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The Narrative Functions and Meanings of the Journey to the Venue of the Civil Service Examinations in Korean Folktales

  • Korean Language & Literature
  • 2016, (96), pp.33-52
  • Publisher : Korean Language & Literature
  • Research Area : Humanities > Korean Language and Literature
  • Published : March 31, 2016

Gim Sun-jae 1

1충남대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

With Korean folktales incorporating the narreme(話素) where the male protagonist embarks on a trip to the venue of the civil service examinations (often Seoul, the capital) as the objects, the present study examines the narrative functions that such a journey performs as folktales develop and explores the meanings of the narreme of the travel to the location of the examinations that appears in folktales. In the developmental process of folktales, the journey to take the examinations has narrative functions. These functions can be classified into those of encounters, separations, ordeals, and dramatic changes in the characters. By enabling the hero to meet his beloved, the trip to the venue of the examinations as a function of encounters provides an impetus for folktales’ subsequent development. The travel to the location of the examinations as a function of separations causes, in the development of folktales, a misunderstanding between the romantic couple or a separation between the two figures due to interference by a third party. The journey to take the examinations as a function of ordeals subjects the male protagonist to trials by placing him in fatal crises in folktales’ development. The trip as a function of dramatic transformations elevates the hero’s social status in the development of folktales. In folktales, the narreme of the journey to take the examinations holds two meanings. The first meaning of the narreme is the fear of an unknown world. The narreme of such a trip in folktales represents the contemporary populace’s fear, in an era when material culture was less developed, of an unknown realm and an untrodden path that were difficult to predict. The second meaning of the narreme is the desire to be free from strict social institutions. In folktales, the narreme of the travel to the venue of the examinations reflects the desire to be liberated from strict social institutions by freely forging romantic relationships and transcending the class system in a society under the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), where Confucianism and a class system formed the foundation of the state.

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