The rats and nails

CK: When I was younger my uncle would tell me a story that if rats ate your toenails or fingernails they would then transform into human clones of me.

Me: Wow, that’s really interesting. Do you know the meaning behind it or the message?

CK: It means no matter how insignificant the part of your body is you should take care of it, every part of your body matters.

  1. Background: The informant always thought it was a scary story so it stuck with them. They learned it from their uncle at a young age and continuously heard it throughout their childhood. It reminds the informant to take care of themselves and value their body.
  2. Context: Informants performed the folktale at the Ronald Tutor Center at the USC main campus. Korean folktale told by the informant’s uncle in their childhood while in Korea. 
  3. The performance is an example of a folk fable as it is a short story that teaches a lesson involving animals possessing human characteristics in the plot. The teller is a part of the Korean folk group as well as their personal family folk group which is reflected in this story as it was told while growing up in Korea by the informant’s uncle. I think because of the context of the story being usually told to children by adult figures in their life in order to teach a lesson of cleanliness and the care of one’s body that its impact and meaning both within the folk group and outside of the folk group would remain fairly consistent. The main message is conveyed clearly and concisely through the short description and also does so by employing some scare tactics with the use of rodents becoming your clone. It’s interesting to me that the use of a scary fable was used to teach a lesson of self care and I can see how this would be impactful to especially children folk groups who are told this at a young age. The performance highlights cultural values as well such as the way we present ourselves to society especially in physical appearance.