Carp Returns Favor
This tale narrates the story of man who saves the life of a carp, who turns out to be Yongwang (Dragon King) or his son or grandson, for which the man is rewarded.
The narrative of a dragon returning a favor he received dates back to “Tale of Geotaji” in Samgungnyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) and “Tale of Jakjegeon” in Goryeosa (History of Goryeo), which have been transmitted in myriad variations throughout history. In the Korean folk tradition, the carp is a dragon in transformation and symbolizes success, nobility and filial piety.
A wood charcoal vendor caught a big carp, but felt pity for the fish and let it go. One day the carp reappeared and took the vendor to Yonggung (Dragon Palace). The carp turned out to be the Dragon King’s son and the king had invited the man who had saved his son’s life. The prince knew that the king was planning to reward the vendor with a gift and told the vendor not to take interest in the other treasures and take only what the prince pointed out. As he had been told, the vendor disregarded everything else and asked if he could have a small ring. The king hesitated at first but presented the vendor with the ring, and the charcoal vendor, upon returning to the human world, married the Dragon King’s daughter, who had come inside the ring, and they lived on happily.
The protagonist, while lacking in the wisdom or drive to overcome his ordeals, possesses the capacity to feel sympathy for those in trouble or for helpless creatures, which allows him to perform good deeds. In addition, he does not anticipate his good deeds will be rewarded, which in the end brings him good fortune.