THE following translation is based on Sŏng Kyŏngnin and Yi Pohyŏng’s transcription of a performance by Yi Ŭn’gwan in or shortly before 1984.1 Sung parts are shown in italics.
The sun that at night sets over the mountains in the west will return once again in the morning, but the realm of the dead is so far away that once you go there, there’s no coming back. Oh Buddha Amitabha.
In the past, a minister Yi, a minister Kim, and a minister Ch’oe lived in the capital Seoul. They were wealthy, but had no single child to care for, so they proposed going to a large temple on a noted mountain to try to get a son or daughter by carrying out a Buddhist ritual, and off they went.
We thoroughly wash and purify ourselves and when we, with waists thin like a willow, have piled a full load on our heads, we go pray between the mountains and streams; we go pray between the mountains and streams. What time is this? It is the pleasant time of spring. All the different trees are growing lavishly. Now and then we see a paulownia, and now and then a bristle-tooth oak. We pass by a handful of flushing honey locusts. This tree, that tree, the juniper, the rhododendron, the azalea; they are all in full bloom. When we look up, we see ten thousand valleys and a thousand hills. When we look down, the sandy path is white.
While singing like this the three wives went to a large temple on a noted mountain and every day they prayed together for a son.2 They say that sincerity moves heaven, and so from roughly that month onward the three wives had a feeling inside their stomachs as if they were pregnant. One day, the three wives (p.160) sat down together and started talking. At first the wife of minister Yi said, “Oh my, I had a dream the other day in which the sky suddenly opened and three moons fell down. I wrapped the three moons in my skirt and woke up. Since this dream only a couple of days have gone by, but now I keep having this annoying headache and I keep craving for a bowl of rather sour and bitter wild apricot.” The wife of minister Kim then said, “I had a dream the other day too. When suddenly the sky opened, four moons fell down and I tried to catch them.” Now the wife of minister Ch’oe said, “I had a dream the other day as well. An old man with white hair gave me a pair of false hairpieces. I took them and twisted them tightly into my skirt. That was my dream and now somehow I also keep having this annoying headache while craving for a bowl of pickled pumpkin.” From this month on, the wives of the three ministers showed signs of pregnancy. Within one or two months blood was formed, in the fifth and sixth month the intestines, and in the ninth and tenth month it came to the point where the babies were ready to come into the world all perfectly. The bellies of the three women were no smaller than Namsan.3 At first the wife of minister Yi gave birth, but she acted pathetically and so gave birth like this:
“Oh my stomach, oh my stomach! It’s nice when at night my husband thinks that I’m pretty and says that he loves me, but at times like this it’s horrible. Oh my stomach, oh my stomach! Oh honey, my stomach. Waah, waah, waah.”4
So each of the three houses saw the birth of a baby, but when the minister who had been standing patiently outside realized that his wife had just given birth to a child, he thought she might be somewhat embarrassed if he went inside, so he went to see the old lady next door. “Hello, old lady, are you home?” “Oh my, who is it?” “Ma’am, my wife has given birth to something. Could you please come have a look?” The old woman came over quickly. “Oh my, it would have been great if you had given birth to a boy and a girl just like that, one after another. I may be blind even with my eyes wide open, so I can only tell whether it is a boy or a girl by closely examining it with my fingers. It would be nice if something would hang from this little one, but you got one with a spot along the Han River where boats pass by.” In this way a child was born at each of the three houses, but they weren’t very fortunate because at one house they gave birth to a daughter, at another to a little lady, and at another to a girl. If you wonder how they were named, then minister Yi’s daughter was called Sewŏlle because his wife said she received three moons in her dream, minister Kim’s daughter was called Newŏlle because his wife said she received four moons in her dream, and because the wife of minister Ch’oe said she gave birth after (p.161) dreaming that a white-haired old man gave her a pair of false hairpieces, which she had then folded tightly into the plaits of her dress, the child was called Paebaengi. Sewŏlle, Newŏlle, and Paebaengi grew up so quickly, they were like well-watered cucumbers. And one day, after several months, the ministers were so happy they sang the “Boom Boom Song”:
Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter. Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter. Where have you come from, where have you come from? Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter. Did you drop from the sky; did you spring up from the ground? Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter. We carried out a Buddhist ritual at a large temple on a noted mountain because we wanted a son, so how come we got a daughter?5 Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter. If you are already this beautiful, how pretty your mother must be! Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter. I will raise you well even though you’re a girl. Let’s see whether your descendants offer to their forebears. Boom Boom, Boom, Boom, you’re my daughter.
They raised them in this way, and Sewŏlle from the house in front and Newŏlle from the house in the back grew up well, moved out to their in-laws, had both a boy and a girl, and had good lives. But Paebaengi from the house in the middle was long unable to move out to her in-laws. When she eventually got engaged to a man, she was given a lot of silk for her trousseau, which she sewed during the day and spun at night. When she was about to finish her preparations and move in with her husband-to-be, a handsome monk from a Buddhist monastery on Mount Kŭmgang came to the door of her house to beg:
With my whole heart, I passionately pray to Buddha Amitabha on the top of paradise. When praying to Buddha, there are virtuous benefactors everywhere. White-haired old men whose spirits have ripened through their lifelong thoughts live well and play well throughout their life and go to Nirvana after death. Young and old walk on the road to death. Whether young or old, the old go first and the young go later. The impartiality of heaven and earth, even the water that flows below heaven has a now and then, and it flows only when its time has come like the turquoise water that flows off the high peak of Sumi Mountain. Please bless us in the hereafter, oh Buddha Amitabha.
Just as he had begun to recite this prayer, Paebaengi heard it and stopped sewing. When she looked outside, she saw a handsome student monk singing. (p.162) He prayed well and was truly handsome. Paebaengi threw down her needlework and began staring blankly at the student monk. When the student monk looked inside he realized that a pretty girl was looking at him. Finding her extremely beautiful, the student monk looked back at Paebaengi and just melted right there on the spot. He no longer prayed but was head over heels in love.
Benefactors everywhere, please lend me your ears! Because we’re born with empty hands and empty bodies, please donate, please donate, please, please, please.
Because he was very much in love, he stopped praying and begging and returned to his monastery on Mount Kŭmgang in Kangwŏn province, where he thought about her day and night. Unable to stop thinking about this girl, Paebaengi, the student monk eventually became so sick he was close to dying. When one day the priest of the monastery asked him about his condition, the monk replied, “Somehow, I got this illness because by a twist of fate I went to some village and saw some girl there.” “Well, if that’s the case, we have to help you out of your misery.” They set up a plan to heal his pain by going to the mountains, cutting down a clover tree, and weaving it into a wicker box for begging, and off they went.
Let’s cut down a clover tree, let’s cut down a clover tree. Let’s cut down this thick clover tree and that thick clover tree and try to save our student monk. Let’s cut down a clover tree.
After they had stripped the clover tree and made a wicker box, they laid the suffering student monk inside and covered the surface properly with leaves. They then lifted it onto their shoulders and went to visit Paebaengi’s house.
We go, we go, we go to visit Paebaengi’s house. Come on, let’s go, let’s hurry to Paebaengi’s house.
The monks had now arrived at Paebaengi’s house: “Is the master home?” “Yes, what brings you here?” “The thing is, we’re all monks here. But we have been given a wicker box full of wheat flour. Since we intend to use it for a Buddhist ritual at our temple, would you mind keeping it in the purest room of your house?” Unaware of the monk inside the box, Paebaengi’s father believed that there was really wheat flour inside and placed it in the purest room of his house. Because the room where his daughter slept was pure, he placed it in the room of Paebaengi, his daughter. Around midnight, blinking with his eyes, the student monk inside the box could see the figure of Paebaengi, who was spinning for her trousseau. And while Paebaengi thought of the day the student monk had (p.163) come and gone, and how fate had led him to her house to beg, she spun cotton, sang a song, and spun cotton:
Three measures, eight measures, twelve measures. I make a costume for some husband, but I want to see him, I want to see him, I want to see that student monk.
When he heard that from inside the wicker box, he thought, “Ah, she’s singing. Having heard this one song, living or dying is now all the same for me.” While contemplating his fate, the monk inside the wicker box also sang a few lines:
You want to see me, don’t you? I’ve come so you’ll see me. Who do you desire this much?
Oh my, Paebaengi was shocked; a song was coming out of the wicker box, but they had said it was wheat flour, so how very strange that a song was coming out. Paebaengi was both afraid and surprised, so she walked around it and said,
Please just sing one more line if you really are a person.
The student monk inside the box then sang once again:
It’s really me. You want to see me, don’t you? So just lift the lid of the box.
Paebaengi then took out a silver-decorated knife and with it she lifted the lid of the box. There sat a monk with ears like a bat. She took him out immediately and when she looked closely it was definitely the student monk who had that one fateful day come to her house to beg. So now the two people enjoyed themselves, with her laying the monk in the box at daytime and taking him out at night. But one day the student monk said, “Hey you, since we cannot live hiding from your parents like this, why don’t I go and do a lot of busking at Pongsan in Hwanghae province and come back in February or March next year? Let’s try to find a good way to live then.” The student monk made a solemn promise and then headed off to Pongsan in Hwanghae province. Paebaengi waited until February, March the year after, even several years, but there was no sign of the student monk. Paebaengi could wait no more and fell ill from longing, having lost all will to live:
Student monk, where have you gone on Mount Kŭmgang in Kangwŏn province, and why can’t you save me? You said you would come in February or March the following year; where are you? Don’t you know I am dying?
(p.164) Paebaengi’s illness was getting worse by the day, and one day, when only Paebaengi’s mother was home looking after her because her father had gone out for medicine in an attempt to save her, Paebaengi said, “Mother, mother, I am dying. Please go to the kitchen quickly and prepare three pairs of shoes and three bowls of rice. I’m dying. Mother, I’m dying. Mother …” She whimpered a couple of words, blinked once with her eyes, and died. Paebaengi turned stiff instantly. Her mother was distraught:
Paebaengi, Paebaengi! Why did you die? Why did you go on your own, leaving your mother and father behind? Your dad went out to get medicine. Paebaengi, Paebaengi, why, why did you go alone?
She cried like this and then rushed out to see if her husband had come back. But on the way back from some stinky herbal medicine store Paebaengi’s father had gone to a rice beer tavern and drunk himself into a stupor. When he returned home inebriated and staggering, he yelled, “Honey, honey!” “Oh no, darling, what are we going to do?” “Hey, what’s the matter? What’s happened to Paebaengi? Honey, what’s happened to Paebaengi?” “Darling, Paebaengi or someone else may have sold her small lifeboat to buy us a ship. Come on, go in and look, go in and look!” “What’s happened to you, Paebaengi? Hey, Paebaengi, Paebaengi, I got you medicine. Paebaengi, take your medicine. Did somebody kill you by feeding you a piece of firewood? You’re stiff from top to bottom. Oh my, oh my …”
“Paebaengi, Paebaengi, oh Paebaengi, what are we going to do with this bag of medicine now. The medicine I brought is of no use.”
They picked up the medicine pipkin next to them, threw it away, and burst out in a lament to heaven. Now that Paebaengi had died, they tied twelve straw ropes around her torso. Twenty-four workers carried her away on a bier to her place in the hereafter.
Let us, let us, let us cross the road and go. Look at how Paebaengi’s mother behaves: she puts an apron to her eyes and comes out of the house hastily, saying,
“Hey Paebaengi, you listen to me! Why do you go off alone leaving your mummy and daddy behind? If you go now, when will you return? If you go now, when will you return? Will you return when Mount Odae is flat, when the oceans and rivers have dried up and turned to dust? Will you come back when the chickens on the folding screen stretch their short necks and cackle?”
Let us, let us, let us cross the road and go. The realm of the dead is far away for us, but for you today, your place in the hereafter is just outside the (p.165) gate. Come on, let us cross the road and go. When I travel 3,700 li in this world there are 33 rivers, but in that world there are 33 rivers too, and even the stars have 33 rivers, so when I cross 99 rivers, my hands and feet are so painfully cold on the soft sand of the white shores that I cannot go any further. The daytime messenger drags her by the hands, and the nighttime messenger slaps her on the back. Let us say goodbye to the old ancestral shrine and perform a ritual for the new one. For people living far away so they can hear it well, and for people nearby so they can see it well. Let us sing the “Bier Carriers’ Song” and walk in line. High places become low, shallow places become high, and when we go up hastily we reach the realm of the dead.
Singing like this, the workers carried Paebaengi to her grave in the midst of the mountains and streams and, having buried her deep down, her parents returned to their house where they lived tearful, solitary lives. One day one of them said, “Say, dear, what are we going to use all our wealth for? Now that Paebaengi, the only thing we had, has died, let’s summon shamans from all provinces and see if we can hear the spirit of Paebaengi one more time.” They put out the word that they were having a ritual. Shamans gathered, and it is said that the number that gathered was 5,782 and a half. When Paebaengi’s father thought about it for a moment, he realized they would end up as beggars if they paid all the shamans for a ritual. He called a young friend who was the roughest in the area and a good fighter and said, “Hey, we are having several shamans perform a ritual. You must leave the ones who are performing well, but immediately throw out those who don’t.” So they now had to pick their shaman. A young shaman from Pyongyang, was first:
Oh Buddha Amitabha.
Having watched her for a while, they felt she was too dignified: “What ritual is as dignified as that? Hey, that ritual can’t be right!”
If it’s autumn today, you want to look at spring, and if it’s spring, you want to look at autumn. It’s offensive.
“Ah, that’s the way to do it! It’s wrong when it’s too dignified.” Saying that this shaman was too well behaved they had her leave. Because the next shaman had seen the shaman performing in a dignified manner being thrown out, she decided to perform in a boisterous manner:
Oh Buddha Amitabha, when she says she’s coming, she apologizes, and when she says she’s going, she’s embarrassed. Having come this way, she’ll (p.166) go like that. Why did she say she’d come in the first place? Oh Buddha Amitabha.
“Hey, you’re much too boisterous; you’re out!” “I thought it was passable.”
The woman was thrown out for having performed too frivolously. The next shaman came from Haeju in Hwanghae province. She tried a cleansing ritual.
Cleanse her, cleanse her, lady Kamŭng,6 cleanse her. The high trees carry yellow fruits and the low trees carry blue ones. Seasonal fruits such as yellow chestnuts and jujubes belong to the earth spirits. Cleanse her, cleanse her, lady Kamŭng, cleanse her.
“No, the spirit of Paebaengi has to come; how can she just cleanse her …” She was also expelled. The next shaman came from a secluded place in the mountains of Kangwŏn province.
Long live the King, long live the King. This world that you long for today, that you long for today, the world of the living, this country east of the sea. Long live the Korean King, our King. Today, this family will have great fortune. Long live the King, long live the King.
This shaman was also thrown out. Then, a shaman from Seoul tried a Seoul ritual.
One day, damn it, we fell into this decrepit rattrap, but aftera glass of milky-white rice beer, no post stood up on the Wŏn mountain7 and we felt lonely. However, because we suddenly lost our grace, Your Almighty came down. We went to a silver mountain to get silver, and to a gold mountain to get gold for you. We will serve you for good fortune and the fulfillment of our wishes.
Several shamans performed rituals like this, but Paebaengi’s spirit did not once appear. Paebaengi’s elderly parents, who were lying in the living room, were becoming increasingly fatigued. They were no longer looking at the ritual space and were burning up inside.
Then, finally, that charlatan friend of ours from Pyongyang, who was of rich descent but had blown his fortune on entertainment girls and who had taken traveling money to go around the country, happened to pass by the town where the ritual for Paebaengi was being performed. He went to a road with taverns and when he sat down, he noticed next to him a tiny grass hut selling rice beer. Because our charlatan friend had spent all his money and was hungry, (p.167) he was out on a limb: “I’m so hungry I’m about to die. I’m just going in, order a glass and once I’ve emptied it I’ll take the punishment or what ever.” With this plan in mind, he went in. “Oi, anybody there?” “Eh, who’s there?” “Could I have a cup of that, please?” “Certainly.” The lady brought him one cup of rice beer. She served him from a calabash and that no-good emptied his glass in one gulp. He then wanted to drink more but had to withstand the urge. He was so thirsty, it was as though he had only caught and eaten a mosquito or a whale a shrimp, but he had to withstand it. When he looked around there was nobody else. He decided to wheedle more drink out of her. “Ma’am!” “What is it?” “What I drank up until now was on credit; can I have some more bowls on credit, please?” “No, what credit? Damn you! You’d die a rich old man. Wine on credit, on credit?” “Eh, ma’am, surely you’re going to give me some wine on credit? If you don’t give me credit it won’t be fun any more.” “My God, go on, drink every thing, drink it all, go on! The way those veins in your eyes flicker, you’ll end up catching somebody and devouring him, you blood-shitting git. Go on, drink it all!” As our charlatan friend drank the beer, he began to behave like a drunk. “Ma’am, goodness, what’s all this about? When I drink, you see, it’s all about the moment. Ma’am, when people drink a glass, they drink, when they play, they play, and when they dance, they have to dance.” As he talked gibberish like this, he suddenly looked up to the sound of the barrel drum, the hourglass drum and the sound of commotion coming from a large tile-roofed house in a large neighborhood in the back. “Ma’am, why are they making such a noise banging the barrel drum and the hourglass drum over there?”
“Oh, you no-good! It makes me cry just talking about it. As for that house, they say that when the ministers Yi, Kim, and Ch’oe from the capital Seoul prayed on a noted mountain, a Sewŏlle was born in the house in front, a Newŏlle in the house in the back, and a Paebaengi in the house in the middle. Sewŏlle and Newŏlle moved out to their in-laws, had a son and daughter and lived well, but Paebaengi from the house in the middle was for long unable to move to her in-laws. She was finally engaged to a man, and even received silk for her trousseau and wedding accessories, but she suddenly died. It’s so sad she died, it’s so sad.” “Eh, ma’am, you seem to know all about her getting a trousseau.” “Paebaengi was given several kinds of silk for her trousseau.” “What kinds then?” “There were many kinds. Silk like a rising moon, silk like a rising sun, three rolls of winter silk from Kilju, Myŏngch’ŏn, and Hoeryŏng, Hŭkkong silk, Mokkong silk, silk with misty, overgrown mountains, silk from Zhuge—Fairness—Liang, the Sleeping Dragon,8 purple, deep purple silk from Yŏnan, and purple, bright purple silk from Haeju. There were many kinds such as these. It is said that she also had as many as 100 calico socks.”9 “Really, ma’am? It’s hard to believe there would be more.” “Why wouldn’t there be? And when Paebaengi was three years old, her grand father said she was cute and gave her a penny when she went out (p.168) to play, a penny for not crying, and a penny for playing well. She bound 99 yang, 7 ton, 7 pennies, and 5 li tightly together, put it in a string-knit wicker basket and died. It’s so sad she died, it’s so sad. Hey, you have such a good way with words, that’s right, you go to that house, perform a ritual and make some money. And when you come back, you can repay me for the beer, okay?” “Good-bye ma’am. I’ll repay you for the beer when I return.”
The no-good charlatan had listened carefully to the words of the old lady. He quickly went to Paebaengi’s house and shouted, “Hey there, let me perform a ritual!” But because he was a male shaman, there was no way the female shamans in the house would let him perform a ritual. Our young charlatan thought for a moment. Having learned all about Paebaengi’s history from the old lady in the tavern, he was sure that they would make him perform as long as he sang the song of a shaman from Pyongyang. So, he ran to the ritual ground and as he walked on, he began to perform the song of a shaman from Pyongyang:
What kind of shaman, what kind of holy spirit did you think had arrived? Tell me that a shaman came who stuck a knife into the front and back legs and chest of an ox and danced to the music.
They looked at him for a while and felt he was singing a real shaman song. A female shaman then sang a prayer:
There are many things that people who eat cooked food with brass spoons don’t know, and there is nothing that they know. Please forgive us for not having come to meet you, Spirit General, on your way here.
Hearing the prayer, he felt confident he could pull it off. So, our charlatan friend responded:
If you really think like that, and give me the cap of a monk’s robe and a fan, I will perform a ritual in my own style.
When they gave him the cap of a monk’s robe, our friend put it on and suddenly looked like a true shaman. He was aware that if he continued and said that Paebaengi’s spirit had come, he would have to confront her parents and prove that her spirit had come, so he first had to find out which of those watching were Paebaengi’s mother and father. The no-good then thought of a trick: If he said that Paebaengi’s spirit had come, then he would be able to make out who was crying sadly and go up to that person. Having made up his mind, he began to cry, saying that Paebaengi’s spirit had come:
(p.169) I have come, I have come, I have come. I, Paebaengi, who sadly died and went to the hereafter, have come borrowing the body and voice of a male shaman from Pyongyang. Mother, mother, where’s my mother gone? I tell you that your daughter Paebaengi has come, but you pretend you don’t know me. When I was alive, you would come jumping as if you saw a flower in the eleventh or twelfth month of the year, but am I of no use to you now that our paths have split upon my death? Do you realize that I’m here when I have come, and that I’ll be gone when I go? Mother, where are you, mother?
At that point, an old lady from Hamgyŏng province believed she had come and said: “My dear, you’ve come, you’ve come after all. Paebaengi’s spirit has come. She will go after she has said all she wants to say.” When he heard the old lady speak, it was in Hamgyŏng dialect. He knew this wasn’t Paebaengi’s mother. Keeping a close eye on his audience, he sang on:
Mother, where are you? This old lady from Hamgyŏng province has come forward. Old lady from Hamgyŏng province, were you always healthy? I died and my body was buried deep, deep in the hereafter. As for my soul, after I died, the room where I slept will surely have changed. When I was about to move out to my in-laws, the loads of silk I was given for my trousseau, silk like a rising moon, silk like a rising sun, three rolls of winter silk from Kilju, Myŏngch’ŏn, and Hoeryŏng, Hŭkkong silk, Mokkong silk, silk with misty, overgrown mountains; lay it all down in front of the shamans, so I can see it, as Paebaengi’s spirit has truly come. Mother, mother, if you could just lay down here the silk I got for my trousseau, then before I return to the hereafter I’ll look at it as if I am looking at you. Quickly, quickly, bring it out!
When the old lady from Hamgyŏng listened again and heard her even revealing details about her ceremonial dress, she believed that Paebaengi had truly come. She went into the living room and said to Paebaengi’s mother, “Oh my, quickly go outside! Paebaengi’s spirit has truly come!” When she said this, Paebaengi’s mother hurried out, and while standing behind the shaman, she listened to see if her daughter had truly come this time. It was just then that the young charlatan began telling them about the situation as he had heard it in the tavern:
I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy. I’m happy to see the mountains and streams of my hometown. I’m happy to see the mountains and streams as well as the plants of my hometown. But when my mum and dad pretend (p.170) they don’t know me like this, then, please, also bring out the copper money that my grand father gave me when I was growing up, at the age of three, saying I was cute, the 99 yang, 7 ton, 7 pennies, and 5 li, which I had bound together tightly and put in a string-knit wicker basket. Mother, mother, mother. Even though you made a promise, you’re still cruel. Even if I’m just an unworthy daughter, you’re being cold-hearted. Mother, mother!
When Paebaengi’s mother heard these words, she became very sad and burst into tears:
Oh God, it’s my daughter, it’s my daughter. When my daughter was still alive, she had a sound mind and that’s still the case even now she’s dead. It’s my daughter. My dear, come out quickly! This time our daughter Paebaengi has truly come. Come out quickly, come quickly!
Mother, for what purpose did you raise an unworthy daughter like me? Mum, dad, I died before I could pay back as much as one ten thousandth of my debt. When the sun sets over the mountains in the West, does it go down because it wants to? And, when I leave my old grey-haired parents behind, do I do so because I want to? I died a natural death. You shouldn’t be sad at all and be well. Mother, mother, I’ve seen you now before I leave, but where’s my father? Father, father! Let’s see your face, father.
“Child, child, your daddy is here! What’s all that about your trousseau? Take your mum and your dad, take every thing, even the pillars of our house. This is so heartbreaking.” When he looked at the two who had come out crying like this, it was obvious that these two old people were Paebaengi’s mum and dad. Having identified them like this, the charlatan shaman looked to one side and noticed two young women with babies on their backs who could not stop crying. When the shaman studied them for a bit it occurred to him that the two women crying like that might be Sewŏlle and Newŏlle, as he had been told that Paebaengi had grown up together with a Sewŏlle from the house in front and a Newŏlle from the house in the back. If he were to call them and engage with them, it would be clear evidence that Paebaengi’s spirit had come, allowing him to take off with all her money.
Mother, there is one more infuriating and regrettable matter. Sewŏlle from the house in front and Newŏlle from the house in the back, with whom I grew up and who always woke me up to go digging out wild rocamboles on faraway mountains or gather wild herbs in spring and play dangerous games, have come to stand here next to me, but they pretend they don’t (p.171) know me. I want to meet you, Sewŏlle and Newŏlle. Come closer so we can meet. If you just go home without having come to see me today, I will grab those cute children of yours and take them with me when I go back after the ritual.
Oh no, Sewŏlle and Newŏlle, terrified, hearing she would take their children with her, checked for the heads of the babies they were carrying on their backs, but they were just very hot. They had become so hot because they had been carried on their mother’s hot backs all day. However, thinking they were hot because the spirit inside the shaman had said that she would get them, the two women rushed forward and quickly sat down on the ritual ground. But, was this Sewŏlle and that Newŏlle? He had to find out their names again.
Sewŏlle and Newŏlle, even though I died and went to the hereafter, I still haven’t changed my name, but have you not changed your name since I died?
“Hey, why would I change my name? Even after you died I’m still just Sewŏlle.” When she said she was Sewŏlle, the one sitting on the other side had to be Newŏlle.
Sewŏlle and Newŏlle, I’m happy to see you. Just now I was angry and resentful in my desire to see you, but even though you can’t give me sisterly love, why would I be angry? Praying for the long life of Dongfang Shuo,10 praying for the old age of Jiang Taigong,11 I bless you with longevity of 160 years, the first eighty years and the second eighty years. Stop burning up inside and live good lives. On this last visit I have one more request for you. When we grew up together, and you woke me up from my sleep, we went out to do the washing on the side of a stream and bathe on top of the washing stones and play touching each other; are my wrists bigger, or are yours?12 Let’s hold each other’s wrists once more.
“I seriously can’t put out my wrists to him, I can’t!” Then, an old lady from the village said, “Eh, Sewŏlle and Newŏlle! Paebaengi’s spirit has really come now; go on, hold each other’s wrists for a bit.” “If she really died, then she’s dead; I really can’t put out my wrists to him!” Embarrassed, Sewŏlle and Newŏlle got up together and put out their wrists to him.
When I look at your wrists, they are still as soft as they were when I was alive. Let me fully enjoy touching once more the wrists of my Sewŏlle and Newŏlle whom I’ll never see again.
(p.172) He kept fumbling them endlessly as if they were bean curd sacks on New Year’s Eve. The onlookers watched the shaman in silence, but they found him impudent, this shaman fellow. “Geez, that’s odd, let’s find out if Paebaengi’s spirit has come to that fellow.” “Let’s test him once more.” “What if we collect all the horse hair hats in the neighborhood, pile them up on the ritual ground and put the fairly large hat of Paebaengi’s father at the very bottom … Oi, you, shaman, has Paebaengi really come to you?” “Yes, she’s here.” “Then if you truly are her spirit, you must pick out the horse-hair hat of your father. But if you don’t, you’ll die right here on the spot.” This led to much commotion. “Well, I should now be able to find out which horse hair hat is that of Paebaengi’s father. Other wise I’m dead. Well, if I’m to die, so be it.” He bawled and tore up one of the hats.
When it’s offensive, it’s offensive. How can you lay the hat of a noble man among those of commoners? I will tear up all of them and only leave my dad’s horse hair hat untouched. When I pick up and look at this hat, it’s not that of my father.
When he tore up the hat, a man standing on one side said, “Damn, he’s tearing up my hat!” Excellent. Seeing that all the hat owners had now come close, he continued to tear up hats while carefully looking in all directions.
When I pick up and look at this hat, it’s not that of my father either.
When he tore it up just like that, a man standing on the other side said, “Damn, he’s tearing up my hat!” He now had to tear them up more quickly.
When I pick up and look at this hat, it’s not that of my father either, and if I look at this one, or this one … then they aren’t my father’s hat either.
When the owners of the hats watched him for a while, they felt that all hats were going to be torn up with the exception of Paebaengi’s father’s hat. It would be a tearing-up spectacle. The hat owners then all came forward and after each of them had made off wearing their hats saying, “You wear your hat and I will wear mine,” only one fairly large hat remained. When he saw that Paebaengi’s father was crying while he examined the horse hair hat, it was obvious that it was his. He picked it up and sang:
When I look at this hat, a horse hair hat from T’ongyŏng, onto which a satin band is sown, my skills are proven. This is undoubtedly the hat of my father. Although it is all dusty, nobody’s here to dust it. How regrettable.
She’s leaving, she’s leaving, Paebaengi’s spirit is leaving. Oh Buddha Amitabha. I conned them well, I conned them well, I conned Paebaengi’s parents well. Oh Buddha Amitabha. The fact that I earned a lot of money with this ritual is because of the old lady of the tavern. Oh Buddha Amitabha. Old lady of the tavern, please accept this money. Although I owe you 1,000 yang, I will give you 10,000 yang. Oh Buddha Amitabha. Half of the money I spent in Pyongyang I have earned back with the ritual. (p.174)
(3.) The mountain located on the southern periphery of the old city center of Seoul.
(4.) Sound of baby crying.
(7.) The association here is phallic.
(8.) Zhuge Liang (181–234), a Confucian advisor to the king during the Chinese Three Kingdoms period, is famous for his loyalty and wisdom. His pseudonym was Kongmyŏng (Fairness) and his title Wolong (Sleeping Dragon) (West, “Drama,” p. 23).
(9.) Despite their relative complexity, almost exclusively Sino-Korean passages such as these sometimes appear in the repertoire of professional folksong singers. It is, however, unlikely that a lay audience these days would automatically understand all the words and connotations.
(10.) For more on Dongfang Shuo, see Vos, “Tung-fang Shuo, Buffoon and Immortal, in Japan and Korea.”
(11.) Jiang Taigong (Kor. Kang T’aegong) was a Chinese statesman/sage who lived around the twelfth century BCE (Yi Ch’angbae, Han’guk kach’ang taegye, 1: p. 716). According to legend, Kang was eighty years old when he began serving King Wen (Kor. Mun), after which he lived for another eighty years. This particular phrase is commonly used in combination with his name in, for example, muga (shaman songs), mask plays, puppet plays, and folksongs (Walraven, “Muga,” p. 122).
(12.) Wrists are a metaphor for breasts here. (p.210)