Destiny Tale(命运故事)

Destiny Tale

Headword

운명담 ( 命运故事 , Unmyeongdam )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer JungJaemin(鄭在珉)

Unmyeongdam, or destiny tales, narrate stories of destinies decided by transcendental forces, or of destinies reversed by human effort.

In destiny tales, a human conflict with his fate provides narrative drive, based on the theme of reverence for fate that is determined by the heavens, or of modification of bad fortune, which make up two types of destiny tales.

The first type comprises tales that show human fate being realized, in which the protagonist either conforms to or resists his fate but arrives at the same conclusion once destiny plays out its course. In these tales, the protagonist either turns out unhappy as destined; happy as destined; unhappy due to a failed attempt at reversing his fortune; or happy due to a failed attempt at reversing his fortune. Some examples include: tales of characters born with the destiny to die young or be eaten by a tiger, which can never be reversed; of a protagonist destined to be rich but who keeps losing his fortune because he refuses to believe the superstition that leg-shaking chases away good fortune, and becomes rich only after a physiognomist breaks his leg for him; of an old bachelor who tries to kill his a young girl who is his match made in heaven, but fails and in the end marries her, which narrates the origin of yeonjigonji, the red spots painted on the bride’s cheeks and forehead as part of the traditional bridal make-up; and of a man who was leaves home to escape his destiny to bear many sons but in his travels donates his sperm, which results in many sons who come looking for him with a great fortune.

The second type comprises tales of protagonists who reverse their given fate, usually one of bad fortune, and offer happy endings. This type includes tales about extending one’s short lifespan through prayers to deities or by leaving home to overcome ordeals; about a protagonist born with the terrible fate to be eaten by a tiger, a protagonist who reverses his destiny through devoted prayer, overcoming ordeals, good deeds, marriage, or reading the scriptures; of a poor woodsman who ascends to the heavens to plead to the deity to let him borrow another person’s fate and leads a happy life; and, of a poor man who, in order to save his fate, travels to the transcendental sphere, where he solves another man’s problems and reverses his fate to lead a happy life.

Destiny tales include many supernatural narrative elements including prophecies, eccentric beings, Taoist hermits, shape-shifting and journeys to other worlds, thereby sharing similarities with prophecy tales, tales of eccentrics, or hermit tales, but while prophecy tales focus on whether the prophecies come true, destiny tales examine the human responses to the prophecies of destiny.

The significance of destiny tales also lies in the way they reflect the shifting views on human fate: Fatalist perspectives were basis of the first type of destiny tales, as elaborated above, while resistance to fate and pioneering of one’s own destiny, are associated with the second type. Socio-culturally, destiny tales reveal the traditional Korean views on longevity, wealth, nobility, productivity and happiness.

Destiny Tale

Destiny Tale
Headword

운명담 ( 命运故事 , Unmyeongdam )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer JungJaemin(鄭在珉)

Unmyeongdam, or destiny tales, narrate stories of destinies decided by transcendental forces, or of destinies reversed by human effort.

In destiny tales, a human conflict with his fate provides narrative drive, based on the theme of reverence for fate that is determined by the heavens, or of modification of bad fortune, which make up two types of destiny tales.

The first type comprises tales that show human fate being realized, in which the protagonist either conforms to or resists his fate but arrives at the same conclusion once destiny plays out its course. In these tales, the protagonist either turns out unhappy as destined; happy as destined; unhappy due to a failed attempt at reversing his fortune; or happy due to a failed attempt at reversing his fortune. Some examples include: tales of characters born with the destiny to die young or be eaten by a tiger, which can never be reversed; of a protagonist destined to be rich but who keeps losing his fortune because he refuses to believe the superstition that leg-shaking chases away good fortune, and becomes rich only after a physiognomist breaks his leg for him; of an old bachelor who tries to kill his a young girl who is his match made in heaven, but fails and in the end marries her, which narrates the origin of yeonjigonji, the red spots painted on the bride’s cheeks and forehead as part of the traditional bridal make-up; and of a man who was leaves home to escape his destiny to bear many sons but in his travels donates his sperm, which results in many sons who come looking for him with a great fortune.

The second type comprises tales of protagonists who reverse their given fate, usually one of bad fortune, and offer happy endings. This type includes tales about extending one’s short lifespan through prayers to deities or by leaving home to overcome ordeals; about a protagonist born with the terrible fate to be eaten by a tiger, a protagonist who reverses his destiny through devoted prayer, overcoming ordeals, good deeds, marriage, or reading the scriptures; of a poor woodsman who ascends to the heavens to plead to the deity to let him borrow another person’s fate and leads a happy life; and, of a poor man who, in order to save his fate, travels to the transcendental sphere, where he solves another man’s problems and reverses his fate to lead a happy life.

Destiny tales include many supernatural narrative elements including prophecies, eccentric beings, Taoist hermits, shape-shifting and journeys to other worlds, thereby sharing similarities with prophecy tales, tales of eccentrics, or hermit tales, but while prophecy tales focus on whether the prophecies come true, destiny tales examine the human responses to the prophecies of destiny.

The significance of destiny tales also lies in the way they reflect the shifting views on human fate: Fatalist perspectives were basis of the first type of destiny tales, as elaborated above, while resistance to fate and pioneering of one’s own destiny, are associated with the second type. Socio-culturally, destiny tales reveal the traditional Korean views on longevity, wealth, nobility, productivity and happiness.