Friday, June 8, 2012

Magpies that saved a man's life


Summer 2003

In the old days, the government held an annual examination nationwide to select qualified people to work as officers.  This was held in Seoul, then called Han yang, and people gathered from all around the provinces to take part in this annual event.  People often had to walk for many days to arrive on time.  In a small village, there lived a man who was not only intelligent but also skillful in archery.  He always carried his Bow and Arrows wherever he went.  He was one of the many people who let for Seoul to take part in the national examination.  As he was passing through a thick forest, he heard a desperate cry of a bird nearby.  When he looked around, he found a large Snake about to swallow a Magpie's Nest.  He could see the baby magpies in the Nest and the mother Magpie circling the Nest from above.  She was crying helplessly, not knowing what to do to save her chicks.  The man quickly drew his bow and shot an Arrow toward the Magpie.  The arrows flew through the air and hit the Snake right between the Eyes, killing it instantly.  The baby magpies were saved.  The mother Magpie circled over the man many times, as if to say thank you, "Take good care of your chicks," the man said to the bird.  He was happy about his good deed and continued his journey toward Seoul.  In the deep mountains, the Sun sets early.  So as the day grew dark, the man began to look for a place to spend the night.  Soon he saw a light blinking in the forest.  He followed the light and arrived at an old Temple, "Is anybody home?" he asked loudly at the door.  Even though the place looked deserted, he began knocking at the door. To his surprise, a woman in white dress appeared, "Is it possible for me to spend the night here?"  The woman nodded silently and led the man inside.

In his room, the man thought it was strange for a woman to live by herself at an old Temple in the deep forest but since he was so tired from his long journey, he fell fast asleep as soon as he untied his luggage, but then in the middle of the night, he felt something wet and tight around his chest and throat.  Feeling uncomfortable and host of air, he woke up.  suddenly, his throat became very dry so he swallowed hard.  A huge Snake had coiled tightly around the man's body and was staring directly into the man's Eyes.  With its tongue darting in and out of its mouth and red glaring, the bared its sharp fangs that glinted in the moonlight.  Strangely enough, this big Snake was weeping and its teardrops were wetting the man
's face.  The Snake you killed this afternoon happened to be my husband.  I am here to take revenge.  Do you have anything to say for yourself?"  The Snake hissed in the dark. "What do you mean?  All I did was save the helpless birds that were in danger.  It wasn't my intention to kill your husband.  "How can you kill the Snake that did you no harm?"  the snake continued.  "We eat small insects and birds for food. Is that crime to be killed for?"  "But I was only tying to save the baby magpies"  the man said to defend himself.  "How can you take the side of the magpies when a life is a life?  Anyway, it is obvious that you killed my husband unfairly and I can't let you live." said the snake.  After listening to the Snake, the man had to agree that he killed an innocent animal.  He realized that he could never have scared the snake away or wounded it slightly instead of killing it.  However, he wanted to show off his skill for using his Bow and Arrows by hitting the right n the fact.  He regretted what he did, but it was too late.  "Listening to your words, I guess I was careless.  If killing me would relieve you from revenge, then go ahead.  I will not stop you," said the man.  "Well, you finally realized what you did wrong."  hissed the Snake, as it stared at the man with its tongue still dangerously darting around.

The snake's desire for revenge, however, began to wane, now that the man admitted his fault and did not ask to be saved."  All right.  Since you acknowledge what you did was wrong, I'm going to give you a chance to live.  There is an old Bell in this Temple.  If it rings three times before dawn, I will spare your life," offered the Snake.  "Who will ever ring a Bell at this deserted Temple?" asked the man.  "Well, that's your fate.  If you are not guilty, heaven might help you.  If not, you must did!" declared the Snake.  Who would come to such a deep forest?  Even if someone did find this Temple in the forest, why would he ring an old Bell without any reason?  This just meant that he would have to die.  the sun slowly started to rise and the snake began to tighten its hold on the man's body.  "Now, prepare yourself to die."  As the Snake was about to open its mouth to swallow the man... "Ding... "It was faint, but was definitely the sound of the old Bell. "How can this be"?  The Snake startled and craned its neck to listen more carefully.  The man was also confused and prayed that the Bell would ring again.  "Must be a sound from someplace else.  This can't be it!" muttered the Snake.  As the Snake began to bare its fangs again, "Ding..."  This time they both were sure that it was the sound of the Bell.  The man and the Snake were utterly surprised.  "It still has to ring one more time."  The man desperately wished for the Bell to ring once more.  The Snake was beginning to get impatient and was about to eat him up.  Then "Ding..." With the third stroke of the ring, the Snake began to speak, her voice filled with resentment.  "I shouldn't have given you a chance, but a promise is a promise.  Heaven must be on your side.  "The big snake kept her promise and slithered away.  After the Snake disappeared, the man ran to the Bell. To his surprise, the man found two magpies lying dead on the ground near the bell.

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