|Illustrated by Timmons, A.|
Once upon a time, "when the world was younger, and magic wasn't so hard to find," there lived an elderly couple. They had spent many happy seasons together, and shared many joys. Yet their life was lacking in one thing: a child. At last their prayers were answered, and the woman found herself with child. When a beautiful baby girl was born nine months later, the couple rejoiced. Since the pear trees in their garden were in full bloom, they named the girl Pear Blossom. As the little one grew, they cherished her. Her mother chose ribbons for the little girl's braids, matching the colors to the seasons. In the spring the ribbons were pink, in the summertime, gold, and in autumn, "a brilliant yellow". But one terrible winter, Pear Blossom's mother died. She and her father were bereft. Yet Pear Blossoms sorrows soon grew worse. Intending only the best, her father sought the advice of the village matchmaker. This lady contemplated the matter, then said, "We'll do a three in one! A wife for you, and a mother and sister for your young one." So her father married, and the lady and her daughter moved into their home. But the stepmother was not kind. She forbade Pear Blossom to speak of her real mother, and ordered the girl to call her "Omoni", or Mother. She found fault with everything that Pear Blossom did, from her cooking to her cleaning, her manners to her looks. She began slapping the child, giving her more and more work. And because the girl spent so much time working on her hands and knees, her stepsister gave her the nick name Pigling, because, she said, the girl looked so much like a pig. Each night, "Pear Blossom silently cried herself to sleep, wishing things could change."By the time Pear Blossom was thirteen, she had become "the most beautiful girl for thousands of miles." Her stepmother abused her mercilessly, and her father seemed not to notice that anything was wrong. But her stepsisters lay awake at night, devising new cruelties for Pear Blossom. One day, her stepmother commanded her to fill a large jug, in a very short while. To make matters worse, the jar had a very large crack in it. Yet Omoni declared,"I don't want to hear excuses, Pigling. Get that jar filled or I'll make you wish you had." Left alone, she began to scoop water into the jar. To her surprise, it did not run out. That's when she heard a voice, saying, "Jugful! Jugful!". When Pear Blossom looked down, she saw a huge, green frog. She thanked it, saying, "Thank you for your help, Master Frog." And in no time, she filled the jar. When her Omoni came back, instead of being pleased at the completed task, she was furious. But when she demanded to know how the jar had been filled, and Pigling told her that "a magic frog helped me", she grew even angrier. She made her own daughter go to the well to look for magic frogs. Instead, the girl got a soaking when Master Frog suddenly jumped out of the crack, just as she passed his jug. In spite, Omoni ordered Pear Blossom to hull a huge sack of rice, by hand. She took her daughter in for supper, telling her stepdaughter that she would be fed when the hulling was done. So Pear Blossom began, but the task was impossible. That's when hundreds of little birds swooped down from the sky, and hullled the rice quickly into two piles. When Omoni saw that the job had been done, she accused Pear Blossom of cheating. She sent her own daughter to demand magic from the birds, but all she got for it was thorough pecking. This, too, was blamed on Pigling, and Omoni roared, "You'll pay dearly for this!"When Festival Time came, Pear Blossom was put to work sewing new dresses for her stepmother and sister. Then she had to prepare the feast, and pack it into a large basket for them to carry away. Of course, she was not allowed to have so much as a bite of the food. Then, to add to her torment, Omoni told Pigling that she, too, could attend the festival. The girl's heart jumped, and that is when Omoni added, "After you have weeded the rice paddies." With a wicked cackle, she threw a bucket of old turnips at Pigling, then took her daughter off to the festival. Pear Blossom made her way to the rice paddies. There she took one look, and sat down to cry, for it was too overwhelming, and all she had to eat were turnips. Suddenly, a nobleman and his entourage passed by. Pear Blossom, in her fright, started to run. The nobleman called for her to stop, startling her so that she fell, and lost one shoe. But she ran on, and disappeared among the rice stalks. The nobleman picked up her shoe thoughtfully. Meanwhile, Pigling returned to the rice paddies. To her surprise, there she saw a whirling cloud plummeting from the sky. Out of it stepped a huge black ox, who bowed to her, then commenced munching weeds. Pear Blossom blinked, and, to her amazement, saw that the paddies were totally weeded, and the basket which had contained turnips was now filled with candies and buns. So she set off for the Festival. Once there, she watched an acrobat and a dancer, before horrid Omoni spied her. At once she demanded to know where the candies and buns had come from, and accused her stepdaughter of stealing them. At that moment, a crier passed by, announcing that "The Magistrate Suwen seeks to find a young woman he believes to be in attendance here...a young woman who may be wearing only one sandal." Sure that her detestable stepdaughter was about to get arrested for theft, Omoni flagged the man down, shouting, "It's her! It's her! She's only wearing one sandal." But when the crier stopped in front of the family and explained that the magistrate wished to marry the girl who could fit the shoe he had found, Omoni gasped. She tried desperately to convince the man that her other daughter was the one being sought. She would make a better bride, said Omoni, because "She has two sandals, one on each foot!" But Suwen recognized Pear Blossom for the timid girl who had fled from him in the forest. Now he said to her, "It would be a great honor if you would accept me to be your husband." Pear Blossom saw "how kind and strong and good he was", and realized that "it was her destiny to say yes." So she did, and they were soon married. The magistrate's parents welcomed their new daughter, and joyfully celebrated the marriage of their son.
From Graphic Universe: Pigling, a Cinderella Story (2009)
Notes: I love this format; so many great titles available from Graphic Universe, too. I have got to get Demetear and Persephone: Spring Held Hostage.
Montessori Elementary Connection: Geography/History of Korea
1. Read this story, and any other Korean Cinderellas you may know of.
2. Learn about the history of Korea: Land of Morning Calm: Korean Culture Then and Now
3. Learn about more Korean folktales and literature:Korean Children's Favorite Stories