2011 Sejong Writing Competition
Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior third place
The story “Queen Swallow’s Gift” is filled with positive and negative intentions and their consequences. The intentions of the brothers Nol Bu and Hung Bu dictated their behavior which resulted in good and bad outcomes. The largest lesson gained in the story is kindness in the face of adversity. This teaches the reader to avoid greed in order to avert future pain and strife. The story has many examples relating to this moral with the main character repeatedly demonstrating their strong or weak characteristics. In the end, the reader of this story might gain insight just as the main character Nol Bu did. The story teaches the reader that there are some hardships that can get worse, but later these hardships can be used to gain wisdom, much like a clear sky after a storm.
Nol Bu’s first mistake was that he did not respect his father’s dying wish: “My sons, it is time for me to leave this world. I want the two of you and your family to live in harmony together, sharing every thing together.” He disrespected his father’s wish by not living in harmony with his brother Hung Bu. Hung Bu’s greatest difficulty was to keep his composure, in the face of his brother’s negative actions, but he honored his father’s wish. In this way, the two brothers showed different behaviors towards their father’s wish and family honor: Hung Bu respected ancestral harmony, Nol Bu did not.
Nol Bu anguished Hung Bu’s family lives terribly by treating his family like servants and eventually kicking him out of the family house. Once he got “kicked out”, he found a shack and erected it into a better form and survived the cold winter with great humility. Hung Bu never harbored resentment against his unfaithful brother. Also, Nol Bu denied his brother in a time of need. Hung Bu was humiliated when Nol Bu’s wife hit him in the face with a spoonful of rice, but Hung Bu still kept his composure. After being humiliated, Hung Bu still welcomed his brother as if nothing had happened. Whether the situation was hard or unforgivable, Hung Bu kept his composure with great humility. Thus, Hung Bu respected his brother regardless of his unfaithfulness, respected his father’s wish, and he never showed resentment against his brother.
Near the end, Nol Bu was told that his brother got extremely wealthy. This ignited his envy, so he went to Hung Bu’s home and compelled him to tell him how he got this wealthy. He told him that after healing a swallow’s leg, the bird swallow gave them a seed and he planted it for food. Instead, a vine with three gourds popped out, containing treasures. Nol Bu was very greedy, so he harmed a swallow and expected to get good results, but instead Nol Bu’s family received bad consequences.
Overall, Hung Bu made the decision many times to let “Bygones be Bygones.” He could have harbored resentment against his brother or let anger overcome him. Instead, he and his wife came to Nol Bu’s house for reconciliation even though they had done nothing wrong. Therefore, the hero of this story does not win by battle or might; this hero wins by forgiveness and humility.
This short story highlights why it is important to be faithful and do good deeds without expectations. Nol Bu’s misfortune teaches the reader to never harm anything in order to get good results. In conclusion, kindness and humility are attributes that lead to a happy and successful life.
I relate an aspect of this folktale with the Korean tradition of Jha Sa. Jha Sa is a spiritual tradition that honors our ancestors. Hung Bu honored his ancestor by respecting his dying father’s wish. The folktale tells the reader that the family is important, and family ties are blood ties meant to last forever. Both the folktale and Jha Sa relate respect for ancestors with kindness and humility. In this way, Hung Bu calmed his father’s spirit by living in harmony with Nol Bu.
In my own life, I have had similar difficulties as both Hung Bu and Nol Bu, but learned to live in harmony. A long time ago, I was helping my younger brother with his homework when he suddenly stopped paying attention to me and started playing with his toys. I became really infuriated and I started shouting hurtful words at him. Later, I regretted being mean to my brother and asked for forgiveness. I admit that I once acted like Nol Bu in the story. Contrastingly, during that time, I started attending to a new school. During recess, I bumped into someone by accident and he reacted negatively by yelling at me, but in this situation I kept my composure without harboring resentment against him. In this instance, I was Hung Bu and the person I later became friends with acted like Nol Bu. As a result of my calm reaction, this individual admired that about me and wanted to become my friend.
My personal morals are not that much different from the folktale story because in my life kindness always wins in the face of adversity. It is possible that the two brothers would have not reconciled if Hung Bu had not responded in kindness. Similarly, if I had not responded in kindness when I was verbally attacked, I would not have made a new friend. It is always true that kindness in the face of adversity is the best response, and the importance of honoring our ancestor and family harmony.