Thursday, November 10, 2005

Are dried persimmons scarier than tigers?

Today I read a story about a tiger that came down from his mountain looking for food. He came upon a remote farmhouse where a man was eating dinner at a table in front of the house. The tiger began to sneak up on the man, but before he could get close enough to attack, the man looked up at the sky and said, 소나기가 올 것 같은데," and then grabbed his things off the table and ran into the house. After seeing how scared the man was of this thing called 소나기, the tiger suddenly got scared, too, and ran into the nearby barn to hide.

It grew dark and the tiger was still hiding in the barn when a cow thief came sneaking in. The tiger heard him come in, but he thought it was 소나기 and hide his face in the straw in an effort to hide.

It was so dark in the barn that the cow thief had to feel his way around. When he touched the fur of the tiger, he thought it was a cow and said, "옳지 이 집에 제법 쓸 만한 황소가 한 마리 있구나," and then jumped up on its back and slapped him on the butt.

The tiger was so shocked and afraid when 소나기 jumped up on his back and slapped him on the butt that he jumped up and started running back to the mountain with 소나기 clinging to his back. The more he tried to shake 소나기 off his back, the tighter he would hold on. The tiger had never been attacked like this before and was sure he was going to die.

After he realized he was on the back of a tiger instead of a cow, the thief had no choice but to hang on to the back of the tiger, fearing that he would be eaten if he fell off. After a fairly long time running around in the forrest on the back of the tiger, the thief saw a branch of a large tree overhanging the path they were running on. Feeling that this was his last chance to save himself, the thief jumped up and grabbed the branch as they passed under it. The thief then climbed up into the tree and hide among its leaves as the tiger continued to run away down the path.

It was not until sometime later that the tiger realized that 소나기 was no longer on his back. When he realized it, he felt he was lucky to be alive, and ever since then, tigers have feared 소나기.

The story ends with the following sentence:

호랑이는 곶감보다도 하늘을 더 무서워하게 되었다고 한다.

They say that tigers have become more afraid of the sky than of dried persimmons.

For non-Koreans who have not read Korean children stories, the above sentence would probably leave them scratching their heads, but Koreans would know its meaning right away.

Here is a link to a story about a tiger and a dried persimmon. The story is similar to the one above, but it is 곶감 the tiger fears, not 소나기:

호랑이와 곶감

Here is a link to other stories on the same site.

And here is a link to an interesting site with pictures and stories about Andong and other writings.

The above story shows that knowing Korean children stories will help Korean language learners better understand the language. For further proof, consider the following passage, which would have been difficult to understand without knowing the story about the tiger and the dried persimmon.
한 진보운동가의 고백 나는 노사모가 무섭다! 홍기표 민주노동당 당원 사람들은 말한다. 호랑이보다 곶감이 더 무섭다고. 나는 생각한다. 새천년민주당이라는 종이호랑이보다 그 호랑이가 손에 쥐고 있는 곶감(노무현을 사랑하는 사람들의 모임, 이하 노사모)이 더 무섭다고.

The above passage comes from a site I cannot link to, which is all right since it is not really worth reading, anyway.

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