Hello, everyone. Welcome to “Korean Folktales.” This Monday corner takes you into the world of interesting Korean folk stories. I’m Jinny Na.
Dano, the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar, is one of the major traditional Korean holidays. In one of the main activities associated with Dano, young people used to wash their hair in water boiled with sweet iris leaves known as changpo in Korean. In another traditional custom, people would hang changpo leaves from their houses on Dano day. Today’s tale tells us how this custom originated.
A long time ago, there lived a farmer who had three daughters. He wished he had a son, especially when he did hard farm work. One day, while working, he found a big rock stuck in his rice field. He tried hard, again and again, to pull it out, only to fail. In frustration, he murmured to himself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a strong son in this situation? If someone helps me out with this lousy stone, I would be willing to give one of my daughters to him.”
Just then, a scary-looking goblin appeared out of the blue. Even before the farmer said something, the powerful goblin dug the rock from the field right away. “Hey, farmer! I’ve removed the rock. As you promised, give me your daughter. I’ll come to your house in three days.” With these words, the goblin disappeared.
Back home, the farmer was worried to death. His first daughter asked him what was troubling him and he said that one of his three daughters should be the bride of the goblin. The first daughter stormed out of the room in a blaze of anger. The second daughter was also annoyed and blamed her father for making such a ridiculous promise to the dreadful goblin. But the third daughter was different. The tender-hearted girl felt sorry for her father and she volunteered to marry the goblin. The farmer was sad at the thought of parting from his favorite daughter but there was nothing else he could do. Three days later, as the goblin said, he came to the farmer’s house and took the youngest daughter away with him.
Years passed. The farmer missed his daughter very much so he decided to go see her, even though he was afraid that his visit might upset the goblin. However, his daughter and the goblin, now his son-in-law, welcomed him warmly. The farmer felt relieved and happy to be reunited with his daughter. But it turned out that the man-eating goblin wanted to devour the farmer, and that’s why the monster treated him well. The farmer’s daughter noticed what her husband had in mind. Although she was the wife of the goblin, she couldn’t let her husband kill her father. She told her father about the goblin’s evil scheme. They managed to escape from the house to return to their old home.
But alas, they discovered that the nasty goblin had followed them. They felt like the world was coming to an end. A neighbor saw the farmer and his daughter running toward the house, trembling with fear, and a goblin chasing after them. The neighbor instinctively knew what was going on, and he quickly hung changpo leaves on the eaves of the farmer’s house. Strangely, the goblin stopped in front of the house. He circled the house several times before leaving with his head held low.
It happened to be the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which was celebrated as Dano by farmers to wish for a good harvest after planting rice seeds. From then on, people have traditionally hung changpo leaves from their houses on Dano day, in the belief that the leaves would expel evil spirits.
That’s it for today’s “Korean Folktales.” Thank you for listening, and tune in again next time for another interesting Korean folk story. I’m Jinny Na. Goodbye, everyone.