In Magic Spring, Nami Rhee retells a Korean folktale told in her family, the story she remembers most vividly from her childhood. As in many tales, hard work is rewarded, but even the villain gets a second chance.

The Magic Spring begins with rather a traditional fairy tale couple, an old man and his wife who have no children. They are both hard workers and never complain, even when their rich, greedy neighbor makes fun of them and taunts them for not having a son. One beautiful day a bird leads the old man to a clear spring, which he drinks from with his cupped hands. This being a fountain of youth story (see here for a similar story), he becomes a young man again. The next day he takes his wife to the spring, and she too drinks just enough to become a young woman again. The now young couple returns to home, healthy and happy, only wishing they had a child to share it with.

The mean neighbor sees all their changes and asks how they came about. The husband tells him about the spring and the woman tries to caution him to only take a sip, but he of course runs off immediately and gulps down as much of the water as he can. When he doesn’t return, the couple goes out to search for him. Near the spring they find a tiny baby, wrapped in the neighbor’s cloak, and they take him home. They raise him with love and kindness and they all live happily every after.

The couple who works hard and seems gentle and kind are rewarded with not only youth, but the child they wished for. The greedy neighbor’s fault led to his downfall, but I love that he gets a second chance and is probably ten times happier with his new life as he had been in his old.

The story is simple and familiar, but the illustrations done in ink and watercolor fit the gentle retelling well. The pictures are colorful but soft, full of movement and feeling. I also like that the author chose to include phrases in Korean writing beside the narration. Of course I can’t read it, but it does allow children to see the beauty in another cultures writing and it gives it more of an authentic feel too, like it really has been a story told in Korean families through the years.

I think this would be a great read aloud book for children up to third grade, and I do love the idea of sharing other peoples’ stories with our kids. Purchase Magic Spring on Amazon.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.


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