Son Reborn as Golden Calf

Son Reborn as Golden Calf

Headword

금송아지로 태어난 아들 ( Son Reborn as Golden Calf )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer ChoiWoonsik(崔雲植)

This tale narrates the story of a baby that was fed to a cow and reborn as a golden calf, then turned back into a human after making sounds from a drum woven of straw to become the son-in-law of a nobleman.

This oral narrative is also documented under the title “Geumdoktaeja (Golden Calf Son)” in the collection of Buddhist tales Seokgayeoraesipjisuhaenggi (Chronicle of Buddha’s Ten Stages of Discipline), first published in Goryeo in the 5th year of King Chungsuk’s reign (1329), and republished as a woodblock edition in Joseon in the 30th year of King Sejong’s reign (1448).

There was a man who took a concubine with hopes for a son. While he was away, the concubine gave birth to a son as promised. This made the man’s wife jealous and she secretly fed the baby to a cow. After the man returned home, the cow gave birth to a golden calf and the man adored it. Noticing her husband’s affection, the wife thought of a scheme and feigned illness, insisting that her only cure was to eat the liver of the golden calf. The husband ordered a butcher to take out the golden calf’s liver, but the butcher released the calf and brought back a dog’s liver instead. The golden calf headed to Seoul, where he read a bulletin put out by a nobleman in search of “one who can make sounds from a drum woven of straw, ” promising to make him the nobleman’s son-in-law. The calf succeeded in making sounds with the straw drum and was made the nobleman’s son-in-law, upon which it transformed into a handsome man. He returned with his bride to his father to explain what had happened, and after saving his birth mother’s life, lived happily.

A variation of this tale features a baby that is dropped into a pond and changes ito a frog, which is killed and buried and turned into blood, which is then mixed into fodder and fed to a cow. There are other variations, in which the baby is killed with a needle pierced into his forehead then thrown into a brook, where the baby turns into a frog and is eaten by a cow; the baby is thrown into the sea but is protected by a pheonix, then is given to a pig, then is mixed into boiling pot of fodder, which is fed to a cow; of the cow giving birth to a golden calf that has retained its human appearance and is born with a cow skin over its body; or the butcher releasing the calf after seeing it weep, or after hearing it plead for help. The metamorphosis of the golden calf into a human is achieved by skin-shedding; skinning its hide with a knife; bathing in the pond; bathing in water mixed with bean paste; or attaching a flower to its forehead. In some versions, the protagonist does not seek punishment of the stepmother and offers forgiveness.

The protagonist of this narrative goes through a cycle of shape-shifting, from human to calf to human, formed by the Korean belief in the cycle of life and spirit, of perceiving all life as sacred, animals, plants, humans alike. The metamorphosis from human to calf signifies a rite of passage that everyone has to go through on the path of denouncing one’s unhappiness and constructing happiness.

Son Reborn as Golden Calf

Son Reborn as Golden Calf
Headword

금송아지로 태어난 아들 ( Son Reborn as Golden Calf )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer ChoiWoonsik(崔雲植)

This tale narrates the story of a baby that was fed to a cow and reborn as a golden calf, then turned back into a human after making sounds from a drum woven of straw to become the son-in-law of a nobleman.

This oral narrative is also documented under the title “Geumdoktaeja (Golden Calf Son)” in the collection of Buddhist tales Seokgayeoraesipjisuhaenggi (Chronicle of Buddha’s Ten Stages of Discipline), first published in Goryeo in the 5th year of King Chungsuk’s reign (1329), and republished as a woodblock edition in Joseon in the 30th year of King Sejong’s reign (1448).

There was a man who took a concubine with hopes for a son. While he was away, the concubine gave birth to a son as promised. This made the man’s wife jealous and she secretly fed the baby to a cow. After the man returned home, the cow gave birth to a golden calf and the man adored it. Noticing her husband’s affection, the wife thought of a scheme and feigned illness, insisting that her only cure was to eat the liver of the golden calf. The husband ordered a butcher to take out the golden calf’s liver, but the butcher released the calf and brought back a dog’s liver instead. The golden calf headed to Seoul, where he read a bulletin put out by a nobleman in search of “one who can make sounds from a drum woven of straw, ” promising to make him the nobleman’s son-in-law. The calf succeeded in making sounds with the straw drum and was made the nobleman’s son-in-law, upon which it transformed into a handsome man. He returned with his bride to his father to explain what had happened, and after saving his birth mother’s life, lived happily.

A variation of this tale features a baby that is dropped into a pond and changes ito a frog, which is killed and buried and turned into blood, which is then mixed into fodder and fed to a cow. There are other variations, in which the baby is killed with a needle pierced into his forehead then thrown into a brook, where the baby turns into a frog and is eaten by a cow; the baby is thrown into the sea but is protected by a pheonix, then is given to a pig, then is mixed into boiling pot of fodder, which is fed to a cow; of the cow giving birth to a golden calf that has retained its human appearance and is born with a cow skin over its body; or the butcher releasing the calf after seeing it weep, or after hearing it plead for help. The metamorphosis of the golden calf into a human is achieved by skin-shedding; skinning its hide with a knife; bathing in the pond; bathing in water mixed with bean paste; or attaching a flower to its forehead. In some versions, the protagonist does not seek punishment of the stepmother and offers forgiveness.

The protagonist of this narrative goes through a cycle of shape-shifting, from human to calf to human, formed by the Korean belief in the cycle of life and spirit, of perceiving all life as sacred, animals, plants, humans alike. The metamorphosis from human to calf signifies a rite of passage that everyone has to go through on the path of denouncing one’s unhappiness and constructing happiness.