1) Original Performance:
“Well there is this mythical creature called a nine-tail fox.. In Korean it’s Gumiho. They are very beautiful and roamed the forests of Korea… the voice too… very charming. One night the Gumiho entered Korea’s Royal Palace, and became a servant of the royal court. It was through this that she hoped to get close to the king. Finally, she had a task which required her to bring food to the king’s chamber. The king was immediately entranced. Then all of a sudden, her fox tail came out, she lunged toward the king… and tore out his heart and liver. She brought them back to her forest and ate.”
2) I heard this tale from my Korean mother. She said she heard this folktale during Korean school when she was a child. She claimed that she frankly doesn’t enjoy the story itself, and thinks it’s quite gruesome. However, she told me that she shared it because she believes it has an important lesson – that one shouldn’t blindly trust the outer appearances of others.
3) My mom is a devout Christian, so I imagine most of the folklore I could gather from her would be fairly pure in principle. With this in mind, after visiting home and eating dinner with her, I told her of my project. However, I made it clear that I wanted to hear the “scariest” piece of folklore that she could recall from her childhood.
4) This story is derived from the character of the Gumiho, a nine-tail fox which is seen in ancient Korean literature, and has appeared in various stories and even now TV shows up to today. The core folk concept that has been continually transmitted seems to be the two-sidedness of its nature. A beautiful, seemingly harmless being is secretly a brutal killer. In Korean there’s also a common expression that I have heard multiple people (from all ages and genders) use, being “she looks like a fox.” This is always said with a negative connotation with the intention of instilling a sense of weariness within the listener. This could very well be derived from the idea of the Gumiho and the dangers associated with its character.
To read other version of this tale, read Sung-Ae Lee’s article, “Lures and Horrors of Alterity: Adapting Korean Tales of Fox Spirits.”
Lee, Sung-Ae. “Lures and Horrors of Alterity: Adapting Korean Tales of Fox Spirits.” International Research in Children’s Literature, vol. 4, no. 2, 17 Dec. 2011, pp. 135–150., https://doi.org/10.3366/ircl.2011.0022.