Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications. Many of the tales in this collection included introductory and/or end note text which has been moved to the Notes section for each tale.

Vision of the Holy Man, The

TEACHER To-jong was once upon a time a merchant, and in his merchandising went as far as the East Sea. One night he slept in a fishing village on the shore. At that time another stranger called who was said to be an i-in or "holy man." The three met and talked till late at night--the master of the house, the "holy man" and To-jong. It was very clear and beautifully calm. The "holy man" looked for a time out over the expanse of water, then suddenly gave a great start of terror, and said, "An awful thing is about to happen."

               His companions, alarmed at his manner, asked him what he meant. He replied, "In two hours or so there will be a tidal wave that will engulf this whole village, utterly destroying everything. If you do not make haste to escape all will be as fish in a net."

               To-jong, being something of an astrologer himself, thought first to solve the mystery of this, but could arrive at no explanation.

               The owner of the house would not believe it, and refused to prepare for escape.

               The "holy man" said, however, "Even though you do not believe what I say, let us go for a little up the face of the rear mountain. If my words fail we can only come down again, and no one will be the worse for it. If you still do not wish to trust me, leave your goods and furniture just as they are and let the people come away."

               To-jong was greatly interested, though he could not understand it. The master, too, could no longer refuse this proposal, so he took his family and a few light things and followed the "holy man" up the hill.

               He had them ascend to the very top, "in order," said he, "to escape."

               To-jong did not go to the top, but seated himself about half-way up. He asked the "holy man" if he would not be safe enough there.

               The "holy man" replied, "Others would never escape if they remained where you are, but you will simply get a fright and live through it."

               When cock-crow came, sure enough the sea suddenly lifted its face, overflowed its banks, and the waves came rolling up to the heavens, climbing the mountain-sides till they touched the feet of To-jong. The whole town on the seashore was engulfed. When daylight came the waters receded.

               To-jong bowed to the "holy man" and asked that he might become his disciple. The "holy man," however, disclaimed any knowledge, saying that he had simply known it by accident. He was a man who did not speak of his own attainments. To-jong asked for his place of residence, which he indicated as near by, and then left. He went to seek him on the following day, but the house was vacant, and there was no one there.

                Im Bang.


Yi Chi-Ham (Master To-jong).--A story is told of him that on the day after his wedding he went out with his topo or ceremonial coat on, but came back later without it. On inquiry being made, it was found that he had torn it into pieces to serve as bandages for a sick child that he had met with on his walk.

               Once on a time he had an impression that his father-in-law's home was shortly to be overtaken by a great disaster; he therefore took his wife and disappeared from the place. In the year following, for some political offence, the home was indeed wiped out and the family wholly destroyed.

               To-jong was not only a prophet, but also a magician, as was shown by his handling of a boat. When he took to sea the waters lay quiet before him, and all his path was peace. He would be absent sometimes for a year or more, voyaging in many parts of the world.

               He practised fasting, and would go sometimes for months without eating. He also overcame thirst, and in the hot days of summer would avoid drinking. He stifled all pain and suffering, so that when he walked and his feet were blistered he paid no attention to it.

               While young he was a disciple of a famous Taoist, So Wha-dam. As his follower he used to dress in grass cloth (the poor man's garb), wear straw shoes and carry his bundle on his back. He would be on familiar terms with Ministers of State, and yet show indifference to their greatness and pomp. He was acquainted with the various magic practices, so that in boating he used to hang out gourd cups at each corner of the boat, and thus equipped he went many times to and from Quelpart and never met a wind. He did merchandising, made money, and bought land which yielded several thousand bags of rice that he distributed among the poor.

               He lived in Seoul in a little dug-out, so that his name became "Mud Pavilion," or To-jong. His cap was made of metal, which he used to cook his food in, and which he then washed and put back on his head again. He used also to wear wooden shoes and ride on a pack saddle.

               He built a house for the poor in Asan County when he was magistrate there, gathered in all the needy and had them turn to and work at whatever they had any skill in, so that they lived and flourished. When any one had no special ability, he had him weave straw shoes. He urged them on till they could make as many as ten pairs a day.

               Yul-gok said of him that he was a dreamer and not suitable for this matter-of-fact world, because he belonged to the realm of flowers and pretty birds, songs and sweet breezes, and not to the common clay of corn and beef and radishes. To-jong heard this, and replied, "Though I am not of a kind equal to beans and corn, still I will rank with acorns and chestnuts. Why am I wholly useless?"

                Korea's Record of Famous Men.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Vision of the Holy Man, The
Tale Author/Editor: Bang, Im
Book Title: Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts and Fairies
Book Author/Editor: Bang, Im & Ryuk, Yi
Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1913
Country of Origin: Korea
Classification: unclassified

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