The Dangers of Playing the Flute at Night

“밤에 피리를 불거나 휘파람을 불면 뱀이 나온다”

Context: I was in band during high school, and I would sometimes practice until the late hours. Whenever I played the flute at night, my mom would say this proverb.


bahm-eh piri-reur boor-guh-nah h-we-param ir boor-myun bem-ee na-own-da


At night, to play the flute or to blow a whistle a snake will come out


A snake will come out if you play the flute or whistle at night.

This is a proverb that my mom has heard growing up, and it is one that I have heard many times from her. She grew up in a more rural area of South Korea, so there were many snakes near her home. Controlling or taming snakes with a flute is quite common in many other areas of the world, which is where this proverb most likely originated. Where it seems to diverge is in the inclusion of whistling, which is surprising. The phrase seems to warn that even such a commonplace, harmless act can lead to something much more dangerous or deadly down the line.

Though this is a proverb warning against playing at night for fear of summoning a snake, she most likely said it to me to save the neighbors from the shrill notes of my flute at night.