The fairy princess is a common character in Korean folklore, usually one who finds herself captured or in trouble or in need of being married. She also usually comes from the Heavenly Kingdom in the sky, though there is at least one story that features a fairy woman who originates from the Dragon Kingdom under the sea.
Since this archetype came up again and again as I studied Korean folklore, and because some of the most famous Korean tales feature fairy maidens, I decided to include them in my story as well. The opening arc of Nine Tails includes two prominent fairy characters: Sora and her sister Nari. I drew on two specific folktales to flesh out these two characters and their lore.
I’ll go over Sora first, as she’s an actual protagonist in the story, whereas her sister Nari plays more of a supporting role.
I drew most of my inspiration for her from a story called “The Centipede Woman.” As with most folktales, there are several versions of the tale, but the one I’m most familiar with is about a man who is failing his family and attempts to commit suicide. He is saved by a mysterious woman who he ends up staying with, becoming her lover.
Then one day, after being homesick, he goes home and discovers that his family has somehow been taken care of financially and are doing much better than they were before. He decides to return to the mysterious woman and thank her when he encounters a snake who tells him that the woman is really a centipede, and that he should spit tobacco in her face to kill her and save himself.
The man arrives back at the woman’s home and, peeking through the window, discovers that the serpent was right and that her true form is that of a centipede. But when she opens the door and appears in her human form he can’t bring himself to hurt her.
The woman then reveals that she is a fairy princess who was exiled for having an affair with the serpent who was formerly a servant in the Heavenly Kingdom. If the man had spit the tobacco in her face, her exile would have continued, but as he didn’t, she could return home. They spend one more night together, and in the morning she and her house are gone.
Sora, and another character named Ki-yung, are my versions of the Centipede Woman and the Serpent. Both in exile for having a scandalous romance in the Heavenly Kingdom, they end up at odds with each other as they try to navigate their lives on Earth and their respective futures.
Nari, Sora’s younger sister, was mostly inspired from the famous Korean folktale “The Woodcutter and the Heavenly Maiden,” which I wrote about in another post, so I won’t explain it at length. Essentially a Heavenly Maiden ends up trapped on Earth after she is kidnapped by a Woodcutter who wishes to marry her.
Nari herself ends up getting kidnapped, which sets off a chain of events involving Sora, Jason, and eventually the kumiho, but she isn’t being held by a woodcutter. The motivations for the kidnapping are a little different, but I won’t spoil anything.
I hope you’ll check out the story, but either way, thanks so much for reading!