How Foolish People Are!
There once was an orphan boy who made his living by working diligently for a local merchant. He never stole nor shorted his master on anything and consequently everyone in town trusted him. One day he went up into the mountains to cut some firewood. He worked until sunset and found that he could not quite make his way home before dark. He found a hollow in the ground where he curled up and tried to sleep. After a time he heard some strange voices. He knew at once they had to be dokkaebi.
“What’s new with you?” said the first dokkaebi.
“Bah! How foolish people are!” said the second. “The villagers walk so far for water when they could have more water than they could ever need if they dug a well next to the willow tree in the middle of town.”
“Right,” concurred the first voice. “People think they are clever, but they miss what’s right under their own noses! Like that old starving widower. He couldn’t even begin to imagine there is a pot, filled to the brim with gold, buried right under his kitchen floor!
“Not the half of it,” chimed in the second. “There is the rich man whose only child, a daughter, is seriously ill. He’s spending a fortune on medicine when neither he nor the doctors even know the cause! What they don’t know is there is a giant centipede that lives under the firewood just outside the poor girl’s room. Every night it emits noxious vapors. I’m certain anyone who has to breathe that stuff night after night would be deathly ill. How foolish these people are!”
The boy listened with rapt attention, and as soon as the dokkaebi departed, he made his way home. As he made his way back into town, he saw the women going out to fetch water from the distant well. Straight away, he asked his master for permission and he started digging next to the willow in the middle of town. Soon he hit water and the whole town came out to help finish constructing the well.
Next the boy went to the impoverished widower. The old man earned a pittance making crude straw sandals; so when the boy said he could help, the widower gave him free reign of his hut. The boy tore up the kitchen floor and found the pot filled with gold. The old widower was flabbergasted and offered the boy half of the gold, but the boy refused, saying it wasn’t his to take.
After helping the widower, the boy went to the rich man’s house. The boy offered to do his best to help the rich man’s daughter. The father, both worried to death about the ineffectual treatments the doctors were giving and having heard of the boy’s recent exploits, accepted his help. The boy asked for a large pot filled with boiling oil and a pair of iron tongs. He found and moved the firewood to the side and discovered the giant centipede. He deftly picked it up with the iron tongs and plunged it deep within the boiling oil. As the centipede squirmed in its death pangs, the girl inside cried out in pain, but once the centipede finally died, the girl completely recovered. The rich man was so thankful that he offered the boy his daughter’s hand in marriage, which the boy was more than happy to accept, and thus the boy was set for life.
Now this kind, hard working boy had a friend who was raised in a wealthy home. When he heard of his friend’s luck, he knew there had to be something behind it. The rich kid asked his friend how he got so lucky, and the boy told his friend everything. So the rich kid rushed off to the mountains so he could get a lucky break too. Once he ventured deep enough into the forest, he hid behind a rock and waited.
Sure enough, in the middle of the night he heard dokkaebi talking.
“What’s new with you, my friend!” said the first dokkaebi.
“Did you hear about that poor boy?” said the second. “He made a fortune! He must have overheard us talking the other night. But he’s a nice kid, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, but did you hear about his lazy friend? He’s so jealous right now, but he doesn’t even realize his own fortune. How foolish he is!”
“Oh, right. You mean that hoard of jewels under the pavement stone?”
“Yes! Right under the paving stone by the South East pillar of his house! He would be as rich as the king if he only knew!”
“Ha! What a fool!”
And both dokkaebi burst out laughing.
Now the rich kid remembered every word and he rushed back to the village, grabbed a shovel and started digging. The noise woke up his parents, who were worried about burglars. His father, upon seeing his son frantically digging, tried to convince him to stop, but the rich kid would hear none of it. He continued digging well through the day, sweating from work for the first time in his life, until he finally hit something. He thought it must be a treasure chest, so he pulled at the object as hard as he could.
The object was not a treasure chest, but part of the foundation of the house, and after one really hard tug, the house collapsed upon the foolish child and crushed him to death.