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 Lost His Legs, The

THERE was a merchant in Chong-ju who used to go to Quelpart to buy seaweed. One time when he drew up on the shore he saw a man shuffling along on the ground toward the boat. He crept nearer, and at last took hold of the side with both his hands and jumped in.

               "When I looked at him," said the merchant, "I found he was an old man without any legs. Astonished, I asked, saying, 'How is it, old man, that you have lost your legs?'

               "He said in reply, 'I lost my legs on a trip once when I was shipwrecked, and a great fish bit them off.'"

               "However did that happen?" inquired the merchant. And the old man said, "We were caught in a gale and driven till we touched on some island or other. Before us on the shore stood a high castle with a great gateway. The twenty or so of us who were together in the storm-tossed boat were all exhausted from cold and hunger, and lying exposed. We landed and managed to go together to the house. There was in it one man only, whose height was terrible to behold, and whose chest was many spans round. His face was black and his eyes large and rolling. His voice was like the braying of a monster donkey. Our people made motions showing that they wanted something to eat. The man made no reply, but securely fastened the front gate. After this he brought an armful of wood, put it in the middle of the courtyard, and there made a fire. When the fire blazed up he rushed after us and caught a young lad, one of our company, cooked him before our eyes, pulled him to pieces and ate him. We were all reduced to a state of horror, not knowing what to do. We gazed at each other in dismay and stupefaction.

               "When he had eaten his fill, he went up into a verandah and opened a jar, from which he drank some kind of spirit. After drinking it he uttered the most gruesome and awful noises; his face grew very red and he lay down and slept. His snorings were like the roarings of the thunder. We planned then to make our escape, and so tried to open the large gate, but one leaf was about twenty-four feet across, and so thick and heavy that with all our strength we could not move it. The walls, too, were a hundred and fifty feet high, and so we could do nothing with them. We were like fish in a pot--beyond all possible way of escape. We held each other's hands, and cried.

               "Among us, one man thought of this plan: We had a knife and he took it, and while the monster was drunk and asleep, decided to stab his eyes out, and cut his throat. We said in reply, 'We are all doomed to death, anyway; let's try,' and we made our way up on to the verandah and stabbed his eyes. He gave an awful roar, and struck out on all sides to catch us. We rushed here and there, making our escape out of the court back into the rear garden. There were in this enclosure pigs and sheep, about sixty of them in all. There we rushed, in among the pigs and sheep. He floundered about, waving his two arms after us, but not one of us did he get hold of; we were all mixed up--sheep, pigs and people. When he did catch anything it was a sheep; and when it was not a sheep it was a pig. So he opened the front gate to send all the animals out.

               "We then each of us took a pig or sheep on the back and made straight for the gate. The monster felt each, and finding it a pig or a sheep let it go. Thus we all got out and rushed for the boat. A little later he came and sat on the bank and roared his threatenings at us. A lot of other giants came at his call. They took steps of thirty feet or so, came racing after us, caught the boat, and made it fast; but we took axes and struck at the hands that held it, and so got free at last and out to the open sea.

               "Again a great wind arose, and we ran on to the rocks and were all destroyed. Every one was engulfed in the sea and drowned; I alone got hold of a piece of boat-timber and lived. Then there was a horrible fish from the sea that came swimming after me and bit off my legs. At last I drifted back home and here I am.

               "When I think of it still, my teeth are cold and my bones shiver. My Eight Lucky Stars are very bad, that's why it happened to me."


Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Man Who Lost His Legs, The
Tale Author/Editor: Anonymous
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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