Phan Thị Company’s Thần Đồng Đất Việt (Prodigies of Việt Nam) comics for children, which used to be based mostly on fables and myths, have broken free from the pack with a new series about Việt Nam’s sovereignty over Paracel and Spratly islands.
The 10-episode series features Tí, Thần Đồng Đất Việt ’s staple hero, a fictional prodigy who lived in centuries past, and his sidekicks Sửu, Dần, and Mẹo.
Over the years each of the popular comic’s 100-odd issues has been about one of Tí’s adventures with his friends.
Its compelling mix of folk stories with a dash of true history and funny illustrations and dialogue has meant it is the only local comic to manage to withstand the onslaught of western comics and manga.
It has now turned its sights to educating children about the country’s historical era, when the Nguyễn Dynasty (1802-1945) imposed its sovereignty over the islands.
The first episode, titled Khẳng định chủ quyền (Assertion of Sovereignty) and released last September, was well received by both readers and experts.
“It [Phan Thi’s special edition] is a good and laudable deed, particularly since we are in a stalemate over history education for years.”
Wrote blogger Phước Béo.
“It is an appealing and appropriate way to raise awareness of the country’s history among the younger generation.”
Historian Dr. Nguyễn Nhã, who edited the comics, said at the launching ceremony:
“Recalling history is a way to show your patriotism and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed to protect the country.”
Phan Thị Mỹ Hạnh, director of Phan Thị Company, told Thanh Niên News that the lack of children’s books about Việt Nam’s marine history persuaded her to publish the first comics on the subject.
“Historical book like Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (complete annals of Đại Việt – official historical text of the Lê Dynasty in the 14th century) are a big challenge for children [to understand].”
“The comics [Thần Đồng Đất Việt] could help them absorb history more easily.”
But it is not simple to create a comic strip on a historical theme, she said.
“We spent a year just to collect and understand a lot of historical documents.
Creating a storyline suitable for children was another difficulty.
We discarded an almost fully done episode of 108 pages since it did not meet our expectation.
And it took months to replace. “
The reference sources included tons of books by many publishers and old newspapers.
The second comic in the series, titled Lãnh thổ An Nam (An Nam Territory), was published last December, and the third, Khám phà Hoàng Sa (Exploring the Paracels), will be released during the street book festival in Hồ Chí Minh City next month.
According to a Phan Thị communications executive, the series will lay out the evidence proving Việt Nam’s sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly islands in the past, explore the islands’ terrain, and describe how the Nguyễn Dynasty’s military vessels operated.
Hạnh said though the series is about history, the comic’s traditional humor has been retained.
Interestingly, after the first issue the Chinese media seemed to go into a frenzy over the evidence laid out of the Nguyễn Dynasty’s first emperor, Gia Long, establishing Việt Nam’s sovereignty over the waters and islands of the East Sea in the early 19th century.
The comic also evokes Minh Mạng (the Nguyễn’s second emperor)’s resolution on Việt Nam’s self-determination and his planting the first national flag on Paracel.
“Whether they [Chinese] object or not, the historical evidence is immutable.”
“It is our and society’s responsibility to enrich children’s knowledge of their national history.”
She said luckily the comics have been hailed by the local media and supported by readers.
“Many schools and district youth unions also helped take the books to students.
We received a lot of feedback, which will improve the coming episodes.”
Netizens attributed the comics’ success to Phan Thị’s cleverness in using a hot-button social issue like the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.
Hạnh told online newspaper Voice of Việt Nam (VOV) that she is not too worried about profits from this series.
The comics cost VND32,000 (US$1.6) each and would be translated into English, Japanese, and Chinese for online circulation and free download, she said.
Earlier Tuổi Trẻ Publishing House published an educational picture book series for children with one episode being titled Bu Bu đi du lịch Trường Sa (Bu Bu travels to Spratly).
But it was about the islands’ landscapes.
Nguyễn Huy Thắng, editorial director of publisher Kim Đồng, told VOV that his company too plans to publish children’s books on the country’s coastal region.
Source: Thanh Niên News