A Tale of Two Brothers
in Category Culture
Written by Felix Im, Illustrated by Shim Soo-keun, The article courtesy of Korea Culture and Information Service (KOREA May, 2014)
This is a story of brotherhood. It is not a story that ends in feuding for family funds, nor is it a warning against the dangers of sibling rivalry. It's a story of ideal brotherhood, of true self lessens and genuine love for one's family.
Three Years Received, Three Years Given
A long time ago, in a distant town, there lived two brothers. They were of a farming household, working hard and doing everything to make their parents as comfortable as possible. When their parents passed away, the older brother stayed by their father's tomb for three years, while the younger brother stayed by their mother's for the same amount of time. It was customary to mourn a parent's death for three years out of respect and gratitude for the three years parents spend attending to a newborn baby's every need never leaving his or her side.
After biddin gtheir parents farewell, the two brothers divided all family assets evenly. They valued each other so much that if one came into posession of a rare delicacy or drink, he would not indulge unless the other brother was present. Such was a mere fraction of their love and respect for each other.
One day, after the younger brother got married, the older brother thought to himself, "I should help my little brother out. I'll sneak a sack of rice over to his house every night, but I won't tell him because he'd probably refuse out of generosity." So when night came, the older brother sneaked over to his little brother's house with a sack of rice and left it in the barn. The next morning, however, when he counted his sacks of rice, there was the same number as before.
"That's funny," the older brother thought. "I have the same number of sacks of rice as last night." He scratched his head. "Hmmm... maybe I miscounted."
The next night, after carefully counting his sacks of rice, he secretly visited his little brother's home again, and again left a sack of rice in the barn.
But sure enough, when the older brother returned home, he found the number of sacks of rice in his barn unchanged; the same thing had happened. Yet no matter how much he thought about it, he was absolutely sure that he'd counted correctly this time. "Something strange is going on," he thought.
A Partner in Crime
The next night, the older brother set off again for his little brother's house with another sack of rice. This time, there was a full moon out, and he could see in the distance a man coming his way. The man was also carrying a sack of rice on his back. "Who is that?" the older brother ghought.
After approaching each other cautiously, the two men both suddenly dropped their rice and burst out laughing.
The other man was none other than his little brother! Out of concern for each other, the two had spent the past few nights sneaking rice into each other's homes. The mystery was solved.
"Little brother!" the older one cried. "So that's why my stock of rice hasn't changed. I was trying to help you out since you're now married and have a family."
"Why brother," the younger one responded. "I was trying to help you out because your family is bigger than mine!"
Althought this tale is a fold legend, there is actually a memorial tomb in honor of the brethren located in Chungcheongnam-do, suggesting that the story could be based on real brothers, which makes it all the more inspiring.
The tomb, erected in 1497, was engraved with 173 hanja characters praising the two brother's love and filial piety, presenting them as role models for all future generations regarding how you should treat your family.