2022 Sejong Writing Competition
Winning Entries :: Essays :: Senior second place
second place, senior essay division
Title: Sunshower: The Story of Noah and Jiyu Told Through a Classic Folk Tale
As a young child, whenever the sun would shine and the rain would fall at the same time, my mother would gaze up at the sky and say, “the tiger is getting married today.” I once asked her what it meant, and she told me a story about a cloud that was in love with a fox. However, as it was a love crossed in the stars, the fox met a tiger and the two fell in love. During the tiger’s wedding day, the cloud - feeling shattered - began to weep while its tears fell from the sky. As the sun shone brightly over the wedding ceremony, rainfall softly pitter-pattered on all attending. It was a joyous occasion for one, but heartbreaking for another. A “sunshower” is what this meteorological phenomenon is called, when the rain and sun embrace and create a truly unique spectacle. For many, it represents a soft, bittersweet sort of emotion. Although the story behind each sunshower is a sorrowful one, being caught in the middle can be, like Jiyu stated, “really, an amazing feeling”.
In 'The Girl in the Cylinder', Choyeop Kim writes about a young woman allergic to the world around her. It’s a story much like “The Tiger’s Wedding Day”. When first reading Kim’s story, it felt like a modern twist on the classic folktale, yet a twist that conveyed sincere and thought-provoking messages that the original did not. These ideas were skillfully expressed through the thorough development of the story’s characters and events, and oftentimes I would find myself itching to enter the story myself. Admittedly, there were instances where I felt distrusting of Noah and had an urge to tell Jiyu, “Run away! You don’t know who he is!”. Reading the story for the first time, I sat composedly on the other side of the computer screen, but eventually, my mind scrambled across the air-roid-topia, clicking “next page” until my fingers felt sore. The characters, welcoming and relatable, made me feel as if I was living out their adventure right next to them. An author requires a truly deft touch to be able to place the readers alongside the characters, and that is exactly what Kim did in 'The Girl in the Cylinder'.
Jiyu and Noah developed a friendship that blossomed from a shared experience. Living in an “ideal” city, Jiyu felt like a singular cloud in a clear, blue sky. With meeting Noah, the fox, whose presence was homely and pleasant, her loneliness fizzled out day by day. Contrary to what one would believe about an “ideal” city full of “ideal” people, only one person felt like a “safe haven” to someone as unideal as Jiyu. Out of every perfect soul populating a flawlessly constructed society, only one person felt like an escape, someone who made her feel like it was okay to not be perfect. Jiyu, restricted by a glass cylinder her entire life, was understood by Noah, stuck behind a restrictive cylinder of his own. Although at first he seemed a bit too interested in Jiyu’s life, she slowly came to a realization that he was the only one who was sincerely interested at all. With Noah, imperfection was accepted. With Noah, the cylindrical barrier became nothing more than a mere fence in the distance, one Jiyu could jump over with her own two feet. From breaking and fixing sprinklers, to breaking and fixing each other, the two learned how to trust, and how not to. What was once a nuisance slowly developed into someone she’d never had before: a friend.
Choyeop Kim writes of humanity, all the while developing characters not conventionally seen as “human”. It’s a beautiful message of having flaws, yet loving people that make you feel comfortable in your own skin. Through developing Jiyu and Noah, Kim is able to reach the hearts of the audience and dramatize messages relatable to all. In Choyeop Kim’s version of “The Tiger’s Wedding Day” we witness our cloud, Jiyu, and our fox, Noah, grow close only to drift apart, just like in the original. Only in this story, we begin to develop a deeper understanding of why the cloud loved the fox so much - Jiyu felt happy around Noah. She felt accepted, able to converse about her flaws and imperfections freely. We learn the ups and downs of friendship, and why the loss of a lovable fox took the toll that it did. When Noah decided he wanted to leave, there was no doubt that Jiyu would have felt betrayed. Maybe he loved the idea of a new life in the city more than he loved his friendship with Jiyu. However, one thing was certain; when Jiyu talked, Noah listened. That sunshower was a symbol of his acceptance of her - just Jiyu as Jiyu. It was the greatest gift she’d ever received.
In 'The Girl in the Cylinder', Choyeop Kim writes about imperfection, friendship and loss. She writes about the hardships of life, and how the right people can make you feel as if you’re stuck in a sunshower of your own - caught in the cross between warmth and sorrow. Now, during those rare occasions where the sun shines warmly and the rain falls softly, I can begin to gaze up at the sky and say, “Noah and Jiyu started their new lives today.” With Choyeop Kim’s adaptation, we can begin to appreciate just why the cloud loved the fox in the first place. Just for a moment, a moment when the sun and rain aligned, Jiyu was free to be Jiyu. Noah had left, but a ray of hope was still present. Toes soaked, hair drenched, and skin hit by sunbeams, the cloud didn’t care about the curious looks given to her by strangers that offered their umbrellas. She just held onto the hope that maybe the fox wasn’t gone for good. Maybe they would meet again, in a world where they could both be whoever they wanted to be.