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Korean Tales of Fairy Beings

The Heavenly Maiden

The Magic Cap
 

The Heavenly Maiden and the Wood Cutter

A Korean Tale

ONCE upon a time there lived a young man whose home was in northern Gangwon Province, near the foot of the Diamond Mountain. He was very poor indeed, and in order to live he used to go every day to the mountain to cut firewood and sell it to the neighbours. All the other young men of his age were married, but he was so poor that he could not find a bride. He was an honest and conscientious young man, who worked very hard and never complained of his hard lot. The Villagers used to say, Even though the sun may not appear there is never a day when the sound of his axe is not heard on the mountain.'

One day when he was cutting firewood on the mountain as usual he heard something running towards him over the fallen leaves. This was most unusual, and he stopped work for a moment. He saw a terrified young deer running towards him. When it reached him it implored him earnestly to help it, for it was in great danger. He was touched, and immediately hid it under the pile of firewood he had cut. Then he went back to work as if nothing had happened.

Almost at once a hunter came panting towards him, and said to him, 'My man! I have been chasing a deer, and it ran up here somewhere. Have you seen it?' The burly hunter stood in front of the woodcutter, with his bow and arrows in his hands. He was familiar enough with the mountain paths, but among the trees and on the steep slopes he moved only with difficulty. So the woodcutter looked at him and said, 'Yes, I did see it. It came running past and went off down the valley over there. I couldn't say where it went after that.' So the hunter rushed back down the mountain without delay.

Then the young deer came out from under the pile of flood where it had been hiding, not daring to breathe, and thanked the woodcutter for his kindness. Weeping in its gratitude it said to him, 'You saved my life from deadly peril, and I am most deeply grateful to you; To repay your kindness I will tell you something that will bring you great success and happiness. Go up the diamond Mountain tomorrow afternoon before taco o'clock and when you come to the lakes that lie between the peaks at the foot of the rainbow there conceal yourself among the bushes by the water's edge. Then you will see eight heavenly Maidens come down from the corner of Heaven to bathe in the lakes. While they are bathing they will hang their silken under-garments on the pine trees by the shore. Do not let them see you, but go secretly and hide one of these garments. Then when they finish bathing one of them will not be able to return to Heaven. Go to her and welcome her and she will go with you. You will live happily with her, and Children will be born to you, but you must not return her heavenly under-garment to her until you have four children.' With these words the deer vanished leaving the young man overjoyed at what he had heard.

The next morning the young man got up very early and climbed to the peaks of the Diamond Mountain here there were eight beautiful lakes. The mountain is so beautiful that there is an old proverb, which says, 'Do not speak of scenic beauty until you have seen the Diamond Mountain.' It is a spot far from the bustle of everyday life, and has been held sacred from the earliest times, so that great temples have been built there. Precipitous peaks soar into the blue sky and trees that have been growing for untold centuries form dense forests Where the light of day scarcely penetrates. Streams as clear as crystal flow among the rocks ill the valleys, and here and there are lakes and waterfalls, melodious with the songs of birds and the cries of animals.

The young man concealed himself among the bushes and waited. Suddenly in a corner of the sky the clouds began to seethe, and eight Heavenly Maidens came floating down to the lakes at the rainbow's end. They chattered merrily to one another, and all at once took off their clothes and hung them on the pine trees. Then each leapt into the clear water of one of the eight lakes. As they disported themselves naked in the water the woodcutter gazed spellbound at such ethereal beauty. After a While he came to his senses and recalled the advice that the deer had given him. He crept stealthily to the pine trees there they lead hung their clothes, and took the undergarments of the youngest Maiden, still unnoticed.

Towards sunset the Heavenly Maidens prepared to return to Heaven. They began to put on their Clothes again, but to the astonishment of all, the youngest Maiden could not find her undergarments. The others could not wait for her, so they climbed up the rainbow- to the sky and left her behind. She stood there utterly bewildered, wondering Where to find her clothes, When she suddenly saw the young woodcutter standing before her. It was nearly dark, and the young man apologized profusely for the trouble he had caused her, and begged her to forgive him. He was very kind and attentive to her, and he took her to his home.

At first the Heavenly Maiden found the customs of life on earth most confusing, but she soon settled down happily to the routine of every day domestic life. The months passed happily by, and then she gave birth to a son. Her young husband was overjoyed and loved her with all his heart, and his mother too rejoiced at their happiness. The Heavenly wife seemed utterly contented and lived in harmony with her family. When their second child was born they w ere happier than ever. One day the wife asked her husband to return her Heavenly under-garments. 'I have borne you two children. Can't you trust me now? But her husband refused, for he was afraid that she might carry his children off one in each arm. When their third child was born she implored him earnestly again to return her garments. She served him delicious food and wine, trying to allay his suspicions. 'My dearest husband! I have three children now. Please just let me see my garments. I can hardly betray you now, can I?' The young man was sympathetic to his wife's feelings, and now showed her the garments, which he had kept hidden so long. But alas! When she put them on again she regained her magic powers, and at once went up to the sky, holding one child between her legs and one on each arm

Her husband was stricken with grief and reproached himself for not having followed the deer's advice to the end. He went out to the mountain to cut firewood, and sat at the same place where he had seen the deer before, hoping that it might reappear. By good fortune it passed that way and he told it his sad story. The deer said to him 'Since the day you hid the Heavenly Maiden's clothes, they do not come down to bathe there any more. So if you wish to find your wife and children you must go to them yourself. Happily there is a way. Go to the same lake to-morrow, and wait until you see a bottle-gourd come down on a rope from Heaven. They drop it to fetch up water from the lake for bathing. You must seize it and empty the water out quickly. Then get on to it yourself. They will pull it up at once, for they will not realize that you are on it. That is the only way you will be able to see your family in I heaven.' When it had told him this, the deer disappeared.

The woodcutter took its advice, and was able to go up to heaven. When he arrived there the Heavenly Maidens said, 'This smells like a man!' and, finding him in the gourd, asked him why he had come He told them, and they took him before the Heavenly King. There he met his wife and children, for she was the daughter of the Heavenly King.

The King allowed him to stay, and he lived very happily in the Heavenly Kingdom. He had the most delicious food to eat every day, and the most beautiful clothes to wear, and there was nothing at all to worry him. One day, however, he thought regretfully of his mother whom he had left alone on earth, and told his wife that he would like to go and visit her once again. But his wife begged him not to go, for if he once met Isis mother he would not be able to come back to Heaven again. But he persisted in his request and promised he would come back without fail. So in the end she yielded to his entreaties and said, 'I will get a dragon-horse for you. You will ride on it and it will take you down to the earth in the twinkling of an eye. But whatever you do, do not dismount from it, for if your feet once touch the ground you can never come back to me.'

The woodcutter mounted the dragon-horse, and went down to his mother's house. His mother was overjoyed to see her son again after his long absence. They chatted happily together, and when he bade her farewell, still astride the dragon-horse, his mother said, 'I have cooked some pumpkin porridge for you. Please have just one bowl.' He could not disappoint her kindly thought, and took the bowl she offered him. But the bowl was so hot that he dropped it on the horse's back. The horse started in alarm and reared violently throwing him to the ground. Neighing loudly the dragon-horse flew up into the sky and disappeared.

So the woodcutter never went back to Heaven and used to stand every day in tears looking up at the sky. At last he died of his grief, and was transformed into a cock. So tradition says that the reason why cocks climb to the highest part of the roof and crow with their necks stretched out towards Heaven is that the woodcutter's spirit has entered into them, and seeks the highest place it can find.

Ondoru Yawa, told by Zong Dog-Bong; Onyang (I913).
Korean Fairy Tales

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The Magic Cap

THE goblins of Korea used to wear magic caps, called Horang Gamte, which had the power of rendering them invisible. Now there once lived a man who was most diligent in his worship of his ancestors. He was always holding services to their memory, with lavish offerings of delicious food and drink. One day, when he had held such a service, a group of goblins came to his house, and ate up all the good things set out on the altars. And on every following occasion they did the same. Of course they were invisible, for they wore their magic caps, and so the offerings just disappeared. The man was very gratified at first to see his offerings eaten, for it seemed to prove that his ancestors relished them. So he spent more and more money to provide even more lavish feasts until he was almost ruined.

At last his wife complained of his extravagance. 'There must be something wrong,' she said. 'The spirits of our ancestors would never eat so much as to leave us almost ruined. There must be thieves coming in and stealing them while we are occupied with the ceremonial and bowing before the altar. In future I think we ought to keep a careful watch.'

So one night the husband hid behind a screen by the altar. He held a stout cudgel in his hand. In the middle of the night he heard the sound of whispering and of food being eaten. He peeped over the screen and saw the food steadily disappearing from the dishes. Yet he could see no one by the table. So all of a sudden he rushed out brandishing his cudgel and rushed round the altar and into all the corners of the room. Alarmed by his violent onslaught the goblins ran away, but the man touched one Ot them with his cudgel and knocked his cap off. When the goblins had gone the man saw a red cap lying on the floor, the like of which he had never seen before. He picked it up curiously and put it on, and then began to shout 'Thief! Thief!

His wife heard his shouts and came into the hall. But she could not see her husband, though she could hear him beside her gasping breathlessly, 'The thief got away, but he left a very strange cap behind. See?' His wife just stood there bewildered and said, 'But where are you, my dear? I can't see you.' Her husband took her by the hand and said, 'I'm here. What's the matter?' She felt him take hold of her, and tried to grasp him. she chanced to knock off the cap which he had put on his head. No sooner had it fallen to the floor than she saw him standing beside her.

She picked up the cap and said, 'Is this the cap you mean?' It must have made you invisible. So that's how the thief got in unnoticed. Let me try it.' she put it on her head and immediately vanished. 'This must be Horang Gamte, the magic cap. I'm sure of it!' she exclaimed. 'The thief was no man, but a goblin.'

Having made this remarkable find they determined that they would turn it to their profit. From that day on they went from house to house in the village, stealing all that they could lay their hands on. Many complaints were made to the authorities, but though a strict watch was kept not a single clue could be found, so stealthily were the thefts committed.

They continued their activities for more than a year, and became very rich. But one day the husband went to a jeweller's shop. It was not open yet, so he waited by the door. In a little while the jeweller came along and opened the door and the thief slipped in behind him. The jeweller took his money from the safe and began to count it. While he was counting it he was amazed to see the coins disappearing one by one. He searched the whole shop, on the door, and in every corner, but could find no trace of them. Then he looked up, and saw a piece of thread moving slowly in the air. He grabbed it with his fingers, something dropped on the floor, and there beside him he saw a man. The magic cap was beginning to wear out, and a thread had come loose from one of the seams.

The jeweller seized him with both hands, until he returned all the money he had stolen and offered him the magic cap did he let him go. Then the jeweller neglected his business and began himself to use the magic cap as the other had done. One day in the harvest time he went to a rich farmer's house, wearing the magic cap on his head. The yard was full of labourers threshing rice with flails. As he passed through the yard to the house one of the flails knocked the cap off his head, and it fell in tatters to the ground. So he was discovered, and immediately arrested.

He was brought to trial, and the husband and wife as well. They were all condemned to imprisonment, and shortly afterwards died in prison.

Ondoru Yawa, told by Zo Song-Gab; Onyang (I9I3).
Korean Fairy Tales

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