“The Tale of Heungbu and Nolbu,” Korean Tale

Main Piece: “Once upon a time, there were two brothers named Heungbu and Nolbu. Nolbu, the older of the two, was a greedy man and after their father died he got the heritage and family fortune. Huengbu, who was at this point dirt poor, received little to nothing from the family heritage. Nolbu lived in a fancy house, that was made of a brick roof and his house was safe from wind and rain, but Huengbu lived in a house under reed. One day, a bird flew to the younger brother’s house and it crashed into the ground breaking its leg. Heungbu felt bad for the bird and so he took it upon himself to treat it nicely, feed it, and nurture it, even though he had little to no food for his own family.The bird eventually healed from its wound, and when it was ready to leave it gave Heungbu a seed of a plant. When he planted this seed and watered it, a month later gold began growing out of the plant. This plant provided for Heungbu and his family, and he was able to sustain a better life due to the plant and the kindness of the bird. Word spread of this to Nolbu and when he heard about the brother’s plant he got jealous, and sought to seek this out for himself. After a few days, Nolbu found the same bird that Heungbu had nurtured back to health, and when he got a hold of the bird he broke its leg. He then proceeded to heal the bird, like the younger brother, giving the bird food and treating to the wound. When the bird was healed, it too gave Nolbu a seed, and left. While Nolbu was excited that he had been given the famous seed, when he planted it and watered it the plant did not provide gold like it did for Heungbu, From that seed came a bunch of ghosts and other bad spirits to destroy his house and wealth. Heungbu was then left with nothing as everything he owned had been taken away by the bad spirits.”


Background: MP is from South Korea, and he says that he heard this story from his parents when he was growing up. He mentioned that it had a very special place in his heart as it was a tale that he found particularly interesting. Additionally he goes on to explain that one of the main reasons he likes this story so much is that he finds the message to be very relevant to his culture and his values. He interprets this story as being a commentary on having a good heart, and a good mindset for the actions that you take. “its not always about doing a good deed, it’s about the spirit. It’s why you do it, and the people who have a good spirit will eventually come out on top at the end.”


Context of Performance: MP performed this story for me at my apartment, while we were discussing each other’s different cultures and the stories that are most common to our respective families.


Analysis: I find this piece to be very indicative of the cultural values from South Korea. In talking with MP, he mentioned that honor and having an honorable heart of of the utmost importance. This tale seems to perfectly explore that very theme, as it shows the benefits for the poor brother when he acts out of kindness even though he has nothing. And likewise I believe this piece is also warning of the consequences for doing things for the wrong reasons, and being greedy. Because while both brothers technically did the same thing for the bird, the greedy brother’s intentions were for personal gain and personal gain alone. He did not care for the bird, and even went so far as to harm the creature so as to be able to heal it. These values are somewhat similar in America, so it is interesting to see how well this story crosses over from one culture to mine. In America we put a lot of emphasis on honor and doing the right thing, however I would say we don’t always condemn greed and attempting to pursue wealth. In fact, because American culture is so capitalistic it could even be argued that there is potential for greed to be a unwanted consequence of the very American desire to “obtain wealth and power.”