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The Goblin's Mallet

2006-07-09 00:39

  Once upon a time, in a small mountain village, there lived two brothers, Kapdong and Uldong. Kapdong, the older brother, was very selfish and greedy. He also had a bad temper. On the other hand, Uldong was dependable, filial to his parents, and kind to others.

  Uldong was making a living by selling firewood collected in the surrounding mountains. One day, after collecting a big bundle of firewood and loading it on his A-frame carrier, he was resting under a tree, when a hazelnut fell to the ground right beside him. Picking it up, he said, “I'll take this home for father.” Then, one after another, several nuts fell to the ground. Each time he was picking one up, he said: “This one is for mother; this is for brother Kapdong; that one is for my brother's wife.” When he was picking up the last one, he said, “This is for myself.” He put all the nuts in this pocket.

  Carrying the day's load on his back, he was on his way home, descending the mountain and treading on a narrow path. It was only mid-afternoon, but strangely it was getting dark already. “Hoot! Hoot!” Owls were out already. The surroundings and the paths he was treading on were normally familiar to him, but that day they did not look familiar at all. It was spooky all around. He suddenly felt scared. Even a slight rubbing sound of leaves or a sqeaking sound of his A-frame carrier gave him a sudden burst of gooseflesh. He tried to hurry down to the village, but he got lost in the dark.

  Wandering and stumbling along in the dark, Uldong finally came down to a valley, where he found an old abandoned house that appeared to have once been a nice dwelling. He decided to use it for shelter for the night. Though exhausted and hungry, all sorts of frightening thoughts kept him awake. It was hard to tell how long he had been tossing around, trying to sleep. Half asleep, he heard a commotion outside, laughing, giggling and talking. Uldong sprang up to his feet and peeked outside through an opening on the paper-pasted door. “Goblins!” He almost shouted. He was so frightened that he climbed into an elevated wall closet of the room and hid himself there.

  Goblins came into the room, making noises by banging their mallets at whatever was close to them. Once inside, they looked around the room perhaps to make sure that no other creatures were around. Then they sat in a circle. Soon they started tapping the floor with their mallets, saying in unison, “Gold we want. Produce gold! Tap! Tap! Tap! Silver! Produce silver! Tap! Tap! Tap! ……” Uldong, sitting breathlessly in the closet, could not help trembling with fear. His teeth were about to make chattering sounds; so, he put a hazelnut into his mouth and clenched it between his teeth. Suddenly and accidentally, his chattering teeth cracked the nut, making a loud sound. That seemed to have frightened the goblins. “The beam is cracking!” they shouted. And they all got up and fled in panic.

  Uldong decided to stay in the closet till dawn for fear that the goblins might be back. At daybreak he jumped down from the closet, landing on something hard on the floor. “Ouch!” Pulling himself together, he looked carefully. It was a sackful of gold and silver the goblins produced with their mallets. Beside the sack, he found a mallet left behind by a goblin when he fled in haste. Uldong threw away the load of firewood and, instead, loaded his carrier with the sack of gold and silver. With gold and silver on his back and a mallet in his hand, he came home humming and whistling.

  From that day on, he became a rich man. With the tapping of the mallet, he would say, when needed, “Gold! Produce gold!” Then, a heap of gold gushed out from nowhere. “Produce silver!” In a flashing moment, there was a heap of silver. He built a huge mansion and was living happily.

  His brother, Kapdong, was puzzled by Uldong's sudden wealth and wanted to know how he did it. Though Kapdong was living quite comfortably, he wanted to be richer, too. So he went to Uldong and asked what had happened. Uldong told his brother without any hesitation what happened that day. Kapdong went home right away, changed his silk clothes into rags, and with an A-frame carrier on his back went to the mountain where Uldong collected firewood. After collecting a small bundle of firewood, he looked for that hazelnut tree and sat under it, waiting for the nuts to fall. As it was foretold, a nut fell to the ground. Snatching it up, he said, “This is mine!” When another nut fell, he said: “This is for my wife.” A third nut was for his father and a fourth, for his mother. Satisfied, he put them all into his pocket.

  The sun was still high in the sky, but Kapdong wanted to search for that abandoned house. It was easy to find in the broad daylight. He went into the room and waited till nightfall. Kapdong was all smiles, thinking that soon he, too, would become very rich with all the gold and silver he would want. He was not a bit scared of thinking about the goblins. Instead, he was happy with the prospect of having all that gold. He lay down on the dusty floor as his brother Uldong had done before.

  It was getting dark; soon, it became night. After hearing the anticipated commotion outside, he jumped up into the closet and left the closet door ajar so that he might be able to peek outside. The goblins stumped noisily into the room. Sitting in a circle, they started tapping the floor with their mallets. “Gold! Produce gold!” “Silver! Produce silver!” And gold and silver gushed out. The goblins were having fun, playfully talking and giggling. Kapdong thought, “Now is the time!” Then, he put a nut into his mouth and cracked it as loudly as he could. The cracking sound reverberated throughout the room. With the anticipation that the goblins would flee in panic, he peeked through the small opening of the closet door. The goblins stopped tapping and looked at one another. There was no sign of running away.

  One goblin, then, stood up, muttering, “This swine must have come back. He frightened us all the other night and took one of our mallets. This idiot thinks we are going to run away, again!” The goblin, then, swung open the closet door. The other goblins joined in the act and dragged Kapdong down to the floor. Kapdong was petrified. The goblins, then, started beating him with their mallets, chanting alternately, “Get flat! Tap! Tap! Tap! Get stretched! Tap! Tap! Tap!” Poor Kapdong suddenly became as flat as a bed spread, and then, in the next moment, came to look like a long slender bamboo pole. Then, again, he was like a bed spread. This change of Kapdong was alternating rapidly, for the goblins were having fun with the new game they just found. The goblins were having fun all through the night.

  At dawn all the goblins disappeared, leaving Kapdong looking like a walking bamboo pole. “Phew! I'm at least still alive,” thought Kapdong as he ran down from the mountain valley with an empty carrier on this back.

  Korean

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