The Dokkaebi’s Treasure

“Once upon a time there were two brothers who were very different. One was named Chun, who was very diligent and got all his shit done and never complained to anyone. And there was his lazy ass brother who isn’t even named. So one day Chun was busy working, chopping down wood, and he got very tired and he decided ‘Oh you know what? I need to take a rest under an oak tree.’ And while he was resting a bunch of acorns fell to the ground and he was like, ‘Oh you know what? I’ll take some acorns.’ So he pockets a bunch of these acorns, right? And then as he’s like doing whatever he’s doing, darkness falls and he’s like, ‘Oh shit I need to find somewhere to stay because I can’t stay out here cause I’ll get murdered or something.’

“And so darkness falls and Chun was lost. He was walking around trying to find shelter and he stumbles upon this house. And he’s like, ‘Oh shit, nice house.’

“He knocks on the door… there’s no reply. So he tries the handle, opens the door and goes inside. And once inside, he starts to relax a little bit, but he hears these voices approaching. So he hides in the closet, and he just kind of stays there hoping they’ll go away. And this gang of goblins walks through the door and they sit down in a circle. Each one has a club. They start to chant ‘Make gold, make gold, make gold’ as they thump their clubs onto the floor. So what happens is just a bunch of gold starts appearing in a big pile in the middle of them. And they chant ‘Make silver, make silver, make silver.’ A bunch of silver piles up. ‘Make rubies, make rubies, make diamonds.’ A bunch of shit piles up.

“And while that’s happening Chun’s stomach starts to growl, like ‘grrrrr,’ in the closet. And he’s freaking out like ‘Oh shit they’re going to find me!’ But the goblins think, ‘Oh! It’s the crack of thunder. We need to be careful!’

“To relieve his hunger pains he takes some acorns out of his pocket and slips them in his mouth to try to abate his hunger. But he cracks down on the acorn and makes a loud CRACK noise. And the goblins freak out like, ‘Oh shit the roof is going to collapse on us!’

“So they run out, they leave all the their shit behind, they just run out of the house. And Chun stays in the closet super scared. He’s like, ‘Oh are they going to return? What’s going to happen?’

“So he waits in the closet until dawn. When dawn breaks, he comes out of the closet, fills his knapsack full of as much gold and silver and all that stuff as he can. And he runs home. And he takes the club as well.

“So he goes back home. He has the magic club and he can make gold for himself whenever he wants. And so he puts his parent in a nice mansion, he takes care of all his shit, and he doesn’t have to worry about anything anymore.

“Meanwhile, his brother hears about Chun’s story because Chun trusts him so he tells him what happened. So he does the same exact thing. He goes to the tree, he waits there, he takes some acorns. And he finds the house.

“And when he finds the house he does the same thing. He walks into the closet and the goblins enter. And the goblins are sitting in the circle and they pound their clubs and say, ‘Make gold, make gold, make gold.’ But the older brother was so excited that he couldn’t wait to scare the goblins away. He put an acorn in his mouth and bit down hard and he heard a loud CRACK and waited for the goblins to flee. But nothing happens.

“He peeks out of the closet and the goblins are just standing there. They take him out, they beat him silly, and then they let him go. And he staggers back home with nothing. And Chun sees him and he shakes his head. And his brother says ‘I have learned my lesson.’ ” – MY


This story is a Korean fairy tale. My Korean friend, M, performed it for me. He was born and raised in America, but his parents are both fully Korean and they have passed much of the culture onto him. M’s mother used to tell him this story when he was a child. M says it is his favorite because of the goblins, which are called Dokkaebi in Korean. Dokkaebi appear often in Korean folklore. They are mischievous creatures that play tricks on bad people and reward good people with wealth and blessings. Here we see the good-bad binary that is so often a theme of folk tales (the Dokkaebi representing both good and bad is an interesting play on the motif).

Similar to themes of good vs. bad, we see how this story has a moral/lesson in it. I asked M to elaborate on the lesson, because it kind of just came out of nowhere in the end. He said the story is meant to teach the virtue of patience and the vice of greed.

I mentioned that this lesson seemed tacked on at the end of the story. M agreed, but said he didn’t mind. “I like the story because it’s funny,” he said, “Chun’s brother is just such an idiot.”

I enjoyed the story too, because the performance was very colloquial, as you can probably tell. Me and my informant were simply sitting in my living room as he told me the story. It was very casual, and yet the story captivated its audience (me). This shows the power of folklore as entertainment. Before books and movies, humans entertained one another through stories. Yes, it is important to analyze a folktales message and themes, but I believe it is also important to respect the performance as a form of pure entertainment.

Furthermore, I think this performance is an especially great example of a folktale because it utilizes many common tools, such as the “rule of threes” when the goblins are conjuring their treasure. M’s performance showed me value of this simple rule. With each succession of “Make gold,” “Make silver,” etc, he got more and more excited. The repetition carried the performance and aided the performer. It gave him a rhythm. It was interesting to see a live example of the tools and themes we discussed in class.