2011 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior second place

Noah Lee

The Fountain of Youth is another one of Korea’s entertaining stories, folk tales, which are passed on generation after generation. However, there is more to it than just an entertaining story. The moral of this story is that the kind and good will be rewarded, and the greedy and evil will be punished but a truly good heart may redeem the greedy and evil.

The story must have been created when the older generation wanted to tell the younger generation that thinking of the future of their children, being greedy can kick you in the face later on and if their children are generous and virtuous, they will receive what they want and hope for. This was portrayed perfectly by the elderly couple, being rewarded by the joy of another chance at youth. I imagine the parent’s hope for telling this story to children was for them to be fascinated and convinced to help others and be patient and generous in their life. They would then be rewarded in some way that might not be as fanciful and grand as the Fountain of Youth, but still a surefire reward.

The story did an excellent job of making the comparison between the fine couple and the cranky widower. The kind couple and the widower both lived in the mountains, with therefore very little fertile land in the area and had no children. Living in the same environment, the old couple was hard-working, and was willing to help others. The couple vowed to work harder when given a second chance at life by drinking from the fountain. This seemed very odd, because they now knew that whenever they got old, they could just drink from the fountain again to make themselves young again. This part of the story depicts how diligent the old couple was, and their nature must have told them not to take this gift for granted. The old couple did not keep the fountain a secret, but instead shared with the grumpy man the exact location of the fountain. Even when they found the fountain was almost empty, the old couple didn’t even get angry at the grumpy man for drinking all the precious water. If I were the couple, I would try not to tell anybody that this fountain even existed, because the more people there are that drink it, the faster the fountain dries up. This shows how unselfish and generous the couple was. On the other hand, the grumpy old man was never happy, and ill-tempered.

While it should not be difficult to be caring and generous in a friendly and unchallenging environment, it is easy to imagine people becoming tough and narrow-minded in a demanding and challenging environment like the mountains in which these people lived. Regardless of the difficult situation, the old couple was uncommonly industrious and benevolent. In the end they were rewarded by being young again, the greatest, most priceless reward which we could never earn with money. Through the comparison of these two types of people, the story tells us that we can choose to be good even when things are harsh, which will bring a better result.

The final piece of this story is the greedy widower becoming a baby. This happened, because he took more than his share of the water out of greed and became a baby. The couple took him in and he grew to be a kind, caring, diligent young man. This part of the story tells me that even the wicked should be given a second chance at life to make it up. If they are brought up filled with love and generosity, they can become compassionate and gentle people, just like the grumpy man did when he was given a second chance and brought up by the kind couple. The way people are brought up influences greatly the kind of person they become.  Moreover this also exhibits that people have both good and bad in them and somewhere along the road it is we that need to choose which one; the lamb or the lion?

This story is not about people of high rank and wealth. It is about people of poverty and not much power. In an unforgiving and scathing time, without anything or a baby to call their own, while being kind and generous would not be easy, the couple was uncommonly good hearted. When the couple found the greatest treasure in the world, it is very difficult to expect them to share the fact with others. Through this couple, the story illustrates how righteous someone can become. This story was created to encourage the younger generation who were told the story to do good and become honorable people. With this story, the older generation must have hoped their children to learn that their uprightness would be rewarded and they may be given an opportunity to accomplish a greater thing in their lives, even contributing to the better world by changing the bad to the good. Able to turn evil into good, dark into light is what only a true, pure, good hearted person can do. This may be a simple and entertaining story on the outside, but the inside is an example of what is the most honorable way to live a life that will be remembered generation after generation, meaningful even to the children of this age.