2022 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior third place
Folktale: The Story Bag

Title: Story Bag - America, Covid-19 and Other Lessons

Folktales such as “The Story Bag” have many meanings and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. “The Story Bag” is a small but powerful story of a rich boy who loved to listen and keep stories. Many years pass without the stories being shared and enjoyed by all. They become angry at his neglect and plot to kill the rich man who has kept them in captivity, on the day of his wedding. A faithful servant of the rich man hears the stories’ plan and decides he must keep the man and his bride safe from the harm that the stories intend to cause. In the end, the servant manages to protect the man and his wife from every deathly challenge that the stories throw at them.

I think that certain important aspects of the story can correlate to real values and morals. At the beginning of the story when the boy saves all the stories, it shows his ignorance and selfishness as he only wants to keep the tales for himself. This shows up in the real world as the way that money gives people and even countries entitlement and corruption. An interpretation of this is the United States and the COVID-19 vaccines. The USA is a country that has a high gross domestic income which means that they are extremely wealthy as a nation. When it comes to covid vaccines which are a very prevalent topic right now, America has a large supply of these beneficial tools. Sixty-five percent of the country is fully vaccinated to date and about eleven percent is partially vaccinated. Over half of the American population has gotten vaccinated and progress is still being made steadily (Mayoclinic).

Meanwhile, underdeveloped and third world countries are struggling to make ends meet and vaccinate most of their population. Impoverished countries in Africa are being left behind in the vaccine race and it is not going to benefit the world in a positive way. The rich boy and forsaken stories are a direct metaphor to wealthy countries such as the USA and the vaccines which they hoard. Namibia, Somalia, Djibouti, and other nations that face extreme poverty have very low vaccination rates. Five percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated, which is vastly different from countries such as the USA and the UK with high vaccination rates (Holder).

Vaccines are not being effectively distributed and the USA in fact had a surplus of millions of unused doses by the end of 2021 (US News). Those unused serums could vaccinate a sizable amount of people in poor countries. In “The Story Bag,” the stories become vengeful and decide to punish the rich boy for his hoarding of them. This translates to the effect that not supporting low-income countries will have on an international level. More variants of Covid will occur, and with fewer people fully vaccinated the variants could wipe out entire nations. Overall, the story is interpreted in many forms throughout its existence, but unnecessary accumulation of vaccines is a very recent issue that has an astronomical impact in our current society.

I think that this folktale was made as a warning story. Many folktales have a theme or even cautionary saying which teaches children morals to abide by during life. The overall message of this story is that greed and ignorance come with grave consequences. The little boy’s innocence and lack of concern for others results in the attempt on his life done by the stories. Because the stories are hoarded and not shared, these consequences occur. If not for his foul actions he would be safe, and the servant would not have to go through the trouble of defending and embarrassing the man on his wedding day. This tale ends with a happy ending like most folktales do. The reprimand implied, however, is that if you let greed get the best of you, your actions will come back to you.

Out of all the characters I think that the man is most relatable to me, and many others. The rich boy turned man is painted to be the villain of the tale because of his disregard for others and the stories. But everyone knows how it feels to be haunted by something from their past. The man accumulated the stories when he was just an innocent child. It must not have been evil intent behind the act of stowing them away, but just pure fascination by the contents of the tales. Though we see him as a wrongdoer, the whole world can remember a time from their youth that they made a mistake which was unacceptable but came from a place of innocence and not immoral purpose. In the folktale the man is punished very literally by the attempt of his murder. This scenario represents the mental drain that is caused by guilt, when thinking about dishonorable actions. Our mistakes stay in the past, but they can torment us for decades after they have happened. Just as the stories tried multiple times to kill the man, regret comes back to us multiple times with the same reminder of our faults.

Overall, folktales are an ancient way of teaching beneficial life lessons and supporting people in developing a moral compass with extreme scenarios. They are interpreted in a multitude of ways because of the simple but principal themes that follow us through life. Eventually, the listeners become the tellers and generations of children will learn crucial lessons by relating these paramount stories to their own existence.


Works Cited

"As Vaccine Demand Falls, States Are Left With Huge Stockpile." US News, 3 Mar. 2022, www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2022-03-03/as-vaccine-demand-falls-states-are-left-with-huge-stockpile. Accessed 30 Mar. 2022.

"Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations." Our World in Data, ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations. Accessed 30 Mar. 2022.

Holder, Josh. "Tracking Coronavirus Vaccinations Around the World." New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-vaccinations-tracker.html. Accessed 30 Mar. 2022.

"Is the world now paying the price of not doing enough to help developing world COVID-19 vaccination efforts?" Brookings, www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2022/01/07/are-rich-countries-sufficiently-helping-the-developing- world-in-its-vaccination-efforts/. Accessed 30 Mar. 2022.

"U.S. COVID-19 vaccine tracker: See your state's progress." Mayoclinic, www.mayoclinic.org/coronavirus-covid- 19/vaccine-tracker. Accessed 27 Mar. 2022.