Folktale— Korean

The tale as told by Soojin:  “Alright so once upon a time, there was a little frog who never listened to anything his mother asked him to do.  So if his mom asked him not to jump, he would jump.  If she asked him not to eat candy before dinner, he would eat a bunch. If she told him to wash his face before going to bed, he would roll around in the mud and stuff.  Basically, he was a pretty bad son.

So the frog’s mom had always wanted to be buried in the mountains when she died because if she was buried by the beach, her body would be washed away.  But knowing that her son would never listen to her, she purposely told him that when she died, she wanted to be buried by the sea.

Okay so, one day, his mother got really sick and was on her death bed and told him again that she wanted to be buried by the sea.  The son frog, who was, um, feeling really guilty after his mom’s death, decided that he would honor her last wish and bury her by the sea, which was the opposite of what she truly wanted.

So he buried her by the sea and it started to rain. He ran to where he buried her and started to cry, which for frogs is croaking, and he realized what he had done and felt awful about disobeying his mom and the fact that her body might be washed away.

This is why frogs croak when it rains.”

Soojin told me that his mother told this story to him and his brother when they were both younger.  He said he doesn’t know if it’s a popular story in Korea, but he assumes that it is because other Koreans he has met are familiar with a version of the story.  Soojin also said that he never knew why they were frogs aside from the ending, because the explanation of why they croak when it rains doesn’t really seem to be the true point of the story.

Instead, Soojin told me that the true point of the story is to convince children to obey their parents.  He also said the story is also about building trust.

Because Soojin’s mother told him this story, it makes sense that the story would be about obeying your parents and building trust.  For the most part, Soojin’s analysis seems correct.

I also think the story is simply a way to explain an otherwise inexplicable phenomenon to children.  Even though Soojin said he didn’t know why the characters were frogs, the final line of the tale is definitely in there for a reason.  It probably seems strange to hear the sounds of frogs croaking when it starts raining, so this story provides an entertaining explanation for the phenomenon.  When children hear frogs croaking, they might be reminded of the story… and subsequently reminded of its moral— to obey one’s parents.