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.

Awful Little Goblin, The

THERE was an occasion for a celebration in the home of a nobleman of Seoul, whereupon a feast, to which were invited all the family friends, was prepared. There was a great crowd of men and women. In front of the women's quarters there suddenly appeared an uncombed, ugly-looking boy about fifteen years of age. The host and guests, thinking him a coolie who had come in the train of some visitor, did not ask specially concerning him, but one of the women guests, seeing him in the inner quarters, sent a servant to reprimand him and put him out. The boy, however, did not move, so the servant said to him, "Who are you, anyway, and with whom did you come, that you enter the women's quarters, and even when told to go out do not go?"

               The boy, however, stood stock-still, just as he had been, with no word of reply.

               The company looked at him in doubt, and began to ask one another whose he was and with whom he had come. Again they had the servant make inquiry, but still there was no reply. The women then grew very angry, and ordered him to be put out. Several took hold of him and tried to pull him, but he was like a fixed rock, fast in the earth, absolutely immovable. In helpless rage they informed the men.

               The men, hearing this, sent several strong servants, who took hold all at once, but he did not budge a hair. They asked, "Who are you, anyway?" but he gave no reply. The crowd, then enraged, sent ten strong men with ropes to bind him, but like a giant mountain he remained fast, so that they recognized that he could not be moved by man's power.

               One guest remarked, "But he, too, is human; why cannot he be moved?" They then sent five or six giant fellows with clubs to smash him to pieces, and they laid on with all their might. It looked as though he would be crushed like an egg-shell, while the sound of their pounding was like reverberating thunder. But just as before, not a hair did he turn, not a wink did he give.

               Then the crowd began to fear, saying, "This is not a man, but a god," so they entered the courtyard, one and all, and began to bow before him, joining their hands and supplicating earnestly. They kept this up for a long time.

               At last the boy gave a sarcastic smile, turned round, went out of the gate and disappeared.

               The company, frightened out of their wits, called off the feast. From that day on, the people of that house were taken ill, including host and guests. Those who scolded him, those who tied him with ropes, those who pounded him, all died in a few days. Other members of the company, too, contracted typhus and the like, and died also.

               It was commonly held that the boy was the Too-uk Spirit, but we cannot definitely say. Strange, indeed!

                Im Bang.


Note.--When the time comes for a clan to disappear from the earth, calamity befalls it. Even though a great spirit should come in at the door at such a feast time, if the guests had done as Confucius suggests, "Be reverent and distant," instead of insulting him and making him more malignant than ever, they would have escaped. Still, devils and men were never intended to dwell together.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Awful Little Goblin, 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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