Cinder Sweeper(财福童子)

Cinder Sweeper

Headword

재복데기 ( 财福童子 , Jaebokdegi )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer ParkHyunsook(朴賢淑)

“Jaebokdegi” is a fantasy tale of a child who leaves home and works in another family’s home, overcoming his fate to die and in the end achieving success in life by acquiring a vest and a bamboo flute, which enable him to fly.

A long time ago, a stepmother carried out a scheme to kill her stepson, but the boy was rescued by a butcher and taken to a state councillor’s house where he was given work as a cinder sweeper (jaebokdegi), tending to the kitchen hearth and scooping out the ashes. One day, the boy went to the mountain to gather wood and acquired from a Taoist ascetic a vest and a six-holed bamboo flute (tungso), which gave him the ability to fly. When the councillor’s family was invited to a banquet, the cinder sweeper boy used these acquired objects to fly to the banquet, where people welcomed him, believing he was a Taoist high official (seongwan) who had descended from the heavens, and they offered him great hospitality. The councillor’s youngest daughter left a mark on the official and upon returning home, confirmed that the cinder sweeper was a celestial official. In the meantime, the king passed away and his subjects decided that the person who was able to make a straw bell ring would succeed the throne. When the cinder sweeper tried, the straw bell rang and he was made king, upon which he married the councillor’s youngest daughter.

In some variations of the tale, the boy leaves home to escape his fate of being eaten by a tiger or dying young, or because he loses his home. The title that the protagonist is given in the councillor’s home varies according to his role, each related to housekeeping or kitchen duties: “maridungi, ” meaning floor polisher; “agungijigi, ” meaning hearth fire keeper; “sinbadagi, ” which literally means “shoe soles, ” and refers to the two daughters hitting of the boy with their shoes. The bamboo flute that the protagonist receives as a divine object not only enables him to fly but also solves many problems for him with its various functions: When blown from one end, the flute helps the boy escape death, and when blown from the other end, it makes the boy king. The method that the councillor’s youngest daughter uses to identify the celestial official also varies, including marking the collar of his robe with a drop of blood, or cutting off a piece of fabric from his coat.

The ordeals that the protagonist endures as a cinder sweeper after leaving home is a time of extinguishing a heteronomous life and cleansing the past, a rite of passage that leads to one’s rebirth as a liberated and autonomous being, an adult and true owner of one’s life. The divine objects that he acquires—vest, flute, or fan—are symbolic tools that help manifest and integrate his internal spiritual energies, enabling him to connect with the cosmos. And the cinder sweeper’s enthronement as king and marriage to the councillor’s daughter, possessing the discerning eye to immediately recognize his value, signifies the completion of the protagonist’s self- realization.

Cinder Sweeper

Cinder Sweeper
Headword

재복데기 ( 财福童子 , Jaebokdegi )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Folk tales

Writer ParkHyunsook(朴賢淑)

“Jaebokdegi” is a fantasy tale of a child who leaves home and works in another family’s home, overcoming his fate to die and in the end achieving success in life by acquiring a vest and a bamboo flute, which enable him to fly.

A long time ago, a stepmother carried out a scheme to kill her stepson, but the boy was rescued by a butcher and taken to a state councillor’s house where he was given work as a cinder sweeper (jaebokdegi), tending to the kitchen hearth and scooping out the ashes. One day, the boy went to the mountain to gather wood and acquired from a Taoist ascetic a vest and a six-holed bamboo flute (tungso), which gave him the ability to fly. When the councillor’s family was invited to a banquet, the cinder sweeper boy used these acquired objects to fly to the banquet, where people welcomed him, believing he was a Taoist high official (seongwan) who had descended from the heavens, and they offered him great hospitality. The councillor’s youngest daughter left a mark on the official and upon returning home, confirmed that the cinder sweeper was a celestial official. In the meantime, the king passed away and his subjects decided that the person who was able to make a straw bell ring would succeed the throne. When the cinder sweeper tried, the straw bell rang and he was made king, upon which he married the councillor’s youngest daughter.

In some variations of the tale, the boy leaves home to escape his fate of being eaten by a tiger or dying young, or because he loses his home. The title that the protagonist is given in the councillor’s home varies according to his role, each related to housekeeping or kitchen duties: “maridungi, ” meaning floor polisher; “agungijigi, ” meaning hearth fire keeper; “sinbadagi, ” which literally means “shoe soles, ” and refers to the two daughters hitting of the boy with their shoes. The bamboo flute that the protagonist receives as a divine object not only enables him to fly but also solves many problems for him with its various functions: When blown from one end, the flute helps the boy escape death, and when blown from the other end, it makes the boy king. The method that the councillor’s youngest daughter uses to identify the celestial official also varies, including marking the collar of his robe with a drop of blood, or cutting off a piece of fabric from his coat.

The ordeals that the protagonist endures as a cinder sweeper after leaving home is a time of extinguishing a heteronomous life and cleansing the past, a rite of passage that leads to one’s rebirth as a liberated and autonomous being, an adult and true owner of one’s life. The divine objects that he acquires—vest, flute, or fan—are symbolic tools that help manifest and integrate his internal spiritual energies, enabling him to connect with the cosmos. And the cinder sweeper’s enthronement as king and marriage to the councillor’s daughter, possessing the discerning eye to immediately recognize his value, signifies the completion of the protagonist’s self- realization.