I was having lunch with the informant. He lived in Korea until he was 14 years old, one year from finishing middle school. He then moved to the United States to finish his middle school and high school.
Informant: So, the male is not a farmer, but actually a woodworker. So he just like, cuts down trees.
So, the fairy is taking a bath. And like in a mountain, like a hot spring, for example. And then, the guy sees it. The guy cutting down trees sees it. So he takes the clothes away. And the fairy doesn’t know what happened. So the guy comes out and is like, if you want clothes you’ve gotta be my wife, which is, criminal. And then they become a forced couple, because that’s the guy’s wish. And then the girl somehow sees the clothes in the house and wears it and goes to the sky with her kid. And the guy doesn’t know what happened. That’s how the story ends basically.
The guy and the girl – they both didn’t want to be separated, but I don’t know why the girl wanted to be separated – wait, the girl wanted to be separated. She’s basically going back home.
Interviewer: so it’s the guy trying to find the girl?
Informant: Well, that’s the worst thing. I think, technically the both want to stay because they have a child. But she took the child with her. Then who pays for the child? (smile) That’s like a two-thousand year-old divorce story.
The story is a shortened variation of the Chinese folktale the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. In the story, a cowherd hides a fairy’s clothes and keeps her as his wife. Then, the fairy finds her clothes and is forced to return to the sky, leaving her children behind. Her mother forbids her from seeing her husband and separates the family by creating the Milky Way. Finally, the family are able to reunite on the Qi Xi Festival (七夕节) on the bridge formed by magpies.
The informant told me that Korea had two separate stories developed from the Chinese folktale. This version is a variation of the first half of the Chinese folktale. The cowherd becomes a woodworker, because forests are abundant in Korea, while fields and cows are common in China.