Central Highlands epics, comprising hundreds of stories, some familiar and many unfamiliar to the public, are considered an important cultural treasure of Vietnam.
In addition to independent epics of medium length like Dam San (2077 sentences) and Khinh Du (5880 sentences), there are epic series consisting of multiple works linked to each other by a set of characters and consistent narrative style.
Some examples are the M’nong epic Ot Drong, the Bana epic Dong, and the Xo Dang epic Dam Duong. Each of these series comprises approximately 100 works telling a long, continuous story.
They are among the longest epics in the world, comparable to the Indian epic Ramayana and the Finnish epic Kalevala, according to experts.
These epics described the ups and downs of a community, providing a view of a society during a certain period. The heroic characters depicted in epics embody their community’s dreams and passions in different ways, according to A Jar of Kon Tum city.
"Although their names are pronounced differently, the heroic characters are pretty much the same. The characters “Zuong” and “Guong” of the Bana epics are known as “Duong” and “Dia” by the Xo Dang ethnic group. All represent their group’s aspirations," said A Jar.
Unlike many ancient epics like the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Ramayana, and the Kalevala, which now appear only in books, Vietnam’s Central Highlands epics are still being performed in their community and passed orally from generation to generation.
"While the M’nong people’s epics are poems, those of the Bana and Xo Dang groups include both prose and poems. Translations of those epics into Vietnamese is very rudimentary with just the major outline being preserved. We really hope that linguists skilled both in an ethnic language and Vietnamese will someday translate those epics into poems that are faithful to the versions being performed by ethnic artists," said Associate Professor Vo Quang Trong, Director of the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.
The Central Highlands epics have been assembled into a 64,000-page collection which includes 75 epics of the Ba Na, Cham, Ede, M’nong, Raglai, and Xo dang ethnic groups.