The Woodcutter and the Heavenly Maiden

the first-timer's guide to (1)
Perhaps the most well known Korean myth is The Woodcutter and the Heavenly Maiden. It tells the story of a strange relationship between a peasant man and the fairy woman he captures and marries.

You can read a pretty faithful retelling of the tale that I found over at the USC Digital Folklore Archives, but for those of you who want the gist of it, I’ve summarized it below…

The story begins with the woodcutter saving a deer from a hunter. To repay him, the deer directs the woodcutter to a pool where the fairy maidens bathe and instructs him to steal one of the maiden’s flying cloaks. He also tells him not to give it back to her until she has borne him at least three children.

The woodcutter and the fairy marry, and she gives him two children before the woodcutter gives in to her pleas of homesickness and gives her the cloak. She takes a child in each arm and flies away with the cloak.

The woodcutter asks the deer for help, and he directs the woodcutter to a water bucket that the Heavenly Kingdom drops from the sky, and the woodcutter rides it up to reunite with his family. They are happy for awhile until he too gets homesick after awhile and wants to see his mother. The King gives him a flying horse to go visit but says he can’t get off. The woodcutter visits his mother but drops a bowl of her hot food on the horse and is kicked off. He is then trapped on Earth.

The woodcutter eventually becomes a rooster crowing to the sun in despair at never being able to seeing his family again every morning.

So, there you have it! This story plays a fairly significant role in the first arc of this series. One of my protagonists, Cho Hee, is one of the Heavenly Maidens. However, she’s one of the sisters who left the Maiden from the tale on Earth. In the folktale the sisters don’t seem very concerned about this, but in my story Cho Hee is actually obsessed with trying to find and save her now missing sister who she believes has been kidnapped.

The Nine Tails series is slated for release October 2016. I’ll be releasing more information and background on the setting as that date approaches. To learn more, follow the blog for more posts!

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