Today's story may sound familiar to folklore fans. I'll give its better known versions at the end. See if you recognize it. Stories travel. Did this originate in Korea or travel there?
Homer B. Hulbert's book, Omjee the Wizard is not well known nor even included in the earliest English standard folklore index nor its supplements, Index to Fairy Tales, Myths, and Legends by Mary Huse Eastman started in 1915 (with later editions eventually continued by Norma Olin Ireland and Joseph W. Sprug). I bought the book because, as its subtitle notes, it's "Korean Folk Stories." Having Korean daughters, I had to have it!
Being published in 1925, I renewed my interest in it because books from that year have just entered the Public Domain. Because its binding was a bit loose I went looking to find an online copy, but there is none as of this writing. Since the name of Hulbert isn't Korean, I also went looking to see more about the book and its author. Its Preface states the author's background as being "the result of twenty years of residence in Korea and some considerable examination of that literature, but especially of personal contact with the people in their ordinary life and avocations where folk-lore persists at its best." I checked further, starting with Wikipedia, which certainly showed his own comment was a major understatement. A more thorough explanation is found in the Korea.net article, "Loving Korea More Than Koreans." Hulbert is shown as important to both its literature in the late 19th century and worked hard in the 20th century for Korean independence at personal cost. He was invited back to Korea by its first President. Hulbert died there a week after his return saying, "I would rather be buried in Korea than at Westminster Abbey." His achievements might have earned him a burial that unusual. It is repeated on his tombstone in the Yanghwajin Foreigners' Cemetery.
There is more to be said about today's story and its book, but for now let the story speak for itself.
|Mr. Rabbit got on his back and they went down into the water. |
Intentionally I omitted this picture which faces the title page. It's not shown again during the story, but comes from page 33 in the midst of the tale. For those familiar with many folktales, the picture gives away its more commonly known version, "The Heart of a Monkey", which Wikipedia places as either a Swahili tale(which would place it in either East or Southern Africa) or part of the Panchatantra (which would place it in India "roughly 200 BCE – 300 CE, based on older oral tradition.") So did it start in Korea or travel there? It's impossible to say, but the story certainly traveled a lot! -- more than Mr. Rabbit on Dr. Tortoise.
Hildegard Lupprian was the book's illustrator. Her name is attached to many children's books. She was not even remotely Korean, but was assigned the book by the publisher, Milton Bradley Company, better known for its games and puzzles.
Next week I want to bring another story from the same book which does something very creative and not found in those other versions of the story. It resolves the tale of "The Sea-King's Daughter" and what happens to her! Admit it, don't you wonder?
- There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection. I have long recommended it and continue to do so. He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
- You may have noticed I'm no
longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his
offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking
specific types of stories. There's another site, FairyTalez
claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales,
folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for
phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
- Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links. Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job. In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it. Possibly searches maintained it. Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine. It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!