KOREAN FOLK/FAIRY TALES:
“THE WOODCUTTER AND THE HEAVENLY MAIDEN” AND “KYON-U THE
HERDER AND CHIK-NYO THE WEAVER”
AUTHOR: AH-MI CHO
TIME: 1-2 Class periods (45 minutes)
OBJECTIVES: The students will
1. read Korean fairy tales and analyze family relationships.
2. compare relationship between parents and children in decision making process
for the children’s personal life in Korean and American culture.
1. Copies of the “Woodcutter and the Heavenly Maiden” and “Kyon-u the
Herder and Chik-nyo the Weaver. (attached as resource)
2. Study worksheet (attached as resource)
1. Give the students the stories to read as a homework assignment.
2. Divide the class into small groups of 3-4 students.
3. Have students read the stories and answer the questions in the study worksheet.
4. Have the students find cultural inferences about Korea in the stories, if any.
5. Ask students to compare and contrast both fairy tales with an emphasis on the
relationship between the parents and children.
6. With the other group members, have students write different endings to the
fairy tales and discuss the reasons for their endings as a class activity.
EVALUATION AND CLOSURE:
1. Students should be evaluated upon the creativity of their ideas as well as their
2. Ask students to research other fairy tales from other cultures that deal with the
relationship between parents and children.
BACKGROUNDINFORMATION ABOUT KOREAN FOLK AND FAIRY
Korean folk and fairy tales reflect values, thoughts and beliefs that have guided
ordinary people’s lives generation after generation for many a century. Their
beliefs and thoughts about nature, about the relationship between man and nature;
their beliefs about this world and the hereafter; their beliefs and values about
human relationships within family, a clan, a close-knit community and a rigidly
hierarchical society as a whole- these are reflected in many folktales as well as in
the actual life styles of Korean people. …
(Korean Folk)tales commend, for example, justice and fairness, particularly in
dealing with the politically weak and powerless, and correlatively deprecate
cruelty, in justice and meanness. There is the idea of ultimate retribution by the
Ultimate Being, the Heaven. Stories also powerfully depict appreciation of love
and respect, particularly between parents and children: parents’ selfless sacrifice
and devotion for the welfare of their children, and children’s filiality and respect
for their parents. Love, honor and trust between friends are unmistakably
emphasized. Stories evoke other moral emotions by incitements and appreciation
of heroic deeds: selfless, courageous fighting for the good and eventual triumph
of good over evil and meanness. Humility is a virtue that is emphasized in many
a story, acknowledging human limitations and weaknesses, both epistemological
and moral. (Excerpts from the “Introduction to Korean Folklore)
“THE WOODCUTTER AND THE HEAVENLY MAIDEN”: GENERAL
A handsome young woodcutter lived with his mother at the foot of Diamond
Mountain. Because he was poor, he could not get married and he went to the mountain
daily to cut firewood to sell. One day while he was working in the mountain, he hid a
deer from a hunter. In order to repay his kindness, the deer granted the woodcutter’s
fondest wish because the deer was the servant of the Sansin, the God of the mountain.
The deer told the woodcutter to hide the cloth of a heavenly maiden who came to take a
bath with her sisters so that she would not be able to go back to heaven. The deer told
him not to show the cloth until the heavenly maiden gave birth to four children. Time
passed and the heavenly maiden lived happily with her husband, three children and her
mother-in-law. Even though she was happy, she became homesick because she missed
her family in the heaven. She begged her husband to show her cloth. Not heeding the
words of the deer, the woodcutter showed the cloth to his wife. However, when she saw
the cloth, the wife flew to heaven holding one child on each arm and one between her
legs. One day the grief stricken woodcutter met the deer again and the deer told the
woodcutter to hide in the bushes when the bucket from heaven came down to get water.
The woodcutter went up to heaven and met his family. Even though he was happy he
missed his mother on earth. His wife arranged his ride back home on a winged horse.
She cautioned him not to dismount the horse because if he got off from the horse he
would not be able to come back to heaven. However, when he saw his mother and his
mother prepared him a hot pumpkin porridge. Because the porridge was too hot, he
dropped the porridge on the neck of the horse. The horse reared up, throwing the
woodcutter to the ground. From then on the grief stricken woodcutter cried looking up to
the heaven and he died of grief and became a rooster. That is why the roosters crow their
necks stretched upward toward heaven.
“KYON-U THE HERDER AND CHIK-NYO THE WEAVER”: GENERAL
In a land beyond the stars lived a lovely princess named Chik-nyo. She was the only
daughter of the king. Because she liked to weave, she was called Chik-nyo, the weaving
maiden. After looking for a bridegroom for the princess, the king found a perfect match
for his daughter, the neighboring country’s prince. Because he was a herder, he was
called Kyon-u, the Herder. Both countries arranged the marriage and they got married.
Kyon-u and Chik-nyo were advised by their parents to be an exemplary couple. However,
after the marriage the couple was so in love and they neglected their duties. Chik-nyo’s
father was a strict ruler and therefore, did not tolerate their behavior. As a punishment,
the king sent Kyon-u to the kingdom in the east to tend the cows and Chik-nyo to the
west kingdom to weave. The couple wept so much the king finally gave them permission
to see each other once in a year on the 7th day of the seventh moon.
When Kyon-u and Chik-nyo got to the Sivery River, they were disappointed because the
river was so wide and there was no boats or bridge to cross over to see each other. Kyon-
u and Chik-nyo’s tears fell to the earth resulting in floods. Fearing their lives and homes,
crows and magpies decided to make a bridge with their wings wide open. Kyon-u and
Chik-nyo stopped crying and rushed to each other to talk about the time of their
separation. Since that time on the seventh day of the seventh month, crows and magpies
are not seen on earth and it sprinkles a little in the morning of that day because Kyon-u
and Chik-nyo shed tears as they part for the another year’s separation.
Study questions for the “Woodcutter and the Heavenly Maiden”
1. Why was the woodcutter not able to find a wife?
2. Why did the woodcutter save the deer?
3. How did the deer repay his gratitude to the woodcutter for saving his life?
4. Why was the woodcutter not supposed to show the stolen clothes to his wife until
she gave birth to four children?
5. Why did the wife want go back to heaven, even though she had a happy life with
her husband on earth?
6. Why did the woodcutter show his wife her clothes?
7. When the woodcutter met his family in heaven and had a happy life, why did the
woodcutter want to go back to earth?
8. Under what condition was the woodcutter allowed to go back to earth to see his
9. What happened when the woodcutter meets his mother?
10. Why do roosters crow with their necks upward toward heaven?
11. What would you have done if you were the woodcutter?
12. Explain the relationship between the children and parents in this story.
Study questions for “Kyon-u the Herder and Chik-nyo the weaver”
13. Who were Kyon-u and Chik-nyo?
14. How was the marriage between Kyon-u and Chik-nyo arranged?
15. Before they got married, what did parents tell Kyon-u and Chik-nyo?
16. Why did the king order his daughter and son-in-law to live apart?
16. How did Kyon-u and Chik-nyo react to the King’s order?
17. Where did the King send Kyon-u and Chik-nyo?
18. Why did the animals and birds help Kyon-u and Chik-nyo?
18. Why do you think that the king punishes his Children so harshly?
19. What do you think of the relationship between the King and his daughter?