Friday, March 23, 2018

Book Reviews: Korean Folktales

So I mentioned the other day about finding some fun Asian folktales, Chinese and Korean, at the library and how I was looking forward to them. These two were very short tales, told in a picture book form. Here's what I thought about each of them:

Older Brother, Younger Brothers retold by Nina Jaffe

From what I understand, this one is a very old, very well known story told to everyone in Korea (even North I know since the boy in that recent book I read referred to this story many times) and probably other Asian countries. It reminded me a little bit of the Prodigal Son from the bible, except that the "bad" son is a brother and comes begging back home to the other brother and not the father.

The story is about two brothers who have very different personalities. (I guess this could be kinda like Cain and Able too actually.) One is loving and kind and generous. The other is selfish and mean and spiteful. When the dad dies, the older mean brother brother takes the house and kicks his younger brother out.

So the younger brother finds a new place to live and struggles and grows and learns. He is nice to a wounded bird, and later, that bird comes back and rewards him with many riches.

When the younger brother learns about this, he figures he can do the same thing. So he hurts a bird, then fixes it and then sits back to wait for his reward. Only instead he gets bad fortune. Terrible things happen. And he and his family lose everything. So he has to go begging to his brother.

Of course the younger brother takes him and welcomes him with open arms. The older brother finally sees his terrible ways and vows to do better, which he does and they live happily ever after.

I'm sure kids are told this story and learn a ton of lessons from it! Karma being one I'd think. Forgiveness. You reap what you sew. All sorts of lessons!

The Princess and the Beggar retold by Anne Sibley O'brien

This is the story of a royal family, with a princess who always seemed to be crying. She was called The Weeping Princess. But in fact, she just felt a lot of sympathy for those around her. Especially one day when she saw the local beggar boy being harassed in town. She felt so bad for him. This boy was eventually banned to live in the forests outside of town and people sat around and told stories about him.

When the Princess continued to cry over every little thing, her dad the King joked that he might just have to marry her off to the Idiot in the forest. The joke got around and everyone teased her relentlessly.

Then one day she was to be married off to another kingdom. She knew she wouldn't be even a little bit happy. So she refused. Her dad was so mad and tried to force her to obey. She said "I would rather be married to the Idiot!" And so the king made it so and banished his daughter.

When she went to the forest, the Idiot (his name was Ondal by the way) found her and asked her why she was there.  When he learned she was there to "marry" him, he thought he was being mocked. But then he realized she was for real. He was very nice then and they become friends and partners. She taught him a ton of things and he learned fast. Of course, he was not an idiot at all.

Gradually, they became brave enough and one day they decided to go back to the town to the festival. She managed to convince him to compete in the games and guess what, he won! And now everyone had to know who he was!

Imagine everyone's surprise when they found out he was the "idiot" and had learned everything from his new wife, the weeping princess! The king decided to welcome them back but they said no thanks and stayed living in the forest, only coming to visit and help the kingdom now and then.

I loved this story and could see all the potential romance and sweetness. And another tale of forgiveness too. I think it would make a great drama or a YA story. I wonder if someone has already thought the same thing?

Lovely lovely stories. I'm so glad I thought to check out the folktale section at the library! I always forget it even exists! I might have to see what else it hides...


  1. I never really thought about checking out folktales from other countries. I’m just used to the ones I grew up with. Maybe I should widen my horizons.

    1. Jenny: I'm sure there's so many that are the same. That's what would be fun is to compare them all.

  2. Are you going to look for some Japanese ones too? I'm just curious. You don't have to or anything.

    1. Jenni: Maybe. I would for sure if something I'm watching is based on it. There's a ton of dramas based on Japanese anime and that's only thing I've never checked out, which would be fun to do.

  3. I know the first story about the brothers, but I don't recognize the second story. I used to have a little hat like that that went with my hanbok. I wonder where it went. I hated it being pinned to my head.



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