In Summary: The Faithful Toad
In this Korean fairy tale, a girl finds her kindness to an innocent creature repaid tenfold.
Once there was a poor girl who was, despite her circumstances, very kind. One day as she was cooking an ugly toad jumped into the kitchen. At first, the girl was horrified by the hideous creature and meant to drive it away, but when she saw that it was storming outside, she felt pity for the poor toad. She gave it some food and it ate as though it was starving, gobbling up everything she gave it. If the girl had thought the toad would leave once its hunger was sated, she was wrong. Once fed, the toad took shelter in a corner of the kitchen and hunkered down to rest. The next day, the girl awoke to find the toad still there.
The girl soon grew used to the toad’s presence and began to think of it as something like a friend. She would feed the creature every day, and every day her friend grew bigger. The companions were happy together for some time, until tragedy struck.
The village the girl lived in had long been besieged by a terrible monster. The creature lived on a nearby mountain and demanded regular tribute. If the villagers did not sacrifice a young girl to the creature’s hunger each year, the monster would send floods or drought to plague the village, killing many. With no other choice, and with heavy hearts, each year the villagers would choose one young person to serve as a sacrifice. To her dismay, the girl was next to be chosen.
Inconsolable about her fate, but willing to be sacrificed if it meant that the village would survive, the girl prepared one final meal for herself and her toad-companion. Then she headed up the mountain to where the monster dwelt, and waited to be eaten. She was up there for some time in the bitter cold before she saw a great shadow, long and thin, stretching up towards her. Terrified, and knowing that this was her end, the girl fainted. The last thing she saw before darkness claimed her was a second, far larger shadow, coming towards the first.
When the girl woke – much to her own surprise – she found that the monster was gone. All that remained was the dead body of a great, wicked, centipede and, close beside it, the corpse of her dearest companion, the toad.
When morning came, the villages returned to the mountain to recover the girl’s body. They were shocked and overjoyed to find her alive. The body of the centipede was burned, and, in honour of its great sacrifice, the toad was given a good burial. The village was safe, and, most importantly, so was the girl who had once shown kindness to the toad.