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KOREAN TALES. Kim So-un's Korean Children’s Favorite Stories, a collection of 13 folk tales, gets off to a rousing start with "The Story Bag," a story about an only child of a rich family who packs all the stories he hears into a small bag and ties it so tightly that none can escape.
From The Asian Reporter, V16, #8 (February 21, 2006), page 20.
Stories that must be shared
Korean Children’s Favorite Stories
By Kim So-un
By Josephine Bridges
This collection of 13 folk tales — stories that have been told for generations and are being told to this day — gets off to a rousing start with "The Story Bag." When the only child of a rich family packs all the stories he hears into a small bag and ties it so tightly that none can escape, then forgets all about the captive tales as he grows up, the stories themselves vow hideous revenge. Fortunately, the family’s faithful old servant hears the stories’ plotting and protects the young man from the treachery of stories scorned, but there are several close calls. "That is why when stories are heard they must never be stored away to become mean and spiteful, but must always be shared with other people."
Korean Children’s Favorite Stories concludes with a delightfully creepy story called "The Disowned Student." When a student returns home after three years of study in the mountains, he finds an impostor in his place, "identical to himself in appearance, speech, and manner." His parents, taken in by the interloper, will not even let him enter the house. Fortunately, a wise and kindly priest understands what has happened and proposes a startling solution involving a cat.
In between are stories of how various birds came by their colors and characters, a mirror’s devastating effect on a family, kindnesses repaid by ants and mosquitoes, two brothers with vastly differing outlooks, a greedy son and a grateful snake, a toad’s great sacrifice to save the village of a girl who befriended him, and three princesses kidnapped by an eagle and imprisoned in "Land-below-the-earth," which can be reached only by using a 300-mile-long rope. There are also four stories in which tigers play central roles, three of them troublesome, one a hero.
Jeong Kyoung-Sim’s gentle, graceful illustrations for Korean Children’s Favorite Stories are based on traditional Korean colors, tones, and painting methods. She’s particularly skilled with tigers, and she gets lots of opportunity to strut her stuff here.
The illustrator enjoyed reading Kim So-un’s stories while she was growing up, and it’s no wonder. His words are written with a light touch, and the scenes of death and destruction here are considerably less gruesome than those in your average folktale. As he writes in the collection’s introduction, these stories "reflect the serenity of the men and women nurtured by the ancient land of Korea."