The world already has its fair share of bloodsucker, from China's stiff corpse to the Philippines ' half-bodied Mananangal. Which, by the way, is technically a type of Aswang, or ghoul, but it sucks blood, so it counts here. The more media-famous, though, is the bat-like depiction of the demon in Dracula. There's a less well-known subspecies in Vietnam, though, and it... uh, well, it's unique, I'll tell you that!
1. Story summary:
The Ma Cà Rồng appeared officially for the first time in a book named "Kiến Văn Tiểu Lục" by a famous scholar – Lê Quý Đôn. Written in the 18th century, it described a newfound type of spirits in the province of Hưng Hóa, a part of the modern-day Vietnam Nothern mountainous area. When globalization started, things got lost in translation. Plane-walkers from Western cultures mistook the creature as the same as their vampire. Over time, we Practitioners got too used to it that now the term is used for both species of blood-sucking demons.
If we look into the word origins of their names, Vietnamese "Ma" means the same thing as Chinese "Mo," as in "Yu Mo Gui Gwai." Sometimes, it refers to ghosts, but most of the time, we just use them as a brand for all spiritual threats. Remember that vendetta against cool names?
"Cà rồng" or sometimes "Cà rằng" might be the way the Kinh ethnic (which make up most of Vietnam's population) try to pronounce the word "Krung" – from the Tai-Kadai language family – in Vietnamese. For those who don't know, the language family consists of around 70 languages used throughout south China, North Vietnam, Lao, and Thailand. I'm not precisely a linguist expert and even less of a sociable guy, so don't take my word on this. "Krung" in Thai would mean "city"; for instance, Bangkok's native name: "Krung Thep Maha Nakhon," would be "City of Angels." So, Ma Cà Rồng might mean "City Ghost," which is kinda misleading considering their properties.
2. Motivation and background:
They're bloodsuckers. They prefer the blood of pregnant women, but they can also go for ordinary people's blood or other bodily fluid like pus or sputum. They'd more accurately be classified as bodily-fluid-suckers, but that's just a mouthful and doesn't sound cool at all, does it?
Biologically, like all creatures imported/migrated into Vietnam, they can either be the same type of spirits and demons from neighboring countries under different names or a separate species sharing a common ancestor to them. And yes, if you haven't learned about this stuff from your parents or master, the flora and fauna of mythical creatures do evolve, just like in biology. The process is slightly different from Darwin's theory and all the other scientific theories, though. It can sometimes be faster or slower than what it would take compared to the standard variety of animals and plants.
For the Ma Cà Rồng, specifically, there's one thing you must know: If I were to put this demon into more familiar terms for Western Plane-walkers or new practitioners familiar with mortal's media, it'd be a mix of western vampire, werewolf, and, believe it or not, the titular character of Robert Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
They looked just like an average human, at least during day time, only their behaviors are different.
Although, their nighttime appearance is a different story. Truth be told, the first time I saw one of them, I laughed so hard I had to be dragged away to safety.
_ Split personality:
It's commonly believed that the Ma Cà Rồng have two personalities sharing one body; one is the human, the other a spirit. During the day, the human half is in control. Retaining none of the demon persona's memory, they act and work like any ordinary person. Understand what I meant about Jekyll and Hyde yet? You can throw them into a crowd, and they'll blend right in. You won't be able to tell them from the mortals we strive to protect, so pro-tip: if you ever identify one, don't ever take your eyes off it.
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Stop!! Before you tap that little arrow and venture back into a sea of fantasies out there, hear me out. This book has a she-demon who kill a god for Tinder, a race of blood suckers with toes fetish, and a feline necromancer on steroid. Curious? I'l...