YI KWAI was the son of a minister. He passed his examinations and held high office. When his father was Governor of Pyong-an Province, Kwai was a little boy and accompanied him. The Governor's first wife being dead, Kwai's stepmother was the mistress of the home. Once when His Excellency had gone out on an inspecting tour, the yamen was left vacant, and Kwai was there with her. In the rear garden of the official quarters was a pavilion, called the Hill Pagoda, that was connected by a narrow gateway with the public hall. Frequently Kwai took one of the yamen boys with him and went there to study, and once at night when it had grown late and the boy who accompanied him had taken his departure, the door opened suddenly and a young woman came in. Her clothes were neat and clean, and she was very pretty. Kwai looked carefully at her, but did not recognize her. She was evidently a stranger, as there was no such person among the dancing-girls of the yamen.
He remained looking at her, in doubt as to who she was, while she on the other hand took her place in the corner of the room and said nothing.
"Who are you?" he asked. She merely laughed and made no reply. He called her. She came and knelt down before him, and he took her by the hand and patted her shoulder, as though he greeted her favourably. The woman smiled and pretended to enjoy it. He concluded, however, that she was not a real woman, but a goblin of some kind, or perhaps a fox, and what to do he knew not. Suddenly he decided on a plan, caught her, swung her on to his back, and rushed out through the gate into the yamen quarters, where he shouted at the top of his voice for his stepmother and the servants to come.
It was midnight and all were asleep. No one replied, and no one came. The woman, then, being on his back, bit him furiously at the nape of the neck. By this he knew that she was the fox. Unable to stand the pain of it, he loosened his grasp, when she jumped to the ground, made her escape and was seen no more.
What a pity that no one came to Kwai's rescue and so made sure of the beast!
The Fox.--Orientals say that among the long-lived creatures are the tortoise, the deer, the crane and the fox, and that these long-lived ones attain to special states of spiritual refinement. If trees exist through long ages they become coal; if pine resin endures it becomes amber; so the fox, if it lives long, while it never becomes an angel, or spiritual being, as a man does, takes on various metamorphoses, and appears on earth in various forms.
Story of the Fox, A
Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies
Bang, Im & Ryuk, Yi
E. P. Dutton & Co.
Year of Publication:
Country of Origin: