Monday, August 4, 2008
An Old Korean Folk Tale
I'm moving a bit slower around the blogosphere these days. Posting less, commenting less often, letting my blogger reader climb up to the 200s and not sweating it. I am trying to find a right mix of family, writing, blogging, working, etc. As all of you know, this is not easy. But it is doable. The right mix is somewhere out there and I will eventually get it right. So I am still around, perhaps less visible than before. But always thinking fondly of you all and waiting for the the right story to share.
So I thought of a funny story to share. When I was young, my mom once told me an old Korean folktale that made me laugh my ass off. I always thought she had made it up but she is not really the creative type so I couldn't be too sure. So imagine my surprise to find that the story is actually truly an old Korean folktale, called "The Farting Daughter-in-law" and recorded in the Korean Studies Series No. 5 volume of Korean Folktales. The version I read reads like a superhero story. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Superfartress! It is quite long and complicated and ends with Super Farting Daughter-in-law saving her in-laws with a superfart. Quite comical, but not what I remembered. So I'll give you my mother's version.
Once upon a time, a long time ago. There was a young girl who had a really fat butt and was known in her village for farting so loud and powerfully that she could kill a bird in a tree with her fart. Although she was quite pretty, no one in her village, or the surrounding villages wanted to have anything to do with her. Til one day, a matchmaker from far away came for the girl. She was to match her with a family many villages away. The girl's family was delighted and they sent her off with her bridal dowry. Before she left, her mother admonished her not to fart and ruin her new life. The daughter promised and left.
She arrived to her new family and settled nicely into a routine, turning into a perfect and most dutiful daughter-in-law. Her husband and his parents were very happy with this lovely, respectful, modest and dutiful addition to their household. The house was very small, and the internal walls made of sliding paper walls. There was very little privacy in the house. As several weeks went by, they noticed that their new daughter-in-law was turning very pale and sickly. Quite concerned for her, the husband and both parents took turns asking her what was the matter, but the girl refused to tell them. Instead, she continued to turn sickly pale. Finally, the mother-in-law took her aside for a strong talk.
"My dear, you are wasting away and look like you are about to die. All of us are terribly concerned with you and I insist you tell me what is wrong!"
The girl was in terrible pain by this point and decided to confide in her mother-in-law.
"I am so sorry to cause you such concern, but it is because ever since I have arrived, there is no place that I can fart without being heard by the family and I am too embarassed to do so in front of all of you."
The mother-in-law began to laugh. "Is that all this is about?"
The daughter-in-law nodded.
"My dear! You had me so worried! This is nothing, just a little gas. Please go ahead and let it out. None of us will think badly of you, in fact, since we have been talking, I have farted many times without you even knowing it!"
The daughter-in-law began to look relieved, but was still a little nervous.
"Are you sure you will not think badly of me?"
"I told you! Go ahead and fart!" the mother-in-law insisted.
Without another word, the daughter-in-law released the fart that she had been holding for so many weeks. But because of the incredible amount of gas buildup, the fart came out as a huge explosion, one that blasted through all the walls of the house, sending it flying apart like a house of cards. Her mother-in-law was blasted several houses away while the father-in-law and the husband were hidden in the rubble.
So here is where my mother's version of the story differentiates from the recorded Korean folktale. The book states that the daughter-in-law was kicked out by her in-laws who were worried for their son, but on her way to her parents home, she has these adventures where she knocks out bad guys with her farts and makes lots of money and goes back to her in-laws who take her back happily, now that she is rich. My mother's version ended like this:
The mother-in-law came back to the ruins of the house, still dazed by the fart. Seeing her daughter-in-law unharmed, while her husband and son were crawling out of the wreckage, blood pouring from various wounds, the mother-in-law called her a monster and chased her away with a shovel. So mortified was the poor daughter-in-law that she went into the deep mountainside and died of a broken-heart. And the moral of this story is, never trust your mother-in-law.
Me - I thought it was never fart in front of your mother-in-law.
Mom - Who cares about the fart! Just never show your true colors to your mother-in-law or she will drive you away!
Me - OK, Mom, thanks for the interesting story.
Mom - And never let your husband get life insurance on you either.
Me - Wha?!
Mom - Especially over a million...
Me - Mom, I'm 13, why are you telling me this now?
Mom - Because you are never too young to learn. Let me tell you this story. It's called the Stupid Daughter-in-law...