Hello, everyone. Welcome to “Korean Folktales.” This Monday corner takes you into the world of interesting Korean folk stories. I’m Jinny Na. Today’s folktale tells how a wise old woman defeated a gang of bandits.
A long time ago, there was a small village at the foot of a mountain. The mountain path was infested with robbers who would attack passers-by and steal their belongings. Travelers as well as villagers were afraid of the violent and ruthless thieves and were reluctant to use the mountain path. The bandits even raided wagons carrying local specialties to be offered to the king. The rumors of the notorious gang of scoundrels reached the ears of the king, who ordered a local magistrate in charge of that area to suppress the gangsters. In fact, the magistrate had tried hard to clamp down on the thieves even before the king issued the order. But it was very challenging because the robbers were good at hiding themselves in the rough mountainous terrain. Now that the magistrate had to follow the royal command, the problem became even more serious.
One day, while the magistrate was agonizing over how to capture the thieves, an old woman came to him and presented an idea of how to solve the problem. The magistrate wondered if her plan would actually work, but he decided to accept her suggestion since there were no other alternatives.
The old lady went to the mountain path that was frequently haunted by the bandits and began to shout, “Deuljagu (들자구)! Deuljagu!” Hearing her loud voice, some of the robbers appeared and caught her. They took her to their den, where the gang leader asked her what the strange word meant. She said she was looking for her two missing sons named Deuljagu and Dajagu. Of course, the leader wasn’t interested in the sons of a total stranger. “I don’t care about your sons. But I need a person who can cook for us in the kitchen. You stay here and work in the kitchen, OK?” After some hesitation, the woman said, “I see. But please allow me to shout my sons’ names anytime I want.” The gang said bluntly, “Oh, you are such a bother. Do whatever you want.”
A few days later, the boss’ birthday party was held. The entire group enjoyed delicious food made by the old woman and drank much alcohol, until they got as drunk as a lord. Soon, the drunken bandits, including the boss, fell asleep one after another. Then, the old lady screamed, “Dajagu! Dajagu!” No one paid attention to her. Even though some heard her voice, they simply thought she was shouting her son’s name again.
Meanwhile, in the forest nearby, the magistrate and his soldiers heard the woman’s feeble voice from a distance. They stood up and quickly ran toward the place where the voice came from. They swooped into the thieves’ den and arrested them instantly. The helpless bandits, who were all asleep, couldn’t do anything. It turned out that the word “deuljagu” referred to “not sleeping yet” and “dajagu” meant “all sleeping.” The woman’s idea was to use these two words to signal the perfect time to attack when the gangs were asleep. After capturing the thieves at long last, the magistrate looked for the wise woman. But she was nowhere to be found. And the mysterious woman never appeared in the village again. People believed that she was a mountain goddess who came down to the village to help get rid of the bandits.
Today, granny Dajagu is worshipped as a mountain goddess and a shrine dedicated to her is located at Mt. Sobaek. Memorial services are held there in the spring and autumn every year to honor this legendary woman.
That’s it for today’s “Korean Folktales.” I hope you enjoyed the story. Thank you for listening. I’m Jinny Na. Goodbye, everyone.