2008 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior second place tie

Shimchong: The Blind Man's Daughter
Richard Chung

The folk tale Shimchong: The Blind Man’s Daughter has a good message of sacrificing yourself for your elders; however, the way the story was told could lead readers to make unwise sacrifices that are unnecessarily costly. I would change the story so that it isn’t so much of a fairy tale but more realistic in that one person’s sacrifices won’t solve all problems. I wouldn’t have made this story a happily-ever-after story where all problems are completely solved. Some problems should remain because in reality, one sacrifice will not solve every problem someone has.

Reading this fairy-tale may encourage readers to make a sacrifice for the wrong reasons by believing that this one act will solve every problem they have. Shimchong, in order to save her father from the disgrace of offending the Buddha, trades herself to a merchant seaman for 300 sacks of rice. Then, even though the merchants think she will bail out, she keeps her word and jumps off the boat to calm the seas by appeasing the Dragon king. That single sacrifice eventually ends all her problems. She saves her father from disgrace, comes back to life, marries happily, reunites with her father, and cures her father’s blindness.

However, in reality one sacrifice usually won’t fix all problems. Many problems require several sacrifices. Also, not all problems require sacrifices. Some can be solved by asking for help and others by opening up one’s mind and thinking of more creative ways to address the problem. This story may lead readers to make bad choices and make unwise sacrifices having a rosy illusion of what will happen if they do. They may make a sacrifice in times when a sacrifice isn’t needed.

To fix this problem, I would have made the daughter “die,” or sacrifice herself in a different way. She could be forced go to a faraway land and sacrificially marry a rich man who can pay off her father’s debts. In this way she would give up her life and her future dreams and plans, dying in a sense. The rich man could keep her locked in his castle and not let her see her father until the end of the story. If this part of the story were changed, then we could avoid the magical resurrection of Shimchong after she jumps into the ocean and turns into a flower and then into a human.

Another change I would make is to have the Old Man remain blind even after he and his daughter reunite to signify that not all problems will be solved. Shimchong’s sacrifice will have some benefits, such as a steady paycheck for the blind man and a happy reunification between daughter and father. However, if all problems are solved, as it is in the fairy tale, where the daughter is happily married, the Old Man is cured of his blindness, and no further problems remain, then some people will definitely get the wrong idea about sacrifice. In real life we cannot get rid of all problems. Some, like blindness, are unfixable. In these cases we should make the best of our situation. Try to follow our dreams as far as possible and not be discouraged by our problems.

Despite the changes I would make to Shimchong: The Blind Man’s Daughter, I whole-heartedly believe in the basic message this story conveys. In some cases, sacrifice for our elder or parents is absolutely necessary. Parents make numerous sacrifices for our well being, so the least we can do is return the favor. Shimchong nobly cares more about her father’s needs over her own which shows a deep devotion to her father. I also admire Shimchong’s attitude because she isn’t bitter when she chooses to die for her father, but rather she accepts the sacrifice without complaining. Her quick willingness to sacrifice herself is extremely powerful. Shimchong also demonstrates impressive loyalty to her father. Even when she is happily married and is comfortable, she still doesn’t forget about her father. She might have held a grudge against him because he was the reason she lost her life. Instead she actively searches for him by inviting old blind men to her wedding banquet in hopes that one of them will be her father.

Folktales should entertain as well as have a solid moral lesson behind them. Although Shimchong: The Blind Man’s Daughter, is entertaining as a fairy tale, it falls short by presenting a misleading moral lesson. A more realistic version would have more completely served the purpose of a folk tale.