Every culture has their own fairy tales and legends that are often told to children as a bedtime story or taught in school to help children learn the valuable lessons that the tale revolves around. South Korea has its share of culturally enriched fairy tales, reflecting Korean life and the values that are precious. Today we’ll be checking out 6 popular Korean fairy tales and learning more about them!
Heungbu and Nolbu
“Heungbu and Nolbu” is a story of two brothers who show how greed can be one's undoing. Nolbu is the older, greedy brother who tricks his kind and empathetic brother out of their father’s inheritance, leaving Nolbu rich and Heungbu poor. Heungbu was content with his simple life and saved a sparrow from being eaten by a snake, a kindness for which he was rewarded with riches a year later. Nolbu tries to recreate the situation, but instead he loses all of his wealth. The main lesson from this story is that being kind and generous will lead you to wealth and luck.
The Tale of Shim Chong
“The Tale of Shim Chong” is about the love a blind girl has for her father. Her love is so strong that she offers herself as a sacrifice in order to regain his eyesight. Shim Chong is summoned by the Dragon King and resurrected because of the love she showed towards her father. She becomes an empress, her father regains his eyesight, and they live happily together. Putting others before yourself is the right thing to do.
The Rabbit’s Liver
“The Rabbit’s Liver” is about the Dragon King who has an ailment which can only be cured by the liver from a rabbit. The terrapin volunteers to search for a rabbit and sets out. He captures a rabbit and brings it back to the palace with him. However, the rabbit realizes the danger he is in and lies to the King, saying his liver is hidden in the forest and he must go back to retrieve it. The rabbit is able to escape because of his quick thinking and never returns to the palace. Study well and think quick and things will turn out well.
Gyeonu and Jiknyeo
“Gyeonu and Jiknyeo” is a story about the heavenly king’s daughter, Jiknyeo, who was a masterful, hardworking weaver. Jiknyeo fell in love with a cow herder named Gyeonu across the Milky Way, and her father allowed them to get married. However, once married, the two became devoted to their love and abandoned their work. Her father forbade them to meet, only allowed to meet once a year. This tale is the lore behind Chilseok, a traditional Korean festival, which celebrates the dwindling of the heat and the start of the wet season.
The Fairy and the Woodcutter
“The Fairy and the Woodcutter” is a story of a woodcutter who saves a deer. Grateful the deer tells him the secret to catch and marry a fairy: one must steal their clothes that let them fly. The woodcutter succeeds in marrying one. However, after they have a couple of children, he reveals that he stole her clothing. The fairy then returns back to her home in the heavens along with her children, leaving the woodcutter all alone. This tale is a very popular tragic love story that children enjoy that emphasizes the moral of honesty and respect of others and their things.
The Gold Axe and the Silver Axe
“The Gold Axe and the Silver Axe” is also known as “The Honest Woodcutter,” and is the Korean version of the Aesop’s fable of the same name. The story is about a woodcutter who drops his axe into the river and starts to cry. The God of the Mountain dives into the river and pulls out a gold axe and then a silver axe when the woodcutter tells the God neither of the axe’s are his. Because of the woodcutter’s honesty, the God gives the woodcutter both the axes, plus the one he originally lost. Honesty will earn you generosity of others.
Hopefully you enjoyed learning about some Korean fairy tales. These 6 are some of the most popular. However, there are many more to explore! You can check the YouTube channel Hello Kids for more! Since every culture has its own fairy tales, what’s your favorite fairy tale from your childhood? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover Image: English Kids' Cafe
Written By Ashton Carson