During 15th century Vietnam, emperor Le Loi found in his possession a most powerful sword–a sword with which lead to a victory against the Chinese, reclaiming Vietnam’s independence.
While sailing on a lake in Hanoi formerly known as Luc Thuy, or “Green Water,” a giant, golden turtle (“Kim Qui”) appeared and took the sword from Le Loi. The turtle submerged to the depths of the lake, where it is said to have guarded the sword for future use, if Vietnam were to be invaded again.
After searching fruitlessly for the magical weapon and turtle, Le Loi accepted that the sword had served its purpose and must be returned. Thus, he renamed the lake “Ho Hoan Kiem” – Lake of the Returned Sword.
At least, that’s what happened according to the famous legend. Today, the lake is home to one of the only four remaining turtles of the critically endangered Rafetus swinhoei species, a giant soft-shelled turtle considered a sacred symbol in Vietnamese culture. A pair resides at Suzhou Zoo in China, and the fourth in Son Tay, Vietnam.
Imagine the alarm that spread when lesions and other injuries caused by pollution were spotted on the cherished turtle’s feet and shell. Many attempts were made to rescue the female turtle for medical treatment, but it wasn’t until early April, months later, that she was successfully caught. The job took two hours and over fifty rescuers. Bystanders cheered as she was finally brought onto land.
Known as The Great Grandfather (her sex hadn’t been determined until this recent rescue), the turtle weighs 372 pounds and is estimated to be over 100 years old.
After three months of treatment, she was well enough to return to the lake on July 12. VietNamNet Bridge reported that the lake had also been cleaned and stocked with carp, chubs, and anabas for the turtle to eat.
And so our legendary turtle lives on, continuing to protect that magical sword at the bottom of the lake.