Hello, everyone. Welcome to “Korean Folktales.” In this weekly corner, we introduce you to interesting and instructive Korean folk stories. I’m Jinny Na.
How much do you think three eggs cost? Of course, prices vary from store to store. But a man in the following story seems to be calculating the price of eggs in a very unique, yet ridiculous way.
Once upon a time, there lived a merchant who sold a variety of things, including vegetables, fruit and eggs, at the market. One day, as always, he opened his store and waited for customers to come. He saw a young man approaching the store. Looking at the eggs displayed on the stand, the customer hesitantly asked the merchant if he could buy twelve eggs on credit. He also said that he would pay the price later. The seller could tell the man was a poor guy just by looking at his shabby clothes and worn-out shoes. The vendor had no intention of doing him a favor. But he didn’t want to kick the first customer of the day out of his store cruelly, either. So he only gave three eggs, not twelve, to the young man and told him to go away. Although the amount was not exactly what he initially asked for, the poor man expressed his gratitude to the seller and disappeared. The merchant soon forgot about the man and the eggs.
Three years passed. The vendor was still selling things at the same market. One day, a well-dressed man came to the merchant and gave him a pouch filled with coins. “Sir, I’m here to pay the price of the three eggs you gave me three years ago. I’d like to say thank you again.” The egg seller stared at the man and recalled the poor young guy he had met years ago. To his surprise, the young man appeared to be very wealthy. The merchant imagined that the man had succeeded in his business and became rich. He opened the pouch and found a lot of coins, which were definitely worth far more than three eggs.
But he gave the pouch back to the man. “This is nonsense. How much do you think the eggs cost? Let me explain. Three chicks would have hatched from the three eggs and grew into three chickens. They would have laid eggs of their own. If we assume one chicken lays an egg every day, there would have been 365 eggs a year. The eggs would have become chicks again. In this way, think of how many eggs and chickens I could have had for the last three years?” The calculation itself was unreasonable, but the egg seller was obviously trying to get more money from the rich man. The customer said with a smile, “You’re right, sir. But chickens don’t grow naturally without eating. You would have fed them over the years too. I don’t think I have to pay the cost of the feed.”
The egg seller thought it made some sense. So, he began to calculate again, this time, by deducting the cost of feed. “OK, then, let’s start with one chicken eating a handful of feed a day. That would cost hmmm…” He was so focused on the difficult and complicated assessment that he didn’t even realize that the man had left. Before long, the merchant felt something was wrong. He looked around and discovered that both the man and the pouch were gone. He could have received a lot more money for what he had actually sold, but he lost the chance after all. He bitterly regretted having been so greedy, but it was too late.
That’s it for today’s “Korean Folktales.” Tune in again next time for another interesting Korean folk story. Thank you for listening. I’m Jinny Na. Goodbye, everyone.