking, he came upon a moonlit grove, where six other little boys, all of whom were also victims of tyrannical invertebrates, wept.

"What's wrong, you guys?" asked Jeremy.

"We hate eating mushrooms," they all cried.  "We want turkey.")

 ("Don't worry, fellas!"  Jeremy said.  "We can follow this trail of marzipan balls back to my father's house.  He might have some turkey!"

It was a good thing that George Washington, dressed as a clown, was at that very moment giving Jeremy's father a magic turkey leg!)

 (Jeremy's father used the magic turkey leg to make the best dinner Jeremy and his friends had ever tasted, with turkey, apples, pears, two different kinds of grapes, bread and soup.

"Son--I sure wish I could ask you to stay the night, but, you know, the worm..."  His father said.  Jeremy sighed.  "But hey," said his father, "why don't you and your friends take some floppy hats when you go!"

The children shuffled back into the forest with their new hats.  Jeremy was surprised to see a group of birds eating some delicious cashews.")

 (Late that night, while climbing trees by the light of the full moon, Jeremy spotted a castle in the distance.  "Let's go see if there's any turkey in there!" He yelled to his friends.

When they knocked on the door, Edith Bunker answered and said, "Oooh...I don't know if my husband wants any little boys in the castle.")

 (Edith Bunker's husband was called the Dirty King Guy. He was ugly and cruel, and carried a jagged prison shiv wherever he went.

"Now, where did I put my collection of eyeballs?" he asked himself as he got ready for bed.

Jeremy tiptoed in his wooden shoes past the seven ugly princesses, asleep in their bed.  He was still determined to find more turkey.)

 ("Hahahahaha..." laughed the Dirty King Guy, licking his chops.  "I'm going to shank this strawberry blond hillbilly and gobble him up.  I'll bet he tastes like Cheetos!"

After he had eaten the hillbilly, the Dirty King Guy floated above the earth, brandishing his knife at the heavens.  "Raaaawwwwwrrrg," he said.)

 (The next morning, Jeremy found the Dirty King Guy sleeping off his feast under a tree.  "Hey," thought Jeremy, "I'll bet those shoes smell really really bad.  But they sure look more comfortable than my clogs."  He snatched up the shoes and took them to an enchanted cobbler to have them shrunk.

Once his shoes were ready, Jeremy ran all the way to the castle of Father Time, crying, "Look at my purple shoes, Father Time!  Look at them!  I'm the happiest boy in the world!"

"Those smell bad," said Father Time.  "Would you like a bite of this turkey leg?")

 (Meanwhile, back at the Dirty King Guy's castle, Edith Bunker was furious at her husband for losing his best shoes and eating her brother.

And they all lived happily ever-after.)


A couple very funny ladies encouraged me to do more of these translations after they read the one I did about The Revenge of the Baby Goats and thought it was funny.  I hope you enjoyed this, Nicole and Kim!   Thanks for all your kind words and support!


  1. I was so surprised to see Edith Bunker make an appearance in this wonderful children's tale! It's good to know a woman her age can still find work in literature despite her death many years ago.

    However, I was saddened to see the terrible Caucasian people that the Vietnamese Children's Book Writer's Society have chosen to write about once again.

    Shame on you, VCBWS! Shame on you!

    Thank you again for your translation, Beta Dad.

    1. Edith Bunker's career as a zombie character actor is getting ready to blow up. Mark my words.

  2. I should not have read this while at work - it is that funny!! I hope that you tell this story, verbatim, to your little ones. ;)


    1. It varies a little each time I tell it, but I try to stick to the major plot points.

  3. Yeah, that was awesome! I agree that there must be more of these! Hilarious!

  4. I LOVE this! Found you through Ninja Mom. I can't wait to read your translation to my kids (they're older). And I think you're right about the strawberry blondie--he'd definitely be Cheeto flavored.

  5. In tears. It's as good as its goaty cousin. I shared it everywhere and when I am famous (or infamous, whichever comes first) I will make everyone who wants my autograph (or a prison interview) read these two things first. Then we will all be happy and peace will ensue.

    1. Weird. I thought it was spelled "Goatse." Just googled it to make sure, and it turns out "Goatse" is something else entirely.

      I'm so glad I have friends who will be famous soon!

  6. Bajeezus H Cripes on a Crumbled Cracker. When Edith showed up, I just about lost my mind laughing.
    I swear on all that is cheesecake that I will find a way for you to make your fortune in translating Vietnamese books. For me. Personally.
    Off to share this with the entire world, because holy shitsticks on a tick, you make me laugh.

    1. The best thing about the internet is finding other weirdos who think you're funny. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  7. Bahahaha! I was just reading scholarly articles about fairy tales until my eyes bled, and I took a break to read this. Everything makes sense now.


    1. You know what's good for bleeding eyes? Turkey legs. True story.

      If you need more breaks from your scholarly articles, you can read a bunch of fake ones I wrote. Type "rhetorical analysis" or "literary analysis" in the search bar here. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  8. This reminds me of a Spanish book my children picked up at the library about a frog who seems to be unwilling to go to bed. My version of the story is, I'm certain, far better than whatever the author wrote (just as yours is, I'm sure).

  9. Edith did me in, is there a sequel so we know what happened to the worm?

  10. Huh. That's so funny. I always that that story was about chicken, not turkey.


Don't hold back.


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