Meet Dokkaebi – 7

You Can’t Trust Humans

Once there was a widow who was barely able to support herself. One day she heard a storyteller talking about the dokkaebi and their magical bangmangi. Recalling that dokkaebi loved buckwheat jelly, she hatched a plan to get one for herself. She scrimped and saved until the next buckwheat harvest and then spent all her money buying buckwheat. All her neighbors laughed, saying that she would be living off of buckwheat for the rest of her life.

Well, she set about making batch after batch of buckwheat jelly and as night started to set in, she set out a plate of buckwheat jelly a good distance from her home. She stayed up all night watching, and, much to her delight, a dokkaebi slowly approached the plate, looked both ways, and wolfed down the entire plate. The next night she set out another plate of buckwheat jelly, set a little closer to her home. Again, the dokkaebi ate up all the jelly and quickly ran off again. She repeated the process until the dish was placed just inside her threshold.

That night the widow prepared a feast with the main dish of buckwheat jelly of course. The dokkaebi slowly approached and sat down. The widow remained quiet as the dokkaebi ate everything presented. After polishing off the last drop of alchohol, the dokkaebi stood up and turned to leave. The widow said, “Please come again tomorrow. I hope you’ve been enjoying the buckwheat jelly. I don’t have a husband anymore to prepare meals for, so it’s nice to see someone enjoying my cooking again.” The dokkaebi didn’t respond but left just as quietly as it had arrived.

The widow started to worry how she was going to trade or steal the bangmangi from the dokkaebi, but decided to keep playing the part. The next few days went the same. The dokkaebi came and ate in silence and the widow told it how much she enjoyed watching him eat. After a week the woman was starting to despair, but this time, as the dokkaebi got up to leave it told her “I’m sorry, but I’ll be gone for three days. I appreciate your generosity, so please accept this gift.” And it handed her a bag of gold.

The woman, overjoyed at the dokkaebi’s sudden change of mood, used the gold to purchase a better spread. When the dokkaebi returned after three days it wouldn’t stop talking. It talked about its exploits and tricks it played on people. It talked about the wild parties it went to and all the people it beat in ssireum. It ate everything and when it got up, gave the woman another bag, filled with gems.

The dokkaebi visited everyday, each day it constantly talked and ate and always left a bag of money as a sign of appreciation. The woman forgot about her initial plan of stealing the bangmangi and after only a year the woman was the richest person not only in the village, but also the province. She grew tired of the dokkaebi’s visits and, since she was set for life financially, she decided to get rid of her annoying guest.

One night as the dokkaebi gabbed on and on about one if its adventures, she said, “My, you certainly are fearless, aren’t you! I’m sure nothing can scare you!” Quite drunk, the dokkaebi responded, “Well you’re almost correct! The only thing that really scares me is fresh blood! Horse blood is the worst!”

The next evening she had her servants slaughter a horse and spread its blood all over her house. They then placed the poor horse’s head in the doorway. When the dokkaebi came by, it saw and smelled the blood. It turned away and said,

“Just goes to show you can’t trust humans.”


Author’s note: The story was originally titled “You Can’t Trust Women”. Considering how many protagonists (mostly men) get away with tricking dokkaebi in many of these stories, I thought it odd that a dokkaebi would make such a statement about women in particular. If you have any thoughts on whether I should keep the original (to maintain the patriarchal tones of the original) or keep my change to be more gender neutral, let me know!

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