Hello, everyone. Welcome to “Korean Folktales.” In this weekly corner, we introduce you to interesting and instructive Korean folk stories. I’m Jinny Na. Today, I’ll tell you the sad tale of a fisherman and his koi carp-turned-wife.
A long time ago, there lived a fisherman who lived alone. One day, he caught a big koi carp in the river. He felt sorry for the beautiful, golden fish. He did not have the heart to kill it. For some reason, he thought he would be punished if he killed the poor creature. But he didn’t want to let it go either. He was attracted to the koi. After some thought, he brought the fish home and put it in a big jar filled with water.
A few days later, the fisherman returned home from work and found a delicious meal prepared on the table. He thought it very strange since he was living all alone in the house. He ate the food and from that day on, whenever he came back home, a meal awaited him. Also, his house was clean and the clothes were washed. The fisherman wondered who did all cleaning and cooking.
One day, he pretended to leave, but really, hid himself in the house to see what was going on. After a while, a pretty girl came out of the jar where the koi had been kept. Taken by surprise, the fisherman watched the young lady clean the house, wash his clothes and cook food to set the table. After finishing her work, the woman was about to go back into the jar, when the fisherman ran toward her and caught her by the arm. “Wait! Lady Koi. Was it you who did all these things for me so far?” The woman looked astonished but she said calmly. “Yes, sir. In fact, I’m the daughter of the Sea King under the sea. I came up to the river the other day because I was curious about the human world. And you caught me there. You were kind enough to save my life. I wanted to express my gratitude to you, so I did the household chores.”
The fisherman was delighted to hear that. Holding her hands tightly, he asked her to marry him. The koi lady agreed, but she told him not to see her having a bath for one year. The man gladly promised to do as he was told.
So, the two began to live together in the house as husband and wife. The fisherman was immensely happy, as he didn’t feel lonely anymore. They lived a happy, peaceful life. But one day, nearly a year after they got married, the fisherman opened the door of the bathroom and happened to see his wife having a bath. Even before he could say anything, the wife suddenly turned into a koi carp again and floundered on the floor. He quickly put the fish in the water jar. Shedding tears, the koi said, “It’s been almost a year and we’ve come so close. Why didn’t you keep your promise? If you did, I would have lived as your wife forever.”
The fisherman was heartbroken. He bitterly regretted having opened the bathroom door, but it was too late. He brought the koi to the river where he had caught it and released it there. He was all torn up over the loss of his beloved wife, but there was nothing he could do.
That’s it for today’s “Korean Folktales.” Thank you for listening. Please join me again next time for another interesting Korean folk story. I’m Jinny Na. Goodbye, everyone.