SOME SURVIVE by their wits and some don't; there's nothing that can be done about that. But let's have a look at a couple of Korean folktales a tradition in which imps, impishness, devils and devilishness abound and see if we can't learn a thing or two.
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It had been bad during the reign of King Yon-san, with mayhem loose all throughout the land and the most wicked of evils set in motion by the king himself. Matters ultimately reached such a state that the king was dethroned, and King Choong-jong was his replacement, which was a little better.
In the last year of his reign, however, His Majesty knew no bounds. He even took to having his eunuchs search in the homes of the highest nobility for the most beautiful women they could find, and these he had brought to the palace for him to use as his own. He used them all!
There was a wife of a certain minister who was exceedingly beautiful and really quite sexy. Eventually the day came when she was ordered to the Palace. Other women, when called, would become very upset, decrying their fate, but this woman remained entirely composed. She quietly dressed and prepared herself and went straight into the Palace. When King Yon-san saw her he smiled lustfully and ordered her to come close to him. She came near, and just then the most terrible odor imaginable filled the air. The King grimaced. Turning aside he spat, and said, "How awful, I cannot stand this one. Take her away!" And so this woman escaped undefiled.
Here is what had happened: she knew that she was likely to be called, so she'd made a plan: two pieces of meat she'd kept on hand, half decayed and foul smelling: these she placed under her arms as she dressed and went into the Palace, and thus provided the awful odor. All who heard of it praised her cleverness and bravery.
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At the house of a nobleman in Seoul there was to be a big feast, and to it were invited all the friends of the family. A great crowd of men and women arrived for the occasion. In front of the women's quarters there appeared an unkempt, ugly young lad of about fifteen years. At first the host and guests paid him no mind, believing him to be a coolie who had come along in the train of one of the visitors. Then one of the women guests, seeing that he was in the inner quarters, sent a servant to tell the boy to go away. But the boy did not respond. "Who are you, anyway?" the servant said to him. "You do not belong in the women's quarters, and yet when told to go you do not go."
Still the boy remained motionless, and made no reply.
The company began to try to figure out who he was, and with whom he had come. The servant again asked him, and again received no reply. The women then became angry and demanded that he leave immediately; several grabbed him and tried to pull him along, but he remained still, and like a big rock, was immovable. In a rage now, they informed the men.
Upon hearing of this, the men sent several strong servants who rushed to where he was and all took hold at once, but he did not flinch nor blink. "Who are you, anyway?" they asked, but he kept his silence. The crowed was enraged. Ten strong men came with ropes to bind him, but like a mountain he stood, fixed in place. It was at last recognized that he could not be moved by the power of men alone.
Finding this intolerable, they sent in several giant fellows with clubs to see to the matter, and straight away they set to it with all their might, creating thunderous reverberations. They exerted themselves mightily, but as before, there was no response or movement from him at all.
Now the crowd began to fear. "This is not a man; he must be a god!" And so they all came to bow before him in earnest supplication.
At last the boy turned around, and with a sarcastic smile, he quietly walked out the gate and vanished.
Everybody was scared out of their wits, and the feast was called off. From that day forward, all the people in the house became ill. All those who had reprimanded him, all who had bound him with ropes, those who had clubbed him, all died within a few days. Others too, who had merely looked on, they soon died as well.
It was believed in that province that the boy was the Too-uk Spirit, but nobody knows for sure.
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I like the simplicity of these tales. It stinks, to try to take your neighbor's wife by force! (If she's willing... well, that's an entirely different dilemma.) And when there is a silent and sullen teenager in the household, one must nevertheless pay heed to the Confucian precepts of proper and respectful behavior, else all hell breaks loose and who knows where it will end. But these are just a couple of the possible practical lessons to be had here. There are of course others involving the battle of spirits and such to be had as well. Have whatever you like of them: I just hope you've had some fun.