Snail Bride(田螺新娘)

Snail Bride

Headword

우렁각시 ( 田螺新娘 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer KimDaesook(金大琡)

The tale“ Ureonggaksi” narrates the story of a man who marries a maiden who came from a snail shell, but who loses her after breaking a taboo.

Narratives about auspicious snails have been documented in China since ancient times, included in Jiyiji (Collection of Strange Stories) under the title “Snail Bride” and in excerpted from Shoushenhouji (Addition to Records of the Strange), compiled by Deng Yuanzuo sometime between 365 BCE and 474 CE.

A long time ago there lived an old bachelor who supported his aging mother on his own but was too poor to find himself a wife. One day he was working in the rice paddy when he said to himself, “Who will I share all this rice with?” and he heard a voice reply, “With me, of course.” Mystified, he repeated his question and the voice again answered, “With me, of course.” He looked around but saw nothing, except for a snail shell by the paddy, and he brought it home and kept it deep inside the wardrobe. From that day on, when the son and his mother returned from from working in the field, there was dinner waiting for them, a warm and delicious meal of stir-fried pheasant meat and fresh steamed rice. The bachelor, baffled, one day peeked inside after pretending to leave for work, and saw a maiden, beautiful as a fairy, emerge from the shell inside the wardrobe and prepare the food. The bachelor could not suppress his excitement and jumped in, taking the maiden in his arms and asking her to be his wife. The maiden said it was not time yet and asked him to wait three days (or three months, or three years). The bachelor was too impatient, however, and persuaded her to marry her that day. Afraid of losing her to someone else, he kept a close guard on her, prohibiting her from leaving the house. One day, the bride prepared lunch for her husband, who was working in the field, and her mother-in-law, who wanted to stay and have the crsipy rice scrapings from the pot, sent her daughter-in-law to the field with the lunch. On her way to her husband, the bride encountered the magistrate’s procession and hid in the woods, but the magistrate noticed a bright light coming from the woods, and ordered a servant to go and check, telling him to pick it if it was a flower, fetch it if it was water, and bring her if it was a person. When the servant found her, the bride was trembling, with the lunch basket by her feet, and the servant pulled her by the hand, but she begged to let her go, handing the servant her silver ring, but in the end the magistrate carried her away in a palanquin. The groom went to the magistrate’s office to find her but failed and died from his grievance, turning into a bluebird. His bride refused to serve the magistrate and died after rejecting food, turning into a fine-toothed comb.

There are some variations of this tale that conclude with a happy ending. When the bride refuses to smile while in captivity, the magistrate accepts her request to hold a banquet, and when her groom attends in a bird feather costume and dances, the bride finally smiles. The magistrate asks the groom to exchange wardrobes, and when the groom puts on the magistrate’s dragon-embroidered royal robe (gollyongpo), the bride tells him to step onto the office halls, which results in the expulsion of the magistrate and groom’s appointment in public office, and they lived together happily.

The tale borrows the structure of initiation rites and female ordeal narratives, with the difference in social status serving as the obstacle, the snail bride depicted as a heavenly fairy (seonnyeo) sent down to the human world as a punishment. This union between unequals, achieved by the breaking of taboo, ends with tragic consequences, brought about by the ruling power. The woman, in this narrative, is portrayed as an object of important value in men’s lives, an object of extortion or loss.

Snail Bride

Snail Bride
Headword

우렁각시 ( 田螺新娘 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer KimDaesook(金大琡)

The tale“ Ureonggaksi” narrates the story of a man who marries a maiden who came from a snail shell, but who loses her after breaking a taboo.

Narratives about auspicious snails have been documented in China since ancient times, included in Jiyiji (Collection of Strange Stories) under the title “Snail Bride” and in excerpted from Shoushenhouji (Addition to Records of the Strange), compiled by Deng Yuanzuo sometime between 365 BCE and 474 CE.

A long time ago there lived an old bachelor who supported his aging mother on his own but was too poor to find himself a wife. One day he was working in the rice paddy when he said to himself, “Who will I share all this rice with?” and he heard a voice reply, “With me, of course.” Mystified, he repeated his question and the voice again answered, “With me, of course.” He looked around but saw nothing, except for a snail shell by the paddy, and he brought it home and kept it deep inside the wardrobe. From that day on, when the son and his mother returned from from working in the field, there was dinner waiting for them, a warm and delicious meal of stir-fried pheasant meat and fresh steamed rice. The bachelor, baffled, one day peeked inside after pretending to leave for work, and saw a maiden, beautiful as a fairy, emerge from the shell inside the wardrobe and prepare the food. The bachelor could not suppress his excitement and jumped in, taking the maiden in his arms and asking her to be his wife. The maiden said it was not time yet and asked him to wait three days (or three months, or three years). The bachelor was too impatient, however, and persuaded her to marry her that day. Afraid of losing her to someone else, he kept a close guard on her, prohibiting her from leaving the house. One day, the bride prepared lunch for her husband, who was working in the field, and her mother-in-law, who wanted to stay and have the crsipy rice scrapings from the pot, sent her daughter-in-law to the field with the lunch. On her way to her husband, the bride encountered the magistrate’s procession and hid in the woods, but the magistrate noticed a bright light coming from the woods, and ordered a servant to go and check, telling him to pick it if it was a flower, fetch it if it was water, and bring her if it was a person. When the servant found her, the bride was trembling, with the lunch basket by her feet, and the servant pulled her by the hand, but she begged to let her go, handing the servant her silver ring, but in the end the magistrate carried her away in a palanquin. The groom went to the magistrate’s office to find her but failed and died from his grievance, turning into a bluebird. His bride refused to serve the magistrate and died after rejecting food, turning into a fine-toothed comb.

There are some variations of this tale that conclude with a happy ending. When the bride refuses to smile while in captivity, the magistrate accepts her request to hold a banquet, and when her groom attends in a bird feather costume and dances, the bride finally smiles. The magistrate asks the groom to exchange wardrobes, and when the groom puts on the magistrate’s dragon-embroidered royal robe (gollyongpo), the bride tells him to step onto the office halls, which results in the expulsion of the magistrate and groom’s appointment in public office, and they lived together happily.

The tale borrows the structure of initiation rites and female ordeal narratives, with the difference in social status serving as the obstacle, the snail bride depicted as a heavenly fairy (seonnyeo) sent down to the human world as a punishment. This union between unequals, achieved by the breaking of taboo, ends with tragic consequences, brought about by the ruling power. The woman, in this narrative, is portrayed as an object of important value in men’s lives, an object of extortion or loss.