Title: Korean Folk-Tales.
Author: compiled and retold by James Riordan.
Genre: Mythology, fiction, myths re-told.
Publication Date: 1994.
Summary: This volume collects 20 myths that bring Korean culture and mythology to light. Dan Gun, First Emperor of Korea is the origin myth that tells of the first emperor of Korea, born from a bear turned into a human, with no father. In Blindman's Daughter Shim Chung is about a young woman who sacrifices herself to the sea in order to restore her father's eyesight, and the unexpected turn her story takes after she does so. Weaver and Herdsman Chik-Nyo and Kyun-Woo of a weaver maid, daughter of the Heavenly Ruler, and a herdsman, who, as a punishment after their marriage, are destined to only meet once a year, with the help of the magpies and the Milky Way. Son-Nyo the Nymph and the Woodcutter is a myth of a woodcutter who tricks a nymph to wed him and stay on Earth with him, but lets her slip out of his grasp after their third child is born, and seeking desperately to gain back his family. In The Snail Woman, a poor farmer wins the love of the Dragon King's daughter while she is turned into a snail for punishment, and goes to his father-in-law for help when later a rich magistrate wishes to compete with the man for his wife. In The Distant Journey, a young man named Chun-Kyu sets out on a journey to a sorcerer living on Diamond Mountain to seek his fortune, and on his way he meets three others - a young woman seeking love, a dragon seeking flight, and a couple seeking a bloom of their apple trees - whose queries he promises to carry to the sorcerer and who, unbeknownst to him, become the bearers of his own fortune. In Blindman and the Demons, a blind man who can see evil spirits frees a dying woman of a spirit possessing her, but when the man's orders are not followed and the demon escapes, it sets out to revenge itself. In The Fox Girl, when a fox eats the daughter of a household and takes her form, it's up to the brother, with the help of a sage and three coloured bottles, to rid the world of the evil and revenge his parents. In The Tiger's Grave, a young man is rewarded for his selflessness to others and devotion to his mother by gaining a mighty tiger as a friend, who ensures the man's luck and fortune. The Hare's Liver is a tale of the tortoise who is entrusted by the Dragon King to find a hare's liver to save the sovereign's life, and of how the hare tricks them all, leading to the discovery of ginseng as a medicinal herb in Korea. How a Cat Saved the Magic Amber is a tale that explains the antipathy between dogs and cats, and tells of a bartender's magic amber that multiplies things indefinitely going missing, and how the cat ultimately saved it. Choi Chum-Ji is a tale of a ridiculous cheap and miserly rich man, whose daughter-in-law figures an ingenious way to flavour their soup without actually purchasing any fish. The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars is the origin story and tells of three girls who disobey their mother and let a ravenous tiger into their house, and to escape him have to ascend to the heavens to become Hai-Sun the Sun, Dal-Sun the Moon, and Byul-Sun the Morning Start to escape him. In Bride Island, a newlywed bride with a dying husband undertakes a dangerous quest to Devil Island to bring back a herb that would make him better, but pays a dear price for the herb, and transforms the island in her sorrow. In The Long-Nosed Princess, three brothers inherit three magical artifacts from their mothers under the strictest instructions to keep them secret, but when a greedy princess fools and robs the elder two, it is up to the youngest, his cloak of invisibility, and some magic apples, to teach the princess a lesson. In The Magic Club, a young man acquires a magic club that can give him anything when he surprises a horde of partying tokkaebis (devils), but when his greedy brother tries to follow his example, he learns a lesson he won't soon forget. In Three Dead Wives, the emperor demands from his three aged Ministers why they are unwed, and hears two stories of love and devotion of woman, and one story of the stupidity and impetuousness of man. The Four Mighty Brothers is the tale of the adventures of the four brothers, each endowed with an incredible gift of strength, and how they outdid a family of tigers planning to have the brothers for dinner. In Adventures of the Three Sons, a dying father bequeaths his three sons a bunch of mundane household objects, but their father's items, combined with the brothers' wit and quick-thinking, bring a great fortune to each. In The Centipede Girl, a man is saved from drowning himself by a beautiful maiden with whom he falls in love, but after returning to his family and going once more to seek the beautiful woman, he is put to the test when he is told that the beauty is in fact a centipede who has taken human form.
My rating: 8/10
♥ Shortly after, the Heavenly Prince summoned a tiger and a bear who lived in a nearby cave.
"I have chosen you to become the first humans," he told them. "Here, take these twenty garlic bulbs and this mugwort plant; eat them and remain deep in your cave for a hundred days. When you emerge into the daylight you will be man and woman."
So the tiger and the bear ate the garlic and mugwort plant and went to their cave. The bear was patient, enduring the dark, damp cave without food for a hundred days; but the tiger could not sit alone for long with no food. It ran away into the hills.
As the bear emerged from its long vigil into the sunlight, it suddenly changed into a beautiful young woman. The bear-woman was overjoyed with her new form. She went straight to the sacred sandalwood tree to thank the Heavenly Prince.
"But where is the tiger?" asked the Prince.
"Oh, he ran away before the hundred days," she said.
"That's a pity," he replied with a frown, "for he was to be your husband and father of your children. Never mind, you will be empress of this land and bear a son with no father; he shall be known as Dan-Gun, the Sandalwood Emperor."
And so it was that Prince Dan-Gun was born some four thousand three hundred years ago. When he was grown to manhood he became the first human emperor of the land. He built his capital at Pyongyang and gave his kingdom the name Chosun—Land of the Morning Calm. Later in life he moved his capital to Mount Asadal, now Mount Guwol in Hwang-He Province. Today it is the site of a holy shrine called Sam-Song or the Three Saints: Hwan-In the Celestial Emperor, Hwan-Ung the Heavenly Prince, and Dan-Gun the first human emperor of Korea.
Folk say that when Dan-Gun died he became a San-Sin or Mountain God. He is never forgotten by the grateful people of Korea.
~~Dan-Gun, First Emperor of Korea.
♥ "If you were born to fortune, you'd find ginseng in your own backyard. No sorcerer can help you."
But Chun-Kyu would not listen. All he said was, "I've nothing to lose since I've nothing to own. I've just one knapsack to bear my worldly possessions upon my back. So off I shall go."
Besides, the young man had learned a secret: if you go to the sorcerer with a song, the path will not seem so long. And though he was poor, he was rich in song.
♥ "Fair maiden, my journey has led me to your door; and now the dark night has veiled my onward path. Dare I beg a night's rest? Pray, pardon my tattered clothes and tough appearance."
The fair bowed and said, "What you bear in your soul is more important than what you wear on your back. And you cannot carry a night's rest with you: all travellers, rich or poor, on horseback or on foot, have to rest sometime. Since you are at my door, do come in; my home is big enough for two."
♥ The way home is always shorter than the journey out. And so it was.
~~The Distant Journey.