The tree angel had 36 sons, each of
whom helped in the family business, designing trees. Every three
years the old man organized a meeting in which he judged the new
tree designs thought up by his many sons.
The tree angel's youngest son, Tieu Ly, had recently married and
had his own son. Tieu Ly was so thrilled with his infant son
that he could spend the whole day just watching him. One day,
while playing with his baby, Tieu Ly was inspired to design a
This tree, he decided, would have a plump trunk and large
leaves, as smooth as his baby's skin. The tree would bear
delicious fruit, tasting of milk and molasses and shaped like a
baby's fingers. Furthermore, when ripe the fruit would be easy
for small hands to pick.
Tieu Ly got to work, creating a tree with huge leaves. When his
son was older, thought Tieu Ly, these leaves could shield him
from rain or sun. He finished the tree and planted it in his
garden, very pleased with his handiwork.
Unfortunately, Tieu Ly was not the only one attracted by this
new tree. A giant bird, seeing this odd tree, came to
investigate. Then, when Tieu Ly turned his back, the bird stole
all of the tree's seeds.
Tieu Ly went back to the drawing board. He decided that, to
protect the tree from this ferocious bird, the tree would
reproduce from its roots. The seeds would remain in the fruit,
but they would never bud.
The bird watched Tieu Ly's work with interest. That night, it
flew into the garden and ate most of the fruit. Tieu Ly spent
many sleepless nights trying to guard his tree. But the moment
he shut his eyes the bird would swoop down and steel the
One night, Tieu Ly woke with a start to see the bird tugging at
the tree's fruit. Tieu Ly lunged at the bird but it was too
quick, leaving him with nothing but a handful of feathers. The
bird, however, was alarmed by its close call and, from then on,
kept a careful eye on Tieu Ly's hands. This gave Tieu Ly an
idea: He would arrange the fruit in clusters that were shaped
like a human hand.
The bird saw what looked like hands sprouting from the tree and
was too afraid to come closer. The fruit, therefore, ripened and
the tree grew strong and straight.
Finally it came time for the tree angel to review his sons'
trees. Tieu Ly was the last to appear, placing his little tree
beside his brothers' creations. There were some amazing trees,
some big, some small, and in many different colours.
The tree angel stopped beside each tree and listened to his
sons' explanations. The more he saw the more impressed he was by
his children's creativity. Finally he stood before Tieu Ly's
tree. When Tieu Ly explained that his tree was designed to
please babies, the old man was delighted. With a joyful laugh he
announced that Tieu Ly's tree was the winning design.
Everyone spoke of Tieu Ly's entry as the "last" tree. The
Vietnamese word for "last" is "cuoi", and this word was
eventually mispronounced as "chuoi", or banana.
Today, the "hands" on a banana tree have more than five fingers.
Since children love to eat bananas, Tieu Ly's helpful tree has
adapted to give them more fruit. In this way the banana tree
continues to serve the purpose of its creator Tieu Ly, the
child-loving son of the tree angel.