Older Brother, Younger Brother
Goodness is rewarded and cruelty punished in this staple of Korean folklore, an archetypal tale of two brothers. When their father dies, elder brother Nolbu, greedy and mean-spirited, inherits the family property and banishes big-hearted younger brother Hungbu, his wife and three children. Hungbu’s destitution doesn’t change his generous nature, and when he shows kindness to a tiny injured swallow, he is magically rewarded with great prosperity. Envious Nolbu seeks out the same good fortune-and wreaks his own downfall. Hungbu, forgiving, takes in Nolbu, who mends his ways. Ages 5-8. (Amazon.com)
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A Tale of Two Brothers
Older Brother-Younger Brother
Jan. 2, 2015
Older Brother Younger Brother
The book that I chose to read was entitled Older Brother-Younger Brother. It is a Korean folktale retold by Nina Jaffe and illustrated by Wenhai Ma.
The story is about two brothers named Hungbu and Nolbu. The older brother Nolfu was very rich and greedy. His younger brother Hungbu was very poor but he was very kind. He was a very hard worker but led a very poor life. His wife and children often went hungry. Hungbu’s wife and children helped work hard to try to feed their family while Nolbu’s wife would sit inside fanning herself. He loved to care for the animals and small creatures while Nolbu would pull wings off of butterflies and trample the vegetables in the neighbor’s garden. He would eat the food from the neighbor’s garden. In the beginning both brothers lived under one roof with their father. Once the father died, Nolbu told Hungbu that his father left everything to him. Nolbu told Hungbu and his family to get out and find somewhere else to live. They found a small straw shack on a mountainside where no one lived and they lived in it.
In the story Hungbu respected his father and older brother. He took the blame for everything that the older brother did in order to save dishonor for the family. Their wives were chosen for them by elder members of the family.
One day as Hungbu was returning from work a snake had attacked a nest of swallows. Hungbu found a swallow with a broken wing and he cared for it and put it back in its nest. Once the swallow was healed it flew off. In due time the swallow returned and Hungbu heard it chirping. The swallow dropped three seeds in his hand and flew off. Hungbu planted the seeds and watered them. Three gourds grew from the seeds. The first gourd open up and yards and yards of shimmering silk and gold coins appeared. The second gourd opened up and bushels of rice enough to feed his family for many years appeared. The third gourd opened and seven carpenters appeared and they built a magnificent house for Hungbu and his family. The house had soft furnishings, many rooms and servants for Hungbu to begin a new life for his family.
In time, Nolbu heard of his brothers great fortune and went to see if it was true. He accused Hungbu of stealing and dishonoring his father’s name. Hungbu told him about the sparrow and how he healed it. Nolbu was jealous. When he went home he found a sparrows nest and he climbed to the nest, took a stick, and shook the sparrows from the nest. He broke the wing on the sparrow. He took it in to his home and gave it just the bare necessities. Eventually the wing healed and the sparrow flew away. Nolbu waited for the bird to return and finally it did. It dropped three seeds in his hand. He threw the seeds on the ground but he did not tend them as Hungbu did. Three gourds grew. The first gourd grew and out came mud and manure. The second gourd grew and it produced hordes of snakes, scorpions, and spiders. The third gourd grew and out came evil spirits and howling demons that destroyed his house. Nolbu was desolate and had to beg for food.
Nolbu and his family went to find his brother Hungbu and his family. When his brother saw him he fell in to his brother’s arms, greeted him and fed him and his family. Nolbu realized his evil ways was what caused his misfortune. He begged for his bothers forgiveness.
Both brothers went to visit their father’s grave. They promised to help each other always and they lived together for the rest of their lives in peace.
This story reflects a strong influence of Confucianism. It reflects values, family loyalty, respect for elders, and a sensitivity to nature.
Hungbu prospered because of his kindness to an injured sparrow. He was richly rewarded.