The Story Bag.
In the spirit of the Lunar New Year, our story will be from Korea! Lunar New Year has many different names and countries like China, Korea, Vietnam, and Malaysia all celebrated January 22nd, 2023!
We do cover the story of the Moon Goddess from the Mid-Autumn festival so if you want more festive stories then do check out that story here.
This tale comes from So-un Kim’s “The Story Bag; a collection of Korean folk tales.” He was a prominent storyteller and essayist who wrote many books detailing Korean folktales and fairy tales!
His politics, however, were controversial, and I recommend reading Kyong-Mi Danyel Kwon’s article, “Colonial Ambivalence and “A Message from the Rose of Sharon”: A study of Kim So-un and his Literary Works” for more background on his literary impact through his Japanese translations.
There once lived a wealthy family with a sole heir, a little boy who loved stories. Whenever he met a new person, he would ask them to tell him a tale to store away in a small bag he cried on his belt. Soon, the bag was packed tightly, and he struggled to get more stories in there, but he kept going. Eventually, he forgot about the bag as one does with old, cherished toys.
Time went on, and he grew into a handsome bachelor looking for a lovely wife. As his household was in an uproar preparing the wedding festivities, one of the old servants began hearing whispering in the walls. He took a moment to investigate and found that it was coming from the young master’s bag of stories. The old man listened carefully to the whispers.
Art by Ana Burgos from Kamishibai
“Listen everyone,” a faint voice said, “the wedding is tomorrow! We must make him pay for keeping us stuffed in here for so long. He should suffer as we have!”
“Yes,” a second voice said. “Tomorrow, when the boy is riding his horse to bring home his bride, I shall disguise myself as ripe berries along the road. He enjoys beautiful things so he will pluck me and eat me right up- and when he does, I shall poison him!”
“If he survives,” a third voice chimed in, “I will become a bubbling spring. When he feels thirsty and slurps me up, I will make him feel horrible.”
“Even so,” a fourth voice added, “if you fail then I will become a hot iron skewer hidden in his bag of chaff. When he dismounts at his brides house and steps on the bag, I will burn his feet horribly.”
“But-“ a fifth voice hissed, “if nothing else, then I will become poisonous snakes and hide in the bridegroom chamber. When the happy couple falls asleep, I will bite them both!”
The old man was a faithful servant and was alarmed at this information. He decided to join the bridal procession tomorrow and keep an eye out for the devious stories.
The next day, as the groom was preparing to head out, the old servant ran out and asked to lead the young master’s horse. There were grumbles and complaints, but the servant’s resolve was ironclad, and eventually, everyone relented.
On the way, they came across a field of stunning berries that had not been there previously. The bridegroom called everyone to stop and asked for some, but the determined servant refused and said he would get some later. With a crack of the whip, the horse moved on. The same happened when they came upon the tempting, bubbling brook.
Annoyed, the groom was in a horrible mood when they finally arrived at the bride’s house. A bag of chaff was placed for him to dismount on since the custom at the time was that the groom’s feet could not touch the ground. Panicked, the servant pretended to fall and shoved the man into a stack of hay mats.
Embarrassed, the groom quietly seethed but continued with the wedding, waiting to reprimand his old servant in private. The wedding was beautiful, and when the couple retired for the night, the servant waited outside for their lights to go out, which is a little creepy, but it has good intentions.
Finally, it was time. As soon as their room went dark, the servant sprung to action and threw open the door to the bridal chamber.
“I shall explain later!” He shouted at the bewildered couple and threw the sheets off to reveal hundreds of thread-like snakes coiled tightly into a ball. Wildly, he slashed and stabbed, fighting off the snakes until there was nothing left.
Korean Society from the 18th century (Danwon Kim Hong)
Only then did he turn to the wide-eyed couple and relay the tale of what he had heard. From then on, stories were never stored away to become mean and spiteful. They must be shared and passed on so that everyone can enjoy them!
And with that, I welcome you all to a new year of sharing stories with us here in the enchanted forest! Please be sure to check in on our new episodes coming in February from places we have not travelled to before! And remember travellers: there is always a place for you in the enchanted forest!