Sunday, October 26, 2008

Princess Bari (Korean Folktale)

Retold by Soonju Ahn

Once upon a time, there lived a king in a peaceful kingdom Saam. He had a 16 year-old prince and wanted a perfect bride for him. There was a huge bride selection ceremony, and he finally found out the perfectly beautiful and wise young lady. When the king looked up his Shaman according to the custom, he heard a bad premonition from the shaman. If the prince married this year, he would have 7 daughters; otherwise he would have 3 sons. However, the prince fell in love with the beautiful lady; he did not listen to the shaman.
The prince soon became the king, and the queen began to deliver beautiful princesses. After sixth birth of princess, the young king was so mad that he had no prince. One day, the queen had a great dream about dragons in the palace. Since the dragon meant a boy, the king had a great expectation. But the seventh baby was also a girl. He was so angry that he gave a silly order to his servant to fling the baby away. Mother Queen was so upset and begged him, but he didn’t listen. She begged him for that she could just give the poor baby a name at least. The furious king merely allowed it. The Mom named her “Bari”, which meant the “abandoned one (in Korean, 버리다)”. A loyal servant of the king put the poor baby in a sturdy chest and floated it on the river. All of a sudden a golden turtle appeared from the sea and carried the chest to a kindhearted old couple. They took care of the little baby very well.
When Bari turned to 15, the King became very sick. No doctor could cure him. His health became worse, and the whole country was very concerned about him. One night, a messenger in blue attire from Buddha came to visit queen’s dream and told her that the king was cursed because he threw the precious gift from the heaven away. The only way to cure him is that one of his daughters should go to find ambrosia in the deep mountain of the far west.
The king regretted his absurdness, but it was too late. The king and the queen asked if any of their daughters would go to the far west. But their daughters were selfish and cared about only themselves. No one would volunteer. One day the loyal servant thought about the King’s long lost daughter and tried every way to find her. Finally, he found the beautiful Bari who lived with the old couples.
After listening to the whole story from the servant, angelic-hearted Bari soon agreed to go to the far west to find out the Ambrosia. Her parents were so grateful and ashamed of themselves. They didn’t know how to reward this favor, but Bari told them that having her in mother’s womb for 9 months and giving her a life was enough reward for her. Bari disguised her as a boy and off she went to the far- far- away land.
Bari had to go through a lot of ordeal to go to the far west. She was almost killed by an avalanche, went near the world of the dead, and met The Sangje, who is the owner of the underworld. Finally, with the help of Sangje, she arrived at the mountain of the far west, but there was a scary guardian hermit in front of the shrine. He gave Bari 3 conditions for the ambrosia; that she had to cut woods for him for 3 years, light the fireplace for 3 years, and ladle the water from the well for 3 year. When she finally accomplished all the tasks, the guardian hermit figured out she is not he. He was furious of the lie and gave her another condition; married him and gave him 7 sons. After another 9 years, Bari gave him 7 sons and begged him to give her the ambrosia. The guardian hermit finally gave her the ambrosia and the other plants for her parents, but he couldn’t let go of her by herself because he fell in love with her so deeply. Bari went back to her homeland along with her husband and 7 sons.
When she went near the castle of her father, she saw an array of a funeral. It was her father’s memorial service. He didn’t make it until she came back. Bari approached the casket and opened it. She poured the ambrosia in his mouth and put the plants on his eyes. Soon the king resurrected from his coffin. Everybody in the country sang the song of heroic journey of Bari.
The king was so glad and asked Bari to make any wishes. He even suggested that he would give her the throne, but she refused it. After decades’ experiences, she became psychic, she could see the both worlds, so she asked to her father that she wanted to be a guardian of the dead people and advocate for them not to go to the hell or mitigate their penalties in front of the Sangje. Since then she became the godmother of the entire shamans. Every shaman in the country sang her song at the end of their ritual ceremony because they believed that her name guaranteed the connection to the underworld. She endured the ordeal and finally became what she wanted to be.
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1 comment:

Christina Farley said...

Lovely story. Thank you for sharing.