Meet Dokkaebi – 12

The Brothers Kim and the Dokkaebi

In the early days of the Shilla dynasty, there was a nobleman from one of the Kim families who went by the name Bangi. Bangi was good-natured and kind, but was quite poor. As it so happened, he had a younger brother who was quite rich, but was vicious and petty.

One year, Bangi acquired a small plot of land from the villagers, so he asked his younger brother to share some of his silk worms and grain-seed. His brother agreed, but he put the silk worms and grain in a cauldron and boiled them first. One worm, as big as a bull, survived, but even that one the petty sibling bit in half.

However heaven provided and soon Bangi’s home swarmed all over with silkworms. Rather than take advantage, Bangi let the villagers quibble amongst themselves who would be allowed to collect the silk.

As it so happened, one seed of barely also survived. It sprouted and started to grow quite large. But much bad comes with the good and a large bird uprooted the entire sprout and flew away with it.

Bangi pursued the bird, but lost sight of it when it hid in the crevice of a rock deep in the heart of the mountain. Disappointed, Bangi gave up hope when he got to the rock, when suddenly, a short distance away many tiny people dressed in red playfully gathered together. Bangi, recognizing they were dokkaebi, hid behind a rock to watch.

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One of them drew a bright golden club from the crevice and, hitting the ground repeatedly, shouted “Alcohol come out! Appetizers come out!” The food and drink appeared and they drank and ate to their heart’s content, singing and dancing all night. When they had finished their party, they secretly stashed the magic club into the rock crevice and scattered every which way.

Bangi jumped up and retrieved the golden club. As he took it home, he thought how, in a very short time, he could increase the value of his estate to many times that of his brother’s.

As time went by, Bangi’s brother developed a stomachache he had no way of relieving. Being concerned for his brother, Bangi told him the way to find the dokkaebi to get his own magic club. So he planted a seed the same way his older brother did, and when the sprout was getting bigger, the same bird snapped it up, roots and all, and flew away.

Following behind the bird, he came upon the dokkaebi gathering as expected.

“Hey, it’s the guy who stole our club! We ought to beat him within an inch of his life!”

The dokkaebi quickly caught the younger brother and made him work for three long, hard, and hungry days building an embankment. When he finally finished, the dokkaebi replaced his nose with an elephant nose. Quite unexpectedly, they also gave him his own magic club and sent him on his way. But the strange glances and mockery people gave him were too much for him. Try as he might, he couldn’t remove the curse and eventually committed suicide.

But the misfortune didn’t stop there. When any of his descendants attempted to use the club, lightning would flash, an earth-shattering thunderclap would sound, and the poor soul would vanish into thin air.

Meet Dokkaebi – 11

A Dokkaebi’s Gratitude

A long time ago, in a certain town, there was a considerably poor man. Unable to stand his condition any longer, went beneath the bridge that was just outside of town and laid out some dog meat and a keg of wine, crying,

“Brother Dokkaebi! Uncle Dokkaebi! I have something good for you!”

Some dokkaebi appeared and when they had eaten everything up, he asked them for help. As expected, this caused the dokkaebi great fury, but because they had eaten well, they remembered their manners and replied quite seriously,

“Thank you. How do you want us to return the favor? If you have a wish, tell us.”

“I am beset with many troubles and as I was born with no money, I don’t even have one naked leaf to my name.”

The dokkaebi nodded quite seriously, “Yes, yes, in that case we’ll help you. Certainly we’ll help you.”

The pauper slept for many days. One extremely cold day, when he all but starved for dinner, there was a sound outside his hut.

“Good sir! Do you have a niece? I have a gift for her.”

When he went out, what should he see? Just outside his door herbs sprouted everywhere, but were all frozen dead. The poor man’s stomach twisted, but he was patient. The next night he heard the dokkaebi just outside his door.

“Put this on.”

When he went again, what should he see? Just outside his door, caught on a branch, was an old cotton skirt, trembling in the winter breeze.

Meet Dokkaebi – 10

The Dokkaebi’s Warning

A long time ago, in a village of Jeolla province, there lived a wealthy widower and his 13-year-old daughter. The rich man was exceedingly stingy, but his daughter was kind hearted and was well loved in town. One year there was a big drought and many people went hungry, but the only way the widower was willing to help was by lending his rice at exceedingly high interest rates. One day a beggar monk dressed in filthy rags visited the rich man’s house. The rich man, disgusted at the creature at his doorstep, sent him away with a bag of sand rather than rice.

The daughter, feeling terrible about her father’s trick, followed the priest and gave him a bag of grain, begging the monk’s forgiveness for her father’s cruelty. The priest thanked the young girl and as a favor, gave her some advice. He told her that there would be a large disaster that would destroy the town, but if she fled to the mountain, she would be safe. But he warned her not to answer or turn around if anyone calls to her, otherwise something terrible would happen. With that last bit of advice, the monk vanished into the air like mist. Certainly it was a dokkaebi she thought.

A few days later the drought ended with a heavy rain. But soon the local stream began to flood, and the girl realized she should flee, so she dropped everything and headed to the mountain. As she climbed the mountain, she heard her father calling to her. Despite the dokkaebi’s warnings, she didn’t want to make her father angry, so she turned around and called to him. As she shouted, she turned to stone.

Meet Dokkaebi – 9

Dokkaebi

A drunk stumbled home late one night and decided to take a shortcut home down a dark path. A dokkaebi jumped out and challenged him to a wrestling match. This dokkaebi only had one leg and the man quickly won, but the dokkaebi jumped up and eagerly insisted on another match. Match after match the drunk easily won, but the dokkaebi continued demanding round after round. The man got bored, so after pinning the dokkaebi, he tied it up to a tree and staggered the rest of the way home.

The next day he came back down the path. When he came to the tree he found, not the dokkaebi, but a broom tied up.

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Meet Dokkaebi – 8

Dokkaebi

Hungry Dokkaebi

Long ago there lived a poor farmer who lived just outside town. Early one morning on his way to market, a dokkaebi jumped out and scared the farmer. But instead of attacking, the dokkaebi said:

“Hey farmer! Go into town and buy me a leg of dog!”

And before the farmer could react, the dokkaebi pulled out a large bag of gold, threw it to the farmer and disappeared. When the farmer got to town he started to splurge and drank away the gold, completely forgetting to buy the dokkaebi any dog meat. As he stumbled his way home, the dokkaebi appeared again and demanded his dog meat. The poor, drunk farmer groveled and promised he would get the meat the next day.

Well, the next day the dokkaebi appeared once more and said:

“Hey farmer! Go into town and buy me a leg of dog!”

And it threw the farmer a new bag of gold. The farmer decided to ‘forget’ again, and sure enough that night the dokkaebi forgave him and gave him a new bag of gold the following day. Now with a steady income, the farmer began to save the gold and after a short while he bought a large tract of good land.

Once the farmer started to tend to his new land, the dokkaebi discovered it had been tricked. That night, the dokkaebi sowed the field with hundreds of jagged rocks, making it impossible to cultivate. The next day, the farmer looked over his field and saw all the rocks. With a laugh, he started shouting for joy. The dokkaebi appeared and asked him,

“Hey farmer! Why are you so happy?”

The farmer, wiping a tear away, said:

“Why, I’m overjoyed with my good luck! With all these rocks I’m sure to get the best crops and become rich within just one season! I’m just glad the field wasn’t covered with that smelly manure. I’d have become completely destitute had that happened.”

The dokkaebi became furious and the next night it replaced all the rocks with pieces of manure. The farmer looked over his field the next day and saw all his field covered in manure and began to beat his chest and wail. The dokkaebi appeared and asked him,

“Hey farmer! Why do you cry so hard?”

The farmer, sobbing heavily, said,

“I’m completely ruined now! There is no way I could ever make this field good again!”

The dokkaebi left, happy to have met out his revenge upon the farmer, and the farmer started tilling his field, happy to be the richest man in town.

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.”

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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!

Meet Dokkaebi – 6

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.