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.

Man Who Became a Pig, The

A CERTAIN Minister of State, called Kim Yu, living in the County of Seung-pyong, had a relative who resided in a far-distant part of the country, an old man aged nearly one hundred. On a certain day a son of this patriarch came to the office of the Minister and asked to see him. Kim ordered him to be admitted, and inquired as to why he had come. Said he, "I have something very important to say, a private matter to lay before your Excellency. There are so many guests with you now that I'll come again in the evening and tell it."

               In the evening, when all had departed, he came, and the Minister ordered out his personal retainers and asked the meaning of the call. The man replied, saying, "My father, though very old, was, as you perhaps know, a strong and hearty man. On a certain day he called us children to him and said, 'I wish to have a siesta, so now close the door and all of you go out of the room. Do not let any one venture in till I call you.'

               "We children agreed, of course, and did so. Till late at night there was neither call nor command to open the door, so that we began to be anxious. We at last looked through the chink, and lo, there was our father changed into a huge pig! Terrified by the sight of it we opened the door and looked in, when the animal grunted and growled and made a rush to get out past us. We hurriedly closed the door again and held a consultation.

               "Some said, 'Let's keep the pig just as it is, within doors, and care for it.' Some said, 'Let's have a funeral and bury it.' We ignorant country-folk not knowing just what to do under such peculiar circumstances, I have come to ask counsel of your Excellency. Please think over this startling phenomenon and tell us what we ought to do."

               Prince Kim, hearing this, gave a great start, thought it over for a long time, and at last said, "No such mysterious thing was ever heard of before, and I really don't know what is best to do under the circumstances, but still, it seems to me that since this metamorphosis has come about, you had better not bury it before death, so give up the funeral idea. Since, too, it is not a human being any longer, I do not think it right to keep it in the house. You say that it wants to make its escape, and as a cave in the woods or hills is its proper abode, I think you had better take it out and let it go free into the trackless depths of some mountainous country, where no foot of man has ever trod."

               The son accepted this wise counsel, and did as the Minister advised, took it away into the deep mountains and let it go. Then he donned sackcloth, mourned, buried his father's clothes for a funeral, and observed the day of metamorphosis as the day of sacrificial ceremony.

                Im Bang.


Kim Yu was the son of a country magistrate who graduated with literary honours in 1596. In 1623 he was one of the faithful courtiers who joined forces to dethrone the wicked Prince Kwang-hai, and place In-jo on the throne. He was raised to the rank of Prince and became, later, Prime Minister. In the year 1624, when Yi Kwal raised an insurrection, he was the means of putting it down and of bringing many of his followers to justice. In 1648, he died at the age of seventy-seven.

               In the last year of Son-jo the King called his grandchildren together and had them write Chinese for him and draw pictures. At that time In-jo was a little boy, and he drew a picture of a horse. King Son-jo gave the picture to Yi Hang-bok, but when the latter some years later went into exile he gave the picture to Kim Yu. Kim Yu took it, and hung it up in his house and there it remained.

               Prince In-jo was one day making a journey out of the Palace when he was overtaken by rain, and took refuge in a neighbouring gate-quarters. A servant-maid came out and invited him in, asking him not to stand in the wet, but Prince In-jo declined. The invitation, however, was insisted on, and he went into the guest-room, where he saw the picture of a horse on the wall. On examining it carefully he recognized it as the picture he had drawn when a lad, and he wondered how it could have come here. Kim Yu then came in and they met for the first time. Prince In-jo told him how he had been overtaken by rain and invited in. He asked concerning the picture of the horse that hung on the wall, and Kim Yu in reply asked why he inquired. Prince In-jo said, "I drew that picture myself when I was a boy." Just as they spoke together a rich table of food was brought in from the inner quarters. Kim Yu, not knowing yet who his guest was, looked with wonder at this surprise, and after Prince In-jo had gone, he inquired of his wife why she had sent such delicious fare in to a stranger. The wife replied, "In a dream last night, I saw the King come and stand in front of our house. I was just thinking it over when the servant came in and said that some one was standing before the door. I looked out, and lo, it was the man I had seen in my dream! so I have treated him to the best of hospitality that I was able." Kim Yu soon learned who his caller had been, and became from that time the faithful supporter of Prince In-jo, and later helped to put him on the throne.

               After In-jo became king he asked privately of Kim Yu where he had got the picture. Kim Yu said, "I got it from Prince Yi Hang-bok."

               Kim Yu then called Yi's son and inquired of him as to how his father had got it. The son said, "In the last year of King Son-jo he called my father along with all his grandchildren, and showed him the writings and drawings of the young princes. My father looked at them with interest, but the King gave him only one as a keepsake, namely, the drawing of the horse." In the picture there was a willow tree and a horse tied to it. Kim Yu then recognized the thought that underlay the gift of the picture, namely, that Prince Yi Hang-bok should support In-jo in the succession to the throne.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Man Who Became a Pig, 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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