supper on summer evenings, my family gathered around on a
mat in our front yard, near a smoky fire to discourage mosquitoes.
After lighting her long pipe, Grandmother began telling her
old tales. Tales of ghosts, of tigers, of the disguised fox,
and of fools comprised her repertoire; tales of sons and daughters-in-law
of great filial piety were also popular, and of course everyone
enjoyed the stories of brave ancestors.
The clear night sky poured
a starry galaxy into the childrens’ dark and limpid eyes.
Children pillowed their heads on adult knees and dropped off
to sleep. Until recently, the childhood memories of most Koreans
were filled with such romantic scenes.
Korean word most akin to folk tale is yennal yaegi—an
old tale. Korean children frequently badger their grandparents:
“Tell us an old tale!” Often they drop the word old and request
just a tale: yaegi, the second part of the phrase yennal
yaegi. The word yaegi is itself a contraction of the
more standard word iyagi. In some dialects the word
used is ibagoo.