general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Tale – Korea

Gae ggol jang ee

“When we would go to sleep or something, my kmom would tell me a story and say, ‘do you want me to tell a story about a frog who is similar to you?’ and we would say,

‘yes!’ and then she would tell us this story.  Well this frog would never do what his mother told him to do.  He would never take out his trash when his mom would tell him do, when she told him to do his homework, he would just go outside and play… um, ya know, he had a couple siblings—which of course was my brother and they would always listen to their mom and grew up to be really successful but Gae ggol jang ee , the naughty one,  would never do what he was told.  Then one time, the mom was really sick.  So she like knew she was going to die and so she gave each sibling a task, like what to do, when she died.  To gae ggol jang ee, she knew he would not do what she wanted him to do so she told him to bury her by the river because she knew he would do the opposite .. instead of burying her on the hill or whatever…

so she died

and he finally decided to obey her.  and so the mud and the rain washed her a way and…

that’s why you should do what your mom says.  ISN’T THAT SAD!?”

This is the informant’s mother’s version of quite a common Korean tale.  For this informant, it was told only as a bedtime story, or upon request, for another informant it was read in school, for another she memorized and rehearsed this tale to recite for her extracurricular Korean classes.  After reading and hearing other versions of the tale, this variant is quite clearly pedagogically tailored by the informant’s mother to suit her particular purposes.  For example the specificity of the taking out the trash chore, and the running outside to play rather than doing his homework, and the model older sibling—these seem to be very particular to this family’s variation.  In hindsight, the informant is able to clearly recognize herself as the frog and her brother as the model older sibling, but in her youth admitted that she wrote them off as mere coincidences.

This tale quite mercilessly poignant.  The suggests the ultimatum, “obey your mother, or she will wash away in the river”—which seems a tad dramatic and deeply guilt-inducing, especially when compared to the fluffiness of American and western tales.  In addition to highlighting the value of obedience, a complientary element is the respect for elders.  The informant discussed the reality of these cultural values reflected in the tale by confirming that everything in her childhood for the honor and pride of her parents, to obey them, respect them and please them.  “Why do you think the Korean kids work so hard?  Because they’re worried that if they’re parents DIE or something they won’t be proud of them or they’ll die thinking about what a shame you were!”

Annotation:

I have attached a more formal version of the tale that can be found on this website:

http://park.org/Korea/Pavilions/PublicPavilions/KoreaImage/hangul/litera/dis-frog/index.htm

Or in this book:

Suzanne Crowder Han, 1991, Korean Folk & Fairy Tales

And here is another, which I took from the PDF of what seems to be a standardized reading packet for elementary schools in a Washington State school district (I provided the text following the citation) :

Federal Way Public Schools, 2005, retrieved on April 24th, 2007, http://www.fwps.org/dept/ell/koreanstories.pdf

Chung Kayguri, the Green Frog

A long long time ago in a small Korean village, there lived a little green frog

called Chung Kayguri with his old widowed Mother. Chung Kayguri loved his mother,

but was a troublemaker. He always did the opposite of what his old mother told him to

do. When his mother told him to go east, he went west. When she told him to do this, he

did that.

Momma Kayguri said, “Kaygul. Kaygul. (Ribbit. Ribbit.) It is very warm and

sunny today. Why don’t you go outside and play in the stream with your friends?

Kaygul. Kaygul.” So Chung Kayguri, instead of going with his friends to the stream,

went by himself to the hill.

The next day, Momma Kayguri said to her son, “Stay close to home today. I

heard there might be some snakes out there.” Instead of doing as his Momma asked,

Chung Kayguri went to his friends. “Kaygul. Kaygul. Let’s go for an adventure and

find some snakes.”

This kind of behavior went on and on. It was very frustrating for Momma

Kayguri. Eventually, she became ill. Even then, Chung Kayguri didn’t heed his mother.

She would ask him to speak softly, and do you know what he would do? That’s right, he

would yell loudly. Momma Kayguri’s health continued to decline. She became so ill

that she knew she would not recover.

Before she died, Momma Kayguri called her son to her bedside. “ When I die,”

she pleaded, “bury me by the stream. Please don’t bury me in the hill.” In fact, she

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wanted to be buried in the hill. Knowing her son well, though, she requested the opposite

of her real wish.

“Kaygul. Kaygul. Momma, please don’t die. Kaygul. Kaygul. ” But it was too

late. Momma Kayguri passed away. Chung Kayguri was very sad and said to himself,

“Kaygul. Kaygul. My mother got ill and died because I never listened to her. I will grant

her last wish.” Chung Kayguri buried his mother by the stream, thinking he was finally

doing the right thing. Every day he came to her grave to pay his respects.

One summer day, a heavy rain called a monsoon arrived and continued for many

days. With all the rain, the stream began to flood and rose up to Momma Kayguri’s

grave. Chung Kayguri was worried that the rushing water would soon wash his mother

away. He cried aloud in a mournful call, “Kaygul. Kaygul. Mother is going to wash

away! Mother is going to wash away! Kaygul. Kaygul.”

Ever since then, that is why green frogs cry whenever it rains. That is why people

in Korea who do the opposite of what they are told are called Chung Kayguri.

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