USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘greed’

Sir Sun and Sir Moon

햇님 하고 달님

The Informant:

He is in his late 40’s and works as a car mechanic. Born in Incheon, South Korea, he immigrated to the United States after he married in the late 1990s. He heard this story as a young child for a bedtime story from his mother.

The Story:

엄마가 가난하고 돈을 벌려고 떡을 파는거야 길 거리에서. 하지만 그 날에는 하나도 못 팔았어. 집으로 돌아가는중에 호랑이가 나타나. 그 호랑아가 노래를 불러 “떡 하나만 던저주면 안 잡아먹지.” 그래서 엄마가 떡을 하나 던져줬지. 그걸 먹고 또 노래를 불렀어, 똑같이, 떡이 없어질때까지. 떡이 없으니까 호랑이가 이렇게 노래를 불렀지 “팔 하나 주면 안 잡아 먹지.” 그래서 엄마 호랑이에게 팔을 하나 줬지. 그리고 하랑이가 이렇게 팔 두개 하고 다리 두개 다 먹었어. 결국엔 엄마를 조금식 다 잡아먹었어. 엄마가 사는 집에 도착해서 엄마 모습이로 변신한거야. 아이들한테 불렀지 “엄마다 문 열어라.” 엄마 목소리가 이상해서 아이들이 조심했다. 엄마 모습을 가진 하랑이한테 팔을 보여달라고했어. 아이들이 “우리 엄마는 팔에 털이 잆어요!” 라고 얘기했다. 그래서 그 하랑이는 팔에있는 털을 깎았어. 그렇게 천천히 아이들이 호랑이의 힘을 빼넣고 살았다.

There is a mother who needs to sell dduk (rice cakes) but she was not able to sell any. On her way home a tiger approaches her and sings out to her “If you give me one dduk then I won’t eat  you.” This is repeated until all of the dduk is gone. The tiger then says “If you give me an arm I won’t eat you.” After she gives him both arms he sings “If you give me a leg I won’t eat you.” And so the tiger devoured the mother piece by piece. The tiger approaches the house of the children and transforms into the mother. He calls out to the children to open the door. The children are wary because the voice doesn’t sound like their mother’s. They ask the tiger to insert its hand. It is furry. They tell the tiger that their mother doesn’t have any fur on her arm so the tiger shaved off all of its fur. In this way the children outwit the tiger and tires it out so that the children eventually capture it.

The Analysis:

The story is meant to tell a moral. How the mother is tricked into giving herself up the tiger, the tiger is then tricked into giving up its life for greed. The tiger could have been content with the dduk offered to him, but it was not and devoured the mother. In turn, karma of a sort comes back at him as he is captured when he attempts to eat the mother’s children. From his side, he is greedy and desires another meal after essentially eating two. The tiger happened to be cleverer than the mother and the children happened to be cleverer than the tiger. The morale of the story is that what goes around truly does come around.


A different version of this story can be found at:햇님달님. The story is in Korean and differs in many detailed aspects. The incident occurs at night in this different version instead of day time, the mother sells bread instead of dduk (rice cakes), and the ending is different. As this story occurs at night, it ends with the coming of morning (sunrise). The death of the tale synchronizes with the sunrise, and the redness in the sky is said to be the staining of the tiger’s blood.

Folk Beliefs

Dokgyebi’s Club

홍두깨도깨비(Hong Du Kkye Dogyebi) – Dokgyebi’s Club

The Informant:

Born in Korea before the split, she managed to escape to South Korea during the Korean War with her husband and family. She immigrated to the U.S. and resides in New Jersey with her eldest son and her grandchildren.

 The Story:

도깨비가 자기의 홍두깨를 치고 다니면 돈이 가득하게 찬 우물하고 분수들이 땅에서 나타난데. 도개비는 머리위에 유니콘처럼 뿔이있고 마술사 같아. 사람들에게 “넌 뭘 갖고싶니?” 하면서 돌아다녀. 좋은 사람들한테만 주지 근데. 나쁜 사람이 돈 달라고하면 아니면 소원을 빌면 그 도깨비는 얼굴이 화나게 변신을하고 그 나쁜 사람에게 불행을 빌지. 도깨비는 밤에만 나타나. 어떤 귀신이라고 생각할수도있고, 하지만 무섭지는않아. 착한 귀신이지, 좋은 사람한테는.

 When the dokgyebi hits its club around wells of money springs out. It has a small horn on its head, like a unicorn. It is like a magician and can make things appear or make wishes come true. It walks around and asks people what they want. When a bad person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, the dokgyebi face become mad and wishes the bad person illness. When a good person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, it is granted. A dokgyebi only appears at night. It is a type of ghost, but it is not scary to nice people.  

The Analysis:

A dokgyebi appears randomly and only at night. It is a mystical figure, almost a cross between a ghost and a fairy. Instead of a wand it carries around a club, which signifies that it is not only nice but also can be bad. However, it is mean to only people with bad hearts or ill intentions. The meaning of the story is that one should be careful of how one lives, no matter the time and space. You never know who is watching you and so you should always try to lead a give life, inside and out.


Tales /märchen

Greed is Punishment

This folklore was collected from my friend who had learned it from his Jewish friend. It came up when we were discussing how some people had everything while other people had nothing. It seemed like there was no equality because there was nothing to balance out the two. However, this small folk tale came up explaining that there was something to balance the two. It was a somewhat heated discussion, so hearing this light story was very much refreshing and helped put the matter into perspective. My friend said that to him, it was a clear sign that justice would prevail over any other circumstances that might be involved. In addition, by being so greedy, it would inevitably end in loss because trying to grab hold of too much requires you to let go and lose more than what you were holding on to.

A poor beggar was wandering around a rather busy marketplace. It was unusually busy that day, so it was a shock when he came upon a small money pouch that had apparently been lost. Opening the money pouch, he found that it held 100 coins of gold. Just then, he heard a shout exclaiming that someone had lost their pouch and would pay a reward for anybody who would return the purse.

The beggar thought he was in luck! He was an honest fellow and wanted the reward that was due to him for returning the pouch instead of taking it for himself. He walked up to the merchant who had claimed that the pouch was his and handed him the purse. He asked for the reward that he was due after giving it back.

However, it became very clear that the merchant was very greedy and only wanted to keep the money that he had without giving any form of reward at all. After all, the merchant was already counting the gold pieces. “What reward?” he asked. “When I dropped this money bag, it contained 200 gold coins. And now, I see only 100. You’ve already stolen so much from me! Be thankful that I’m not searching you for the gold pieces and go away or else I will call the authorities on you.”

The beggar refused to be cowed down by a greedy merchant. After all, he had returned a purse that he had no reason to return because he would have been better off either way. He decided to claim, “I may be poor, but I am honest. I will not accept this injustice. Let us go to a court of law and see who is the more correct between us.” They then went to court and presented both of their arguments to the judge. The judge was very wise and knew what was good and right according to the law. He was not partial to either side, but he knew what the law had said, and so came his verdict. He claimed that justice could be provided for both parties who had presented a claim before him, thereby allowing any wronged party to be recompensed for the troubles that they had faced.

Addressing the merchant, he said, “You said that your money bag contained 200 gold coins when you lost it. That by itself is a very large amount of money. This bag that the beggar picked up had 100 coins. There is no reason why he would keep 100 to return 100 when it is clear that there is money already in it and that you would know how much money was missing? It then becomes quite reasonable that you were very mistaken. This bag cannot be yours because that does not make any logical sense.

With no further comment, the judge awarded the purse with 100 gold coins to the beggar. The righteous beggar walked off knowing that he had acted according to what was good and just. The merchant stomped off in frustration because he had lost money due to his uncontrolled greed.

I very much agreed with my friend on this matter as to what it meant. Greed is a very powerful force, but it is very negative and leads to negative consequences. More is lost than gained through being greedy, and so is often not worth it. In addition, the idea that justice is blind is very important as well. Living in America where everybody is entitled to a fair trial, this concept is very ingrained into the general population’s believes. Regardless of whether they are rich or a beggar should not have a bearing on whether they are being honest or not. Everybody is equalized under the law.