The Dochaebi’s Reply

When asking for the help of a dochaebi, you have to both ask and answer your own questions. Sometime in the past, a certain individual from Cow Island prepared some pork and sorghum cakes as an offering and went to a part of the coast where dochaebi were said to appear. He arrived in the middle of the night. A particularly brave young rascal from the local neighborhood had arrived there earlier to do some fishing. If you want to catch anything at night, it has to be especially quiet, so the boy went to the foot of a lonely hill where people never bothered to tread. He found himself a place to set up and cast out his line. It was deathly quiet. Even the waves were silent.

After some time, the boy spotted a dim light in the distance. It was clearly headed his way. “What kind of light is that?” the boy wondered. “People say that dochaebi often appear here… Could it be one of them?” As the light drew nearer, he was able to make out the form of a man holding a lantern. The man climbed up the hill and crawled over a rock. His curiosity aroused, the boy carefully got closer to get a good look. It turned out to be someone from his neighborhood.

The man spread out a mat on top of a flat rock, placed the pork and sorghum cakes on it, and called out to any dochaebi that might be nearby. “Chambong, good gentlemen, are any of you here?” “Yes, I’m here,” the man himself replied. Both asking and answering his own questions, he kept calling out in his own voice and then replying as a dochaebi would, imitating their voices. “It’s someone that lives in this neighborhood,” he called out. “What can I do for you?” he replied for the dochaebi. “I’ve come to ask for your help, honorable chambong. Please be so kind as to cure my son of his cold and bring me back safely from fishing. And would you also make sure that everyone in my family lives peacefully?”

The boy heard everything and thought it was just ridiculous. Once the man had finished making his requests, the boy shouted out at the top of his voice, “Sure, no problem, don’t worry about a thing!” The man was seized with fear. He jumped up, tossed away the food he had been offering the dochaebi, and went running further up the hill. He took off in such a panic that he ended up breaking his lantern. His foot got caught in the crack of a rough rock and he went tumbling to the ground. Once he had pulled himself together, he ran home as fast as he could.

The boy chuckled, quite pleased with the results of his joke. But while enjoying the pork and sorghum cakes the man had left behind, he wondered if perhaps he had gone too far with the prank. The man had lost his lantern and fallen over, and he wondered if he had gotten home all right. The following day, the boy went to see his elder neighbor, pretending that he was just stopping by for a friendly visit. The man was lying in bed. He was so distraught that it was impossible to talk to him. Although the boy felt sorry for what he had done, he reasoned that there was no longer any point in confessing. The man ended up dying after three months of suffering. He had lost his mind and died of fright.

As recounted on March 1, 1975, by Mr. Gang Gong-Sik (강공식, 72) of Sinsan-ri, Seongsan-myeon.

From 99 Legends of Jeju Island, a compilation based on accounts compiled by Hyun Yong-Joon.

Cow Island : Udo : 우도 : 牛島 or Soseom : 소섬

   This small island lies just off the east coast of Jeju Island. 


   In Jeju, dokkaebi (도깨비) used to be pronounced dochaebi, and were also called chambong (참봉) or younggam (영감). Dokkaebi are mythical creatures that appear in different forms, looking at times like humans. They are usually depicted with horns, carrying a club, and as such look similar to depictions of goblins or trolls. They are said to wear the traditional Korean hanbok jacket and pants, and don a bamboo or horsehair hat. Most are said to have the last name Kim (or Gim), and they live in abandoned houses. In addition to sorghum pancakes, they enjoy buckwheat jelly and rice wine, and love to chat, sing, wrestle and play tricks. They are afraid of the color red. Although they can pester and punish humans, they are said to be pure-hearted, naive and honest. Dokkaebi want to befriend people, and if they feel excluded, they get angry. They have the power to grant people wishes.

Sorghum cakes : Susuddeok : 수수떡

   Sorghum is a cereal grain somewhat similar in appearance to corn.

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