Fairy Tales in Different Cultures: The Korean Cinderella

Last week we shared Kongi and Potgi by Oki S. Han. This week I am going to share The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo. It is very similar to Kongi and Potgi, but has a few differences. Since we explored a bit about Korea last week (both in the fairy tale post and our Around the World in 12 Dishes post), we will go right into the story.

In this story an old gentleman is so happy when his wife has a daughter he plants a pear tree and they name their daughter Pear Blossom. The pear tree and girl grow each year and the mother loves to adorn the child like the pear tree: a white ribbon in her hair when the white blossoms are on the tree and a rosy gold band in her braid when the tree has fruit and such. One day the old woman dies and the man is concerned as to who will care for Pear Blossom. He went to the matchmaker and she set him up with a widow who had a daughter Pear Blossom's age named Peony.

Each year the old man grew weaker and could not help Pear Blossom as his new wife and stepdaughter mistreated her. The stepmother dressed Pear Blossom in rags and she and Peony called her Little Pig or Pigling. 

The stepmother was concerned by Pear Blossom's beauty and did not want Pear Blossom to be in the way of finding a good husband for Peony, so she wanted to get rid of her. The stepmother demands that Pear Blossom fill a jar with a hole as big as an onion with water. She tells Pear Blossom that little pigs get tied up and take to market. A giant frog comes to help Pear Blossom by filling the hole so the water will stay in the jar. Upset that Pear Blossom was able to do this task, the stepmother plans another one for the next day.

She scatters rice around the courtyard and tells Pear Blossom that she must hull every grain or she will be sent to China in a sack. Then the stepmother and Peony leave for the village. A group of sparrows come and hull the rice for Pear Blossom and tell her to take a nap. When the stepmother finds her sleeping under a tree and the rice done, she cannot believe her eyes. Pear Blossom tells her about the sparrows, but she does not believe her and the sparrows come down and rip Peony's jacket. Pear Blossom is blamed and is not given food for two days as a punishment.

The next day the village was having a festival and Pear Blossom had to pack a picnic for her stepmother and stepsister as well as sew a new pink silk dress for Peony. Peony makes fun of Pear Blossom saying she is too dirty to go, but her stepmother says she can go once she weeds the rice paddies. The stepmother gives her a basket of wilted turnip tops as her picnic. When Pear Blossom arrives at the rice paddies she realizes it will take weeks for her to weed them. A huge black ox comes to help her. She was afraid of the huge animal and hid her face in her hands, but could hear him munching on the weeds. When she dared to look, the ox and the weeds were gone. 

She rushed to get to the village for the festival. She slipped one of her sandals off to get a pebble out when she heard a shout that the magistrate was coming.  Pear Blossom became flustered and dropped her sandal in the stream as the young nobleman passed by. The magistrate shouted to stop. Pear Blossom thought it was at her and she ran away. He had his palanquin bearers fish out her sandal. 

Pear Blossom enjoyed the show at the festival and forgot about her missing shoe. She was eating the last of the fruit the ox had given her when her stepmother and stepsister found her. They did not believe her about the huge black ox and thought she had stolen the fruit. At that moment the magistrate's palanquin came with the bearers announcing that they are looking for the woman with one shoe. Peony pointed at Pear Blossom and said she had lost her shoe. The stepmother and stepsister thought they were going to arrest her, but the magistrate wanted to marry her. Peony ran off to find the black ox, but only saw his hoofs as he ran away. The magistrate sent a go-between to Pear Blossom's father to arrange the marriage. In her new house's courtyard there were a dozen pear trees where sparrows chirruped and a big frog croaked, "E-WHA!" Ewha means pear blossom in Korean.

As you can see the names are different and the festival is a bit different. The order of her tasks is also different and it is a magistrate instead of a prince. However the basics are the same. It is a lovely story as well.