When writing Eun Na and the Phantom I discovered things about Korean history. (This happens to be one of the things I love about writing—the digging into research. I’m quite happy to read and research things.)
I was plotting out my NaNoWriMo 2014 project at the time, and I ran across a Korean folktale titled, The Logger’s Daughter and the Phantom. Something about it intrigued me, even though I did not like the ending. I wasn’t sure what route I wanted to take when I started. But the idea of the logger’s daughter marrying a man who had a secret like that stuck with me.
They say when you get married, you are looking through rose colored glasses. I’d rather say you are looking with the optimism of affection. Of course you don’t know the person as well as you will after being married a few years, or even a decade. But it’s during those years together that a beautiful relationship—and family—happens.
I’m not saying that the logger’s daughter made her decision to marry the phantom out of affection for him. No, it was out of filial devotion. Her place was to do as her parents, especially her father, wished for her. So when he asks her if she’ll consent to marry the rich young man to pay their debt, of course she says yes. She doesn’t really have a choice. And of course she’s unhappy with the arrangement. Who would be happy to discover they married a phantom who lives in a tunnel in a mountain?
I think the folktale itself has several possible meanings. Perhaps part of the folktale was a cautionary tale about making sure you really knew who you wed your daughter off to. Another might be that if you do your filial duty to your parents, despite being unhappy you will be rewarded, as the daughter does eventually return home with riches.
The question I had though was, what if the daughter loved the phantom? And that took me far away from the original story. I threw in some dragons, gave a healthy dose of what I had learned about Korea during the Joseon era, created some of my own legends and stirred it up nice and good. Of course I had to pay tribute to the original folktale. (I have the white dog, and white roosters. )
One of the things I loved learning about the most though was traditional Korean weddings. I’ll save that though for another post.