The Woodcutter and The Dokkaebi

This is a Korean Folk Story about a Dokkaebi, the Goblin of Korean Folk Lore. Dokkaebi has recently been the star of a very popular K-Drama.

High and deep in the mountains there was an old house. With its thatched roof and windows battered shut against the wind, it stood empty and almost forgotten in the forest. No one had lived there for many years. Now and again the dokkaebi, small goblin esc creatures, would spend their time there, playing in the run down house and causing mischief.

One day, as it so happened, a young Woodcutter came upon the empty house and decided to move in with his Wife as it was bigger than their old house. Having little interest in sharing, the dokkaebi quickly packed their bags and left. All but one. A small baby dokkaebi remained. He had never seen humans before, only hearing of them in stories and was curious about them. So he hid himself away in a crack in the ceiling. There he could watch the Woodcutter and his Wife go about their day.

One night as the couple was sharing a meal together The Woodcutter said. “Everyday it grows colder out, winter must be coming.” Hearing this and making his voice match pitch and timber, the dokkaebi repeated “Everyday it grows colder out, winter must be coming.” Frightened to hear his own voice echoed back at him the Woodcutter shook in fear. Braver then her husband the wife called to the emptiness “Who is there?” The dokkaebi again matching pitch and timber repeated “Who is there?”

Now both the husband and wife were terribly frightened. Assuring themselves it was just the wind they searched the house for the hole from which is had come. They found the crack in the ceiling. Peering in the saw the baby dokkaebi rolling back and forth from laughing so hard. Startled they exclaimed “Why there is a Goblin living in our house.” Barely taking notice the Goblin repeated in exact likeness “Why there is a Goblin in the house.”

From that day forward the mischievous dokkaebi repeated whatever the husband and wife said. It began to sound as if four people lived there instead of two. The couple became annoyed and tried everything to make the creature leave. But threats and polite precaution had no effect on the goblin. Nothing they said could make him leave and abandoned his fun. Instead he took pleasure in their irritableness and continued to mimic them day and night.

Finally when the Woodcutter exhausted all attempts he asked a friend for help. The friend could hardly believe the incredible story about a dokkaebi living in the roof. Upon entering the house however and hearing his voice repeated back at him understood. He thought for sometime before he bade them outside and advised that they never speak in the room with the goblin.

Heeding this the couple began to communicate in the room only through glancing and knowing gestures. Anytime they needed to speak they would step outside. Inside they remained in silence, giving the dokkaebi nothing to repeat. At first the goblin was content to wait. Though, impatient as he was, he quickly became bored at the lack of fun. Before long it turned to irritation and he blurted out. “Why do you never say anything!” Hearing this the Woodcutter responded “Why do you never say anything!” This upset the goblin greatly. “Don’t do that.” He said. “Don’t do that.” The Woodcutter repeated.” Back forth this went, dokkaebi sulking aloud and the Woodcutter repeating.

Baffled that the tables had turned and losing all interest in the couple the dokkaebi finally came down from the roof. Grumbling under his breath he left the house, never to return, his view of humans tainted by the whole experience. The Woodcutter and his wife continued to live in peace and harmony in the small house, unhampered by other dokkaebi as they had been well warned to stay way.

Dokkaebi — Wikipedia