The Snail-Shell Bride: bad things come to those who can’t wait
Long ago, on a farm far away, there lived a poor farmer who worked hard every day, digging, planting, plowing, harvesting and herding. Because he was poor, no woman wanted to marry him, and thus he continued living alone, working from sunrise to sunset. As the days wore on, his muscles grew tired and his soul ached for company.
“What’s the point of harvesting all this food if I never have anyone to eat it with?” he grumbled one day.
“You can eat it with me!” a voice said. It was a radiant and cheerful voice—and it was feminine. Startled, the man stood still and looked around, but there was no sign of anyone.
He said again, louder this time, “Who will eat all this food with me?”
“I’ll eat it with you!” the bright, lovely voice chirped again.
The farmer quickly rushed towards the direction of the voice, which appeared to come from a bushel of grass on the edge of his field. When he brushed the grass aside, the farmer found nothing but a giant snail shell. “Hmmm, that’s strange,” he thought, “but I’ll take you home anyways.”
After bringing the snail shell back to his house, the farmer placed it in his room, wondering if there was any reason to be hopeful.
A Mysterious Lunch
The next day, after a hard morning’s work, the farmer returned home for lunch. He was extremely surprised, however, to discover that lunch had already been made. Upon opening the door his nose was greeted with the smell of warm rice and a plethora of home-cooked dishes. While wondering who was behind such kindness, he happily feasted on the best lunch he’d ever had. The next day, after another hard morning’s work, he came home to another delicious meal. The same thing happened the following day. After several days of a mysterious lunch appearing out of nowhere, the farmer decided to investigate. The next morning, he pretended to go out to the fields and instead hid himself in a place where he could see inside the house.
Not before long, he saw a lovely woman appear from the snail shell. She was so beautiful the farmer suddenly lost all reason. With a few snaps of her slender fingers, the angelic guest summoned a feast fit for a banquet hall, with all the delicious delights he’d been enjoying the past few days. Completely smitten and drooling with affection, the farmer leapt out of his hiding place and proclaimed his love for her.
“Don’t go!” the farmer pleaded. “Stay here with me, just like you said that day on the field.”
The woman, with hypnotizing eyes, looked at the farmer forgivingly and affectionately.
“Oh, dear, I’d love to,” she cooed, “but you need to wait just a few more days. Then we can live happily ever after.”
She explained that she had come from the heavens, but had committed a minor crime and couldn’t be with him until the matter was resolved—a probation period, of sorts. She then gave a word of caution: “If I stay now, our happy union will end in tragedy.”
Patience is a Virtue
The farmer, however, was so enchanted and in love and wouldn’t let her go. Eventually, the woman gave in to his wishes, and the two enjoyed a short period of bliss. One day, however, the farmer needed to go deep into the mountains and did not return until well after dark. While he was gone, the local magistrate’s carriage happened to pass by the farm just as the farmer’s new wife wandered outdoors to see if her beloved husband had returned. The magistrate, upon spotting her beautiful face, became infatuated beyond reason, and proceeded to seize her and bring her back to his quarters.
The woman protested and pleaded, but the magistrate was not a kind man. When the farmer returned home and found out what happened, he immediately went to the magistrate and begged for his wife’s prompt release. Despite being beaten and thrown out several times, the farmer was relentless—he continued to come back. This continued until the farmer died, though whether it was out of loneliness or of too many beatings is too difficult to tell. The farmer’s wife, too, eventually fell ill and also died. The tragic couple then turned into a pair of lovely birds that are said to grace the skies of the area to this day.
Written by Felix Im
Illustrated by Shim Soo-keun