<Learn Korean Through K-Dramas> is giving cultural insights into Korea rather than just try to teach Korean language. “The Wenny Old Man,” one of traditional Korean folklore tales, is included in Goblin (Dokkebi), or Chapter 3 of the book. Like an Aesop fable, the story is funny and interesting, divulging greedy and jealous aspects of human beings.

“The Wenny Old Man”

A man with a lump on his neck went to the mountain to gather firewood. He chopped and gathered wood so eagerly that he didn’t realize the sun was setting until it had become quite late. On his way down the mountain, he found an abandoned hut and decided to spend the night there. Bored in the empty hut, he began to sing, and a nearby group of dokkaebi gathered around the hut at the sound. Enchanted by the man’s singing, one dokkaebi asked the old man, “Where does that marvelous sound come from?” “It comes from this lump on my neck,” answered the old man.

The dokkaebi insisted that he sell the lump to them in exchange for a fortune, and quickly presented the old man with piles of riches in order to take it. The old man had now gotten rid of his lump and become rich, too.

Another man with a lump on his neck living in the village heard the news and went to the same hut to spend the night in hopes that he too would encounter the dokkaebi. As the night fell, he began to sing, and the group of dokkaebi came running again. The leader among the pack asked the man where his voice came from, and just like the first man, he said that it came from his lump. As if expecting this response, the head dokkaebi yelled, “You’re lying, just like the old man before!” and gave him a new lump of the other side of his neck.

This story is the origin of the Korean proverb, “혹 떼러 갔다가 혹 붙였다” (to go to get a lump removed and come back with another), used in situations in which one who seeks to relieve their burden ends up taking on even more of what is ailing them.

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