USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Korean’
Tales /märchen

Rabbit and Turtle

Main Piece:

 

큰 병을 얻어 임종을 눈앞에 둔 물 속 나라 용궁의 용왕이 병을 낫기 위한 방법을 수소문 한 결과 토끼의 간을 먹으면 낫는다는 이야기를 듣게 된다.

 

하지만 물 속 나라의 백성들은 전부 물고기인지라 뭍에 사는 토끼를 잡아올 방법이 없지 않은가. 그 때, 용왕의 신하인 자라가 자신만만하게 나서며, 손바닥 뒤집듯 쉽게 토끼를 잡아올 수 있을거라 말한다. 자라는 물과 뭍을 오갈 수 있기 때문에 뭍으로 올라와 토끼를 찾아 간다.

 

토끼를 만난 별주부는 달리기 경주에서 승리하여 온갖 아양과 아부를 떨어 토끼를 설득하며, 결국 토끼는 별주부의 등에 타고 용궁으로 가게 된다.

 

토끼를 본 용왕이 대뜸 “내가 살기 위해서는 니가 죽어야 한다.” 라고 말한다. 이에 토끼는 잠깐 당황하지만, 기지를 발휘하여 “안타깝지만 지금은 나에게 간이 없다. 나만 아는 곳에 몰래 감춰두고 왔다.” 라고 말한다. 토끼는 잔꾀로 용왕을 속이고 무사히 탈출한다.

 

토끼의 배웅 겸, 몰래 감춰놓았다던 간을 받아올 겸 해서 별주부가 다시 토끼를 데리고 육지로 올라가나, 토끼는 “거짓말이야”를 외쳐주고는 산속으로 도망가버린다.

 

이에 허탈한 별주부가 자살을 결심하려고 할 때 지나가던 도인이 “그대의 정성에 하늘이 감동했다” 라며 신선들이 사용하는 약을 건네준다. 별주부가 “어르신의 존함은 뭡니까?”라고 묻자 도인이 “나는 패국 사람 화타다”라고 자신의 이름을 밝히고 이야기는 끝난다.

The King of the country in the water got very sick and heard that only the liver of a rabbit can cure it.

 

But all the people of the country in the water are fish, so there is no way to bring the rabbit. At that time, Yongwang(The King)’s servant, the turtle says that he is able to grab the rabbit easily. Because he can go to water and land, the turtle went up to the land to visit the rabbit.

 

The turtle that meets the rabbit wins the running race and eventually the rabbit rides on the back of the turtle and goes to the palace.

 

“You have to die for me to live.” the king says. The rabbit panicked for a moment, but said, “Unfortunately, I have no liver now.” The king is suspicious, but let the rabbit go to get the liver.

 

The rabbit shouted to the turtle, “It was a lie” and run away into the mountains.

 

Disappointed, the turtle tried to commit suicide, a stranger gave him a medicine from heaven that can cure the king’s illness. The turtle asked “What is your name?” and the stranger answered “I am Hwata from China”.

 

Background Information:

This is a very old Korean novel. It figuratively shows how Choonchoo Kim of Shilla escaped from Kokuryeo.

Interestingly, this story can be viewed from the rabbit or from the tortoise.

 

Context:

This is performed as puppet animation or graphic animation for children.

Personal Analysis:

The ending is a bit of a plot twist and also a bit random. The rabbit is very sneaky, and the turtle is a faithful servant. From the rabbit’s point of view, he was just trying to protect himself and did what it takes to survive. He became a victim at one point because the king asked for his life to keep his own. On the other hand, from the turtle’s point of view, the rabbit is the bad guy for running away with a lie. We want to pity the turtle and side with him especially when he wants to die, but he was given the task to kill a rabbit which is cruel. It is an interesting story because it correlates with history. These animals are a popular choice in lead characters in children’s stories, because they contradict each other.

Tales /märchen

Heungbu and Nolbu

옛날 어느 마을에 흥부와 놀부라는 형제가 있었다. 못된 놀부는 착한 흥부를 돈 한푼 안 줘서 쫓아내고, 흥부는 찢어질 정도로 가난하고 힘들게 살아간다.

 

이 도중에 흥부가 놀부네 집에 밥을 얻어먹으러 갔다가 인심사나운 놀부 형수 주걱으로 싸다귀를 맞고 밥풀이라도 더 얻기 위해 구걸하다가 풀이 죽어 되돌아온다.

 

어느 봄날 흥부는 제비가 구렁이에게 공격당하는 것을 보고 도와주는데 새끼 제비의 다리가 부러져 있었다. 흥부는 다리가 부러진 제비를 치료해준다.

 

이듬해 봄, 제비가 박씨를 떨어뜨리자 흥부네는 그 박씨를 심는다. 박은 놀랄 정도로 거대하게 자라는데, 흥부 가족은 먹을 것이 없어 박이라도 먹기 위해 박을 꺼내서 박을 탄다. 그러자 박 안에서 온갖 곡물과 금은보화, 심지어 일곱난쟁이들까지 쏟아져 나와 흥부네는 하루아침에 부자가 되어 풍요롭게 잘 산다.

 

이 소식을 들은 놀부는 흥부에게 그 비결을 듣고 더 큰 부자가 되기 위해 당장 제비를 잡아 강제로 다리를 부러뜨린 다음, 다시 고쳐준다. 이듬해 봄 제비가 박씨를 가져왔으며, 놀부는 그것을 심어 박을 키워 탔는데, 박 안에서 나온건 곡물과 금은보화가 아닌 40명의 도둑들과 도깨비, 똥물등이 쏟아져 나와 도둑맞고 마구 두들겨 패고 집까지 덮치면서 놀부네는 하루아침에 거지 신세가 되고 만다. 그후 착한 흥부네의 도움을 받게 되면서, 자신의 잘못을 깨달은 놀부는 개과천선하면서 우애롭게 살게 된다는 이야기.

 

In the old town, there were brothers named Heungbu and Nolbu. The naughty Nolbu did not pay the good Heungbu for a penny, and Heungbu lived a poor life.

 

In the meantime, Heungbu went to Nolbu’s house to beg for food but Nolbu’s wife hit him with scoop.

 

One spring day, Heungbu broke the leg of a swallow, helping the swallow avoid from being attacked by a serpent. Heungbu treated the swallow’s broken leg.

 

The next spring, when the swallow dropped a seed, Heungbu sowed it. The seed grew surprisingly large and bore a big fruit, and the Heungbu family opened the fruit. Then all the grain, gold, and even the seven dwarfs are poured out in the fruit. Heungbu became rich and rich every morning.

 

Nolbu, who heard this news, listened to his secret and immediately took a swallow to become richer, then broke his leg and healed it again. Nolbu brought it in the spring of the following year, and Nolbu planted the seed that the swallow dropped and it bore a fruit, but the inside of the fruit did not have grains and gold, but thieves, goblins, and poops poured out of it. Nolbane became poor overnight. Nolbu realized his bad deeds. Heungbu helped him and they both had happy lives.

Background Information:

This is one of the most famous stories in Korea. The lesson from the story is that a good person will get rewarded and a bad person will get punished. Everybody learns it at elementary school.

Context:

It is performed to teach young generation to be a good person.

Usually the performance is a form of puppet animation.

Personal Analysis:

This story is good for teaching kids to be selfless, while warning them not to deceive others. It’s good that it’s a part of school curriculum so that morals and ethics are incorporated at an early age. I’m not sure of an American equivalent. The end of the story is the best because Heungbu helped his brother instead of keeping his riches to himself, which could ultimately be just as bad as tricking a swallow. It teaches grace, giving something that wasn’t deserved.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Funny Korean Proverb

Informant SL is a junior studying business communication at the University of Southern California. She is of Korean descent and only moved to America at the age of 16. Here, she performs a proverb that is very notorious to her because she heard it for the first time after doing something she learned she shouldn’t have done.

Original Proverb: 누워서 침 뱄기

English Translation: “Lying down and spitting.”

The informant was an only child growing up. For this reason, in elementary school, she didn’t have anyone to vent about her parents with. So one time she bad-mouthed her parents to a friend. This friend told her mom, and the friend’s mom told the informant’s mom. The story ends with the informant’s mom repeating the proverb to the informant. The proverb is very apt in this case because the informant explained that she essentially “lied down and spit on herself” because by telling a friend, she invariably ended up telling her mother. The informant believes that this proverb is very significant to know because it can apply to almost anything. It is akin to the concept of karma because what goes around will always come around (or land on yourself as spit in this case).

To me, this proverb is very simple to decipher. I take it to mean don’t do anything that could come back to bite you. This is especially relevant in today’s day and age due to the prevalence of the internet and social media. Everything we do online is documented and saved forever in the archives of the internet. This means something we have published over 5 years ago could be resurfaced at a later date. Everyone knows of very obvious examples of where this has happened, but everyone at one point or another has posted or commented something they would not like the world to see. For this reason, it is imperative that one doesn’t “lie down and spit”. This etiquette is essential to prevent something incriminating coming back to cause harm further down the line.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Common Korean Proverb

Informant SL is a junior studying business communication at the University of Southern California. She is of Korean descent and only moved to America at the age of 16. Here, she performs the proverb she is most familiar with because it is very commonly stated in Korean society.

Original Proverb: 오늘 걷지 않으면, 내일 뛰어야 한다

English Translation: “If you don’t walk today, you must run tomorrow.”

The informant explained that this proverb means that if you don’t do something easier today, it’ll be even harder tomorrow. She likes the proverb because it’s not something she lives by, but it motivates her to hear it. Since Korean is her first language, it feels deeper to her. She heard this proverb from her father who told her because she was not doing her work back in elementary school, and it has stuck with her ever since.

This proverb resonated with me because procrastination is something I often find myself struggling with. I have heard many different versions of this proverb, like the “journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, yet none really stuck with me like this one did. This proverb articulated my thoughts on procrastination by putting it into very simple terms. Essentially, everything is made easier by splitting it up into more manageable parts. However, if things are put off, the effort to complete it is a lot more uncomfortable and unmanageable. The analogy between procrastination and running is very accurate. Both are very uncomfortable, yet very often unavoidable due to human nature.

 

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Hoerangi and Kkotgam

Original Title: 호랑이와 곶감

Phonetically: Hoerangi and Kkotgam

English Translation: The Tiger & the Persimmon

Informant SL is a junior studying business communication at the University of Southern California. She is of Korean descent and only moved to America at the age of 16. Here, she discusses a traditional Korean folktale that is told to many children by their parents or grandparents.

SL: There’s this little town in a village, and this tiger creeps up to a home because he’s hungry and hears a baby crying. So that attracts his attention and he wants to eat like the people in the house. And the tiger can hear the mom saying, ‘if you keep crying, the tiger is going to get you.’ When the tiger hears that he’s like “holy shit, how does she know I’m here.” The baby keeps crying and the mom sees a kkotgam and the baby stops crying. So the tiger thinks, whatever this kkotgam is, it must be scarier than me cause the baby stopped crying. So the tiger runs away into the storage of the house, and in the dark, he scares a robber in the house. That scares the robber away and the tiger hearing about the kkotgam also runs away because he thinks the kkotgam is bigger than him.

The informant heard this tale from her grandma because she was eating a kkotgam (persimmon). She really likes this story because it’s very funny and gives life to a tiger. In her opinion, the moral is that you shouldn’t be scared of the things you don’t see. The tale doesn’t mean too much to her, but the tiger is the national animal of Korea. She described the relationship as similar to the bald eagle’s representation of American identity.

Personally, I found this story to be more comical than anything else. While I understand the moral it is attempting to teach, I believe this tale is better served as merely one that provides entertainment to the listener. I also do like how easy this story is to remember, and that is perhaps why it has lasted all these years since its creation. Since the situation is so ridiculous, it is quite easy to remember the details that occur in the tale.

 

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Heungbu and Nolbu

Original Title: 흥부와 놀부

Phonetically(names): Heungbu and Nolbu

Informant SL is a junior studying business communication at the University of Southern California. She is of Korean descent and only moved to America at the age of 16. Here, she discusses a traditional Korean folktale that is well known by all kids in Korea. SL compared this story to ‘Humpty Dumpty’ from western culture in terms of how well-known it is.

SL: Heungbu is the dad of a poor family, and one day they find a bird in their backyard, and the bird has a broken leg. Seeing this, the dad takes the bird in his hand and wraps the leg of the bird. Then the bird flies away, and the same bird comes flying back… but drops them off a seed. This seed turns out to be a pumpkin seed and it keeps growing and growing and growing and becomes this giant thing. It becomes this giant ball. It becomes so big the wife and the family have to saw it open. Once they cut it all the way open, they find all this gold, jewelry, riches. Basically a treasure chest in a pumpkin. But then, his neighbor saw this and the neighbor was a rich greedy man. And his name was nolbu “n-o-l-b-u”. Nolbu had heard what happened with Heungbu’s family, so he goes outside and purposely breaks a bird’s leg. And then he wrapped it up the same way, bandaged it, and the bird flew away. And that bird game back one day and dropped off a seed. He picked up the seed all excited and happy and it grew into the same big big size. And inside were trolls called Dokkaebi. Dokkaebi’s are always known to have bats, so then they popped out of the pumpkin and beat them up. Seeing this, the nice guy Heungbu comes and helps him.

The informant is not entirely sure where she knows this story from because Korean children simply grow up with it. It is heard through books, nursery rhymes, family etc. and there are even restaurants with this name. The informant likes this story because she thinks it’s funny and teaches you the whole moral of “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”. As a child, she thought the story was about being greedy, but now she realizes why parents tell the story. “When we’re told don’t be greedy, no one will know what that means. But this story exemplifies it well and teaches the dangers of greed well.”

In my opinion, this piece exemplifies a common thread linking together many different cultures. Greed is universally seen as negative by nearly every culture, and it is very important to teach this concept to children when they are very young. I really liked this story because it presented both the dangers of greed as well as the benefits of leading an honest life. To me, this piece is an excellent teaching tool, and I can see why it has been memorialized in Korean culture.

For another version of this story, see http://www.tparents.org/Library/Unification/Talks2/Kirkbride/Kirkbride-100629.htm

Tales /märchen

ShimChong: the blindman’s daughter

15) Shimchong: the blindman’s daughter

Long time ago, maybe during the end of the HongPung era, there was a poor blind man named Shim Hakkyu. Him and his wife finally had a kid, but the tiredness of childbearing was too much for his wife so she passed away. Shim Hakkyu raised his daughter alone with great hardship, but his daughter grew up to be beautiful and kind.

One day, when Shim Hakkyu was out and about begging for alms, he fell into a ditch. As he was wailing about his ill fate, a monk came and helped him out; he told Shim Hakkyu that if he offers 300 sacks of rice to the temple and the Buddha, then it will have his sight restored. Shim Hakkyu was overjoyed by this kind offer and said yes in a whim. However, he soon realized that he has no means to get 300 sacks of rice. Shim Hakkyu told ShimChong that he was really really worried because what if they end up offending the Buddha???

That night, in ShimChong’s dream, her mother came to her and told her that if she goes and find this merchant at the harbor, he will give their family 300 sacks of rice. So the next day, ShimChong sets out to go to the harbor. The merchant is looking for a fair and beautiful girl to sacrifice to the dragon king so that they can finally sail, and he was overjoyed to see ShimChong volunteer.

The temple was very pleased to receive the 300 sacks of rice, yet Shim Hakkyu did not ge his sights back. The monks of the temple told Shim Hakkyu that it will come to him in time. Because of  that, Shim Hakkyu has now yet to regain his eyesight, but also lost his only daughter. As ShimChong descended into the water, the sea became calm and all the sailors weeped for this beautiful and filial girl. ShimChong surprisingly found herself to be breathing under water. Two guards of the dragon king came to take her with them to the palace; there she lived happily, and her mother’s spirit rested there as well. However, she soon felt homesick, and unwilling to see this beautiful and filial girl sad, the Dragon King turned her into a beautiful white flower and brought her back to land.

ShimChong the flower was discovered by a fisherman, and then offered to the sad emperor that has just recently lost his spouse. When the emperor laid eyes on this flower, he was so wowed and happy that he took the flower in and kept it in the center of his palace. The king was completely obsessed with the flower and one night, he discovered the beautiful ShimChong that came outside of the flower at night. The emperor was so pleased with ShimChong that he decided to marry her. ShimChong was happy to marry the emperor and finally be back on land, but she was still sad that she could not find her father. She sent a request for the king to have a public wedding banquet and to invite all the blind beggars in this country. For three days, countless blind beggars feasted and joyed, but her father was nowhere to be seen. Just as ShimChong was about to give up, she hears the sound of a blind man who arrived late trying to argue his way in with the guards. She rushes towards the gate and discovers that that was her father! The two were overjoyed and to be reunited, and in that moment, Shim Hakkyu regains his sight so that he was able finally see his beautiful daughter.

My korean friend Justin presented this story to me. Justin could not remember a lot of the details so out of curiosity I looked them up. I really like this story in that it has many ups and downs. Justin knew this story just from reading in Elementary school. I feel like I see some common elements between asian folktales in that they seem to rarely end happily, and that family and being filial is absolutely one of the most important things. However, at the same time, I feel like this story really degrades women, making them objects that when in need are praised.

 

Customs
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

100 Day Party for South Korean Babies

The informant, my friend, is a 20-year-old college student. All of the informant’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from South Korea, but both of her parents have lived in the United States their whole lives.

While we were in line to order at a local Chipotle restaurant, I asked the informant if any specific traditions or customs related to her South Korean heritage have stood out to her the most throughout her life. She hesitated for a moment, and at first failed to answer my question. A few minutes later, she began to describe a coming-of-age ceremony that was held for her as a baby.

“Traditionally in South Korea, when a baby makes it to 100 days it means that they’re going to live a long life. So at 100 days the baby’s family holds a ‘100 Day Party.’ The babies wear a traditional South Korean outfit and there is a whole feast for the family. During the ceremony there are a lot of different bowls, and each one contains something different like a dollar bill, different types of food, some thread, or a pencil. The baby is set in front of the bowls and whichever ones it puts its hands in are supposed to represent what type of life it will have. So if you choose the pencil you’re supposed to be intelligent, the dollar means you’ll be rich, and the thread means you’ll have a long life.”

This ceremony marks the point at which a South Korean family truly celebrates the life of their new child without hesitation or worries of health complications leading to a premature death. It seems to be a remnant of the lack of healthcare and prevalence of childhood mortality that existed across the globe several centuries ago, since in recent years child mortality rates in developed nations like South Korea and the United States have fallen drastically as a result of increasing knowledge in the health sciences as well as greater availability of medicine and healthcare services. I asked the informant if she remembered what was in the bowl that she picked on her 100 Day Party, but she did not. For the informant’s family, then, the party served more as a celebratory event than a true predictor of their child’s life trajectory, since her lack of knowledge with regards to the object that she picked had no bearing on the personal and career choices she has been allowed to make throughout her life. I also asked the informant if she plans to hold a 100 Day Party for her children, if she has any, and she responded that she does. It is realistic to say that this folk tradition will continue to exist for future generations, as it is a fun and exciting event that many would have no moral hesitation holding for their child.

Customs

Hot Weather, Hot Foods

Text:

“When the weather is hot outside, you’re supposed to eat something hot so it’ll cool you down. I don’t really know why, I think it’s like… what you’re consuming is hotter than the weather outside.”

Background:

When asked about the background of this custom, the informant didn’t really know when or where it originated from. He thinks that the reasoning behind the custom is that temperature is relative, so if the food is extremely hot, it’ll make the weather outside feel less hot. It doesn’t really hold much meaning to him, but it’s just something that he recalls always being told as a kid. He doesn’t really follow it any more either.

Context:

I collected this from a male Korean friend who had heard it from his mom. He said that it’s normally taught to kids at a young age. And he says that it’s “just a Korean thing.”

Personal Thoughts:

I think that this may show an inclination of Asians, Koreans in this case, to like being in control. They don’t like to be controlled by things in which they have no say, such as the weather.

Customs

Table Settings: Rice and Soup

Text:

“This is another custom… you’re supposed to have rice on the left side of you, and soup on the right side when you serve it. Don’t know the reason, but maybe because you eat with your right hand.”

Background:

The informant learned this from his mom. He doesn’t really know the meaning of it, but he doesn’t like it because he think it’s annoying.

Context:

This is a custom that is normally taught to kids at a young age regarding table manners.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is part of table manners that are taught in Korean culture, similar to the ways that we have rules about where the bread plate, drinks, or utensils are placed on a table. This creates more organization on a table, and since rice and soups are a common part of Korean meals, they have rules about where they go within a table setting.

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