Little Boy Insam(童子参)

Little Boy Insam

Headword

동자삼 ( 童子参 , Dongjasam )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer SimWoojang(沈愚章)

“Dongjasam” is a tale of filial piety that narrates the story of a couple who sacrifice their young boy to cure one of their parents’ illness, to learn that the boy they sacrificed is sansam (wild ginseng).

There was a husband and wife taking care of aging parents. The mother (or father) became ill with a disease that no medicine could cure. One day a monk passing through town told them that boiling their son and feeding the broth to the ailing mother would cure the illness. The husband and wife concluded that they could have more children but their parents could not be replaced, and decided to do as the monk had suggested. When their son returned from school, they told him he was getting a bath and put him in a cauldron of boiling water. They offered the broth to the mother, which cured her illness completely. The following morning, however, their son returned home, saying he had stayed the night at school to study. The father opened the cauldron to find dongjasam, or little boy insam, the roots of centuries-old wild ginseng that resembles a boy, which is believed to wander amongst humans as a playful demonic goblin.

The parent’s illness is usually leprosy, which could have come from the popular belief that a child’s liver is effective for treating leprosy. In other variations, the child is boiled, then made into wine, or the parent is served the meat of liver of the child.

The narrative is a typical filial piety tale based on the tradition of human sacrifice, incorporating the motif of infanticide and the concept that the child’s regeneration leads to the recovery of the elderly parents’ ailing body. The emphasis on filial piety is intensified through the difficult dilemma of choosing between the death of the parent or the death of the child.

The demonic goblin dongjasam is portrayed here as a child and centuries-old wild ginseng, which reflects the common belief that the goblin wanders through villages during the day, searching for an extraordinary human, and at night resumes its identity as a plant, an idea formed by the shape of wild ginseng. Overlapped with the child’s image, the dongjasam motif adds to the drama of the narrative.

Little Boy Insam

Little Boy Insam
Headword

동자삼 ( 童子参 , Dongjasam )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer SimWoojang(沈愚章)

“Dongjasam” is a tale of filial piety that narrates the story of a couple who sacrifice their young boy to cure one of their parents’ illness, to learn that the boy they sacrificed is sansam (wild ginseng).

There was a husband and wife taking care of aging parents. The mother (or father) became ill with a disease that no medicine could cure. One day a monk passing through town told them that boiling their son and feeding the broth to the ailing mother would cure the illness. The husband and wife concluded that they could have more children but their parents could not be replaced, and decided to do as the monk had suggested. When their son returned from school, they told him he was getting a bath and put him in a cauldron of boiling water. They offered the broth to the mother, which cured her illness completely. The following morning, however, their son returned home, saying he had stayed the night at school to study. The father opened the cauldron to find dongjasam, or little boy insam, the roots of centuries-old wild ginseng that resembles a boy, which is believed to wander amongst humans as a playful demonic goblin.

The parent’s illness is usually leprosy, which could have come from the popular belief that a child’s liver is effective for treating leprosy. In other variations, the child is boiled, then made into wine, or the parent is served the meat of liver of the child.

The narrative is a typical filial piety tale based on the tradition of human sacrifice, incorporating the motif of infanticide and the concept that the child’s regeneration leads to the recovery of the elderly parents’ ailing body. The emphasis on filial piety is intensified through the difficult dilemma of choosing between the death of the parent or the death of the child.

The demonic goblin dongjasam is portrayed here as a child and centuries-old wild ginseng, which reflects the common belief that the goblin wanders through villages during the day, searching for an extraordinary human, and at night resumes its identity as a plant, an idea formed by the shape of wild ginseng. Overlapped with the child’s image, the dongjasam motif adds to the drama of the narrative.