청개구리 The Disobedient Frog

This is a folktale about why frogs croak when it rains. A baby  tree frog disobeys his mother up until her death. When she dies, he regrets his ways and follows her wishes to bury her near the riverside. When it rains, for fear she will be swept away, he cried out for her “개굴! 개굴!” (There are longer versions online, but here’s the short skinny version).

Key Words:
청개구리 green tree frog
어미 청개구리 mother frog (어미 mother animal, 어미 고양이 mama cat, 어미 새 mama bird)
새끼 청개구리 baby frog (새끼 youngling, 곰 새끼 cub, 새끼 돼지 piglet, 새끼 사자 lion cub order is strange)
놀아라 informal ending to express Let’s do V (same as 놀자, 놀읍시다) except very casual, kids speech
유언하다 to leave a will, 유언 will
N에 묻히다 to bury at N place
냇가 by the riverside
묘 grave
떠내려갈까봐 to fear it might be carried away (떠내려가다 to be carried away, swept away); Vㄹ까봐 (to fear) V (might occur)

어미 청개구리와 새끼 청개구리가 살았다.새끼 청개구리는 어미가 “산에서 놀아라”하면 물에서 놀았다.
There once lived a mother tree frog and baby tree frog. While the baby tree frog played in the water the mother tree frog said “let’s go play in the mountains”.

새끼 청개구리는 어미가 “물에서 놀아라”하면 산에서 놀고 늘 어미가 시키는 반대로 하였다.
When the mother tree frog said “let’s go play in the water” the baby tree frog played in the mountains, always doing the opposite of what his mother wanted.

어미는 늙어 죽을 때가 되자 산에 묻히고 싶어 새끼 청개구리에게 냇가에 묻어달라고 유언하였다.
The mother became old and when she died she wanted to be buried in the mountains but she requested in her will that the baby tree frog bury her by the riverside.

새끼는 과거의 잘못을 깨닫고 마지막 유언대로 어미를 냇가에 묻었다. 그 후부터 청개구리는 비가오면 엄마묘가 떠내려갈까봐 우는 것이다.
The baby tree frog recognized his past mistakes and according to the will he buried his mother near the edge of the river. Soon after that when it rains the tree frog cried worrying that his mother’s tomb would be carried away.

The new children’s book version is entitled The Green Frogs.

This Korean version:  http://www.azaschool.com/main.phpoxid=14&PHPSESSID=f60c351865c701d5bf092088cbb6930c.

Context & When to Refer to the Story:  One Korean man said he was told this story whenever he was “disobedient or causing trouble” and that it “reminds him of American stories he has read that personify animals, such as Little Red Riding Hood.” (http://projects.cdh.ucla.edu/koreanfolklore/search/show_data.php?data_id=209&dbname=kfl2003win)

My Social Take: I think that this story is a very popular folktale in Korea, because several people have shown me this story before.  I think it is interesting that there are only two characters : the mother and her son.  If this is not the image of a traditional Korean household I don’t know what is.   Since it’s obvious why the baby frog is a boy, let’s look at the role of the mother.  The Korean housewife (주부) runs the house (but I could not do a quick search about how many 주부s are in Korea, so it seems they are underrepresented-at least in English) and in 2009 it was reported that “90.4 percent of housewives take charge of most day-to-day decisions”1  in the household. The mother typically takes care of the child and the father maintains his work position. This has gone to the extent of creating large gaps of separation where the father will work overseas while the family lives in America, or in another province. In this kind of story why is no father present? Also, when I take a deeper look into the relationship between mother and son, the mother is not necessarily portrayed as loving but as a disciplinarian. Today, we call these mothers “tiger moms” or just plain overbearing, but this is the way they show love. Why is it then that the baby frog respects his mother so deeply that he mourns but he did not show affection to her in his lifetime? How do Korean sons express affection to their parents? Do daughters express love differently?

1http://www.koreaexpertwitness.com/blog/Korea,%20Don%20Southerton%20expert%20witness,%20Don%20Southerton%20Korea%20expert,%20Korea%20consulting,%20Korea%20consultant/gender-in-korean-workplace/

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